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Blog post
June 25, 2019

Listen to many, speak to a few

What can you learn from 750,000 social media posts in China each day? Sean Smith of Isentia explores how technology is disrupting market research.

No Facebook. No Twitter. No YouTube. With stifling regulations around social media use, how can New Zealand businesses’ use social media to enter Chinese markets?

The basic premise remains the same – the way in which Chinese consumers engage with social media platforms is not dissimilar to here, nor is their decision-making journey. Needless to say, understanding the landscape is paramount for any company aspiring to capitalise on the booming Chinese economy. It’s certainly an opportunity worth pursuing – this year China’s GDP is estimated to exceed US $12.1 trillion (NZ $16.44 trillion).

An obvious difference from the outset is the sheer volume of online conversations that happen within China’s firewalls.

This is not surprising given the 740 million-odd internet users, and is exacerbated by the fact that social media is a much larger phenomenon in Chinese culture than it is here in New Zealand.

In today’s digital world, this level of activity offers businesses unprecedented access to millions of organic conversations unfolding in the alluring Chinese market – in real time. The million-dollar question is, how can this information be used to help businesses make important decisions about when to launch a product in the market and drive sales?

Givenchy and Mr Bags

A great example of the power of social media in China is the partnership between Givenchy and blogger Tao Liang, better known as Mr Bags.

He uses his encyclopaedic fashion knowledge to retain over 2.7 million Weibo readers and a further 600,000 WeChat followers; keen to be ‘in the know’ on the latest handbag trends and the current “it” bag.

In an act of extreme commercial nous, in 2017 Mr Bags called for his followers to nominate a potential collaborator for the blogger. When Givenchy emerged as the overwhelming favourite, the brand took the opportunity to launch a limited-edition handbag on Valentine’s Day via Mr Bags’ social channels. What followed the announcement was a 12-minute frenzy seeing Givenchy part with 1.2 million RMB’s (NZ$247,000) worth of handbags – a complete sell-out. Needless to say, the campaign was deemed a success.

Listen to many, speak to a few

By now it’s no secret that social media isn’t just a broadcast platform. In fact, true to the proverb “we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say”, there’s far greater power in using social media to understand a potential customer’s motivations.

In today’s world, social media provides market research on an unprecedented scale.

Once upon a time, businesses invested heavily in market research groups to understand consumer insight.

Test groups were enticed with gift vouchers or free products to partake in a fishbowl-style exercise, where they were asked to provide honest and open feedback as eager marketers and communicators looked on.

Despite questions being developed using the latest, tested methodology and astute moderators, the quality and authenticity of the data was often in question.   

Let me be clear – this has less to do with the methodology and more a reflection that as consumers, we find it much easier to speak the whole truth when we think we’re not being watched.

With such a high level of human involvement, it is also incredibly difficult to collect data consistently and without bias.

Technology: the market research disruptor

Why might technology make consumers more honest and open with their feedback? The truth is people are more honest in a casual setting. Therefore, dialogue about a product or service that’s exchanged in the comfort of someone’s home (behind a screen) will often be more candid than their responses to a survey.

At Isentia, Mediaportal’s cloud-based technology trawls video, audio and digital content across more than 4,400 print items, 1750 broadcast items, 62,500 online news sites, 6 million blogs and 300,000 forums. Processing seven million news items each day a rate of 234 stories per second, it presents summaries to clients in real-time.

For China enthusiasts, the technology mines over 750,000 WeChat and Weibo posts daily and uses this information to unearth the Mr Bags’ opportunities – the people or issues relevant to specific industries – so that businesses can make informed decisions based on both data and sentiment in foreign markets.

What’s more, the nature of social media means the survey technically never ends. Social media listening provides continued real-time pulse checking and the perfect new product incubator. It’s more than watching @mentions and comments pour in via your social profiles, mobile apps or blogs.

“If you’re only paying attention to notifications, you’re missing a huge group of people that are talking about you, your brand and your product.”

The true value is in tracking conversations around specific topics, keywords, phrases, brands or industries, and leveraging these insights to discover opportunities or create content for those audience.

Data – a modern marketing and communications must-have

It is now hard to imagine a marketing and communications industry that doesn’t rely on data to inform strategy, new product development and campaigns.

Much of what took place in marketing and communications teams, even as recently as a decade or so back, was based on assumption. We *think* that this product would be of interest to this audience, so we *figured* the best way to tell them about it would be mostly via a TV ad campaign.

“But data is now essential for any smart and savvy marketer or communicator and presents the opportunity to tap into foreign markets with a level of insight that has never been more accurate or accessible.”

When you combine and embrace the use of technology, social media, and analyse the data that it provides – you can not only quickly test and learn new products, but also give the fans what they want.  

Givenchy were clever and reaped the rewards of listening, embracing and reacting to their consumers’ want, making it big in China. Now it is your time to get onboard and reap the results.

Originally featured in CIO Magazine.

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This is not a list of what to do to be more successful. Or a list about the highly successful morning habits of CEOs and CIOs.

