By Harper Estey

It’s an old refrain, one that every member of the NUNA Family has likely heard at some point: everything we do starts with data. You hear it in meetings, see it in our presentations, it pops up on our internal group texts as we organize our campaigns. 

What does the data say? 

It’s an important question, and one that we have to address almost every single day. Yet arguably a more important question, and one that we do not always get the chance to answer in detail, is where does the data come from? 

More often than not, the answer is Brandwatch – a digital listening tool that compiles publicly available data, allowing us to gather insights from more than 100 million online sources and 1.4 trillion posts. 

One of the first things that I did after I joined NUNA in 2018 was learn how to use Brandwatch. How to draft queries and find the conversation that we wanted to analyze. How to organize and segment the data to visualize the realities of our issue landscapes.

More importantly – I learned how to break it. 

Okay, maybe not actually break it, but the way that NUNA uses Brandwatch – and most of our data gathering and analysis tools – doesn’t exactly line up with how the platform was designed to be used. The origination of the platform by its nature was meant for large-scale companies to Watch their Brand, not for a scrappy crew of data nerds trying to figure out why people are saying “protesters” instead of “rioters.”

To get at the core of how we use Brandwatch to serve our communities, our only option is to push and twist and find ways to use this broad, incredible tool in a way that homes in on smaller, specific conversations. 

Which brings us to June 6, when I traveled to Chicago to attend Brandwatch’s Masterclass. 

Going into the event, I understood that there was only one session that absolutely and directly applied to us – Auditing Your Social Media Strategy & Establishing Impactful KPIs, led by our very own client rep. Kenneth Bracho. 

In short, as with so many instances in our communities, we had to make mainstream work for us. 

I had to open my mind, listen to each of the day’s speakers, and break off the parts of their presentations that would be helpful so I could take them back to NUNA. 

And with that mindset, every single speaker gave me something that I was excited to bring into the NUNAverse. 

When Amanda Jeppson, Associate Director, Research & Insights at Fetch, spoke about driving users to the platform, she went through her process of showing the value of digital listening to those around her with less experience in the area – something we do every time we pitch or onboard a client. 

Sebastian Wulff, Director of Influence at Brandwatch, gave a rundown on the current state of influencer marketing. But during his presentation, Sebastian provided some of the most interesting data of the day, including that micro influencers have engagement rates of 17.96% on TikTok. A key insight for our future advocacy campaign planning.

Always in a niche of a niche, we are often trying to build data sets by combining and collapsing variables to ensure statistical significance and broad insights are captured in online conversations. Want to connect with specific audiences? We’re going to have to find specific influencers. 

And Dr. Marcus Collins, Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Michigan brought insight into understanding audiences (so much so that I ordered his book before he finished speaking). 

Demographics don’t tell us who people are, they simplify things for marketers and marketing. Connecting with consumers – or, in NUNA’s case, communities – is about understanding the culture (using this term in a broad global context). As Dr. Collins put it: we can’t mistake information for intimacy. 

Through the Brandwatch roadmap, discussions around Artificial Intelligence, presentations on successful digital campaigns, and so much more, every single person that shared with the Masterclass left me with something exciting, a nugget or two that I could take, modify and apply to work in my day-to-day. 

Then, for the penultimate session of the day, Andrew Dawson, Social Networks Practice Principal at Brandwatch and Lauren Powell, Global Social Insights Lead at TikTok stepped onstage.

They started with a simple premise: TikTok does not share their data, and you cannot access it through Brandwatch, so how can you measure the impact of the platform? 

Andrew asked us to imagine we were sitting beside a pond with our friend. We close our eyes and our friend throws a rock into the water. When we open them, we have no way of knowing how big the rock was, but we can look at the ripples it created. 

We can’t know the impact of a trend on TikTok, but we can look at the ripples. We can see how the mentions of a popular song spike, how many news headlines reference a trend, how the conversation shifts across other platforms when something on TikTok takes hold. 

It took me a second to place why this resonated with me. Towards the conclusion of the presentation, it hit me. 

Brandwatch was telling us to break it so it worked for us. 

There are so few things that work the way we need them to. Not just at NUNA – everywhere. We all operate with specific goals that broad tools can’t always reach. In telling us how to find the impact of TikTok, Brandwatch was telling a room full of marketers that they need to be flexible and creative. 

This is one of the best things about Brandwatch. Partnership in driving solutions. It doesn’t matter how specific something we want to do is, it doesn’t matter if no one has ever used their software that way before. The answer is never no with this team: it’s how can we help?

I came away from the Masterclass heartened and excited, reminded that we have an incredible partner that is invested in us and our communities. Going into the event, I kept my expectations under control. Leaving the event I smiled, reminded how easy it is to find value when you keep an open mind. 

We’re surrounded by countless little things that can help us improve. You just have to be willing to break open a system to change it for the better.