Using Social Media Listening to Uncover Empathic Insights

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  • by Rachel Brennen

There is no denying the power of social media. It connects us and unites us in shared interests. It entertains us, captivates our hearts, makes us laugh out loud, and even changes our habits. It introduces us to new worlds of media, information, and content that we may not see otherwise.  

A Peek Inside a Stranger’s Life

Last week I went for a walk around my neighborhood with my family. We walked past this couple working in their garage, waved hello and were about to go on our way - but immediately they came over to greet us and introduced themselves. Long before not, they invited us into their home. We immediately connected over our shared values, goals and dreams for our future. After just thirty minutes inside their home, I could tell you so much about their life and what they valued. But also about the tensions they felt and wanted to overcome.

I like to think that social media is like this brief invitation inside a stranger’s home. Through endless pictures, posts, and comments, we can begin to understand so much about a person’s life. Each acts as one a clue into what they value and how they spend their time and resources. It’s an outlet that helps us (in some small part) fulfill this innate desire as humans to be seen and understood by others.

Ultimately, social media can tell us an interesting story about your consumers. This is why it is incredibly powerful when it comes to uncovering empathic insights about people.

Through written content, video, photographs, captions, and emojis – using social media is a language and expression all its own – and one with a unique tone of voice. In Freshman English 101, a professor once told me that if the voice is the personality of a story, then the tone is the mood. Can you describe the personality of your consumers? Have you captured their voice and mood? Are you able to creatively and confidently tell their story?

If not, it might be time to ask yourself if there is more to be uncovered about your consumers on social media. Are they sarcastic? Energized? Misunderstood? Inspired? Frustrated? By mining the web for comments and conversations through a #NoFilter, we can understand a tremendous amount about their tone and voice, not to mention the thousands of words a picture alone can tell us. Amid all the noise, we can dig deeper to find rich conversations surrounding these experiences that offer insight into human behavior and sentiments.


Behind every social media account is a deeply complex human.

Social media often presents a portrait of who we want to be or the best versions of ourselves on our “good” days. But what about all the things we don’t share on social? The piles of laundry sitting in the hamper crying out “Wash me! Or go naked tomorrow!”. Or the entire bag of gummy bears you stress ate while studying for the GRE, because you’re too busy and too tired to muster up a real meal.

While it might seem like social media has become a perfectly curated collection of our best hair days and cleanest laundry, a deeper dive online will show you there’s a shift in consumers’ mindset that calls for a more authentic reality. At SEEK we use a methodology we like to call #NoFilter - a process for mining the internet for thousands of conversations. We scour the web reading everything from Reddit to Twitter, Yelp and everything in between.

#NoFilter offers a generational, cultural, racial, socio-economic melting-pot that helps us gain perspective without the guardrails of typing tools and segmentations. It allows us to see themes that transcend zip code, household income, or level of education. It helps us understand HOW people are talking about a particular topic with no filters.

But social listening is just one piece to a larger puzzle. Just as we are not completely defined by our Facebook profiles or comments on Twitter, mining for insights on social media is always richest when coupled with an in-person approach to research.

Social listening can give organizations and brands a launching point for where to dive next, new topics to explore, and a blueprint to guide their decision making for future research.

It is not the end all be all, but it certainly can give us a new perspective on the human experience – offering us not just a window with a glimpse, but a door to new ideas and perspectives.

There is no end to the content social media can offer or the possibilities it can lead you to. That’s why it is incredibly powerful when it’s used to uncover empathic insights about people.

Humans have a lot to show and tell on social media. Are you listening?

To learn more about how you can use SEEK’s methods for social listening in your organization, please reach out to either or