Instead, it’s a call-out to others who read the titles of articles like these on a Monday and sometimes feel exhausted by the amount of additional ‘work’ that is actually recommended to be more productive or successful.

But, it’s not about being lazy either, in fact Australia was listed in Collective Hub’s Top 15 of the world’s most productive countries, so as a nation we still like to get things done.

This is, however, a question as to whether our push for productively has blurred into so many areas of life that we’ve forgotten why we strive to be increasingly efficient in the first place. Are we now too focused on volume, rather than value?

For example, in the last week alone we’ve seen the launch of a five-minute workout video series, been served an ad for an app which gives you the world’s best nonfiction books in bite-sized formats and scrolled past a ‘mindfulness in microseconds’ Instagram post.

While squeezing more into everyday life is a common challenge (and arguably a goal) for many professionals, it does present an interesting behavioural shift where we start to use smart technology to speed up activities that perhaps we shouldn’t.

Working in the always-on media Industry, we work with some of the most pressed-for-time people on a daily basis.

These communications and marketing professionals are dealing with huge amounts of fragmented media across channels that sometimes need urgent attenuation or action, particularly in times of crisis. However, this is where our technology thrives – it puts in the hard yards for them. Crunching huge volumes of data, providing the tools to report, alert, shred and more, and helping to give back time that should be spent on the more important strategic tasks, away from a computer.

From a professional standpoint this could mean more time for pitching ideas, benchmarking results against business strategy or presenting to the board. This is where value is achieved – with time spent on activities that need extra thinking space and deserve focus. From a personal standpoint, this may mean taking time back to pick up the kids from school, getting to yoga or simply enjoying a cup of tea in silence.

It’s not a case about fitting more into the day, but about filling your day with more valuable activities. Smart technology holds so much power in helping us spend less time on task-based needs like emails, to-do lists and life admin to free up the time for (hopefully) more than a ‘mindfulness in microseconds’ quick fix.

Remember, effort is not the same as impact.

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Blog
The push to be ‘on’ by 6am

This is not a list of what to do to be more successful. Or a list about the highly successful morning habits of CEOs and CIOs.

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From programmer to industry leader, as one of Australia’s only Chief Information Officers in technology, Andrea Walsh has shattered the glass ceiling. And she’s championing other women, while she’s at it.

So, is she a game changer? Let’s find out. I’m Sarah Harris. Welcome to Game Changers.

Sarah: Andrea, welcome to Game Changers, now you are one of Australia’s only female CIOs of a technology company. You must see yourself as a bit of a role model?

Andrea: I never thought I was, but having been in the role now for number of years I look around and I do think where are all the other women, where are all the females.

Sarah: And, where are they?

Andrea: There is just a real shortage of women in I.T and technology, which is a real shame.

Sarah: So, tell us a little bit about Isentia and what it actually does.

Andrea: So, Isentia is a media monitoring company. And basically what that means is we take information and news from across varying countries, about 18 countries, multiple languages, and we filter that and disseminate it to what is important to our clients and what are the leading issues that they need to focus on. An average day, there’s about 7 million news items that we’re processing.

Sarah: That is a big job, lots of information to get through. So, what does your role as CIO involve?

Andrea: So, I lead the technology team. We are responsible for all the systems and the technology that processes those 7 million items a day. And we also provide all the services for our clients and tools for them to be able to do their job each day.

Sarah: Why do you think there’s a lack of women in IT roles?

Andrea: I think through education. I don’t think that girls are encouraged to take up sciences and engineering when they’re younger. It’s very much seen as, ‘it’s for the boys’. I think it starts really early on. And then I also think women don’t put themselves forward necessarily for opportunities, and roles to re-train. And maybe say, I might be interested but unless I’m absolutely sure I not going to give it a go.

Sarah: You are quoted as saying, “we’re on the cusp of a technological revolution”. What are you most excited about?

Andrea: There is so much. I think that’s what’s exciting. I think with cloud technology, it’s enabled a lot of organisations to be able to experiment with technologies. And things like artificial intelligence, so looking at machine learning. And I think that will really shape future roles and jobs.

Sarah: You really passionate, which I love, about women moving up in the industry. In particular, girls learning how to code. For someone who is not as technologically advanced as you, perhaps, explain to me what coding actually is.

Andrea: It’s basically creating something using computer and technology. Sometimes, yes, it has to be, or can be, detailed lines of programming. But some of the tools that are available, especially to young children who are interested in coding, enables kids to build stories, cartoons and make videos.

Sarah: The number of girls studying, as you said before, STEM, which is science, technology, engineering and mathematics, it is slowly increasing. Which is brilliant. But it’s not at a rate of ‘the boys’ just yet.

Andrea: No. Certainly not. And I think that it is great that it is slowly increasing. But it’s got a considerable way to go.

Sarah: Well, how do we change that?

Andrea: I think again, it goes back to the education. It’s encouraging girls and young children to get involved in these subjects. And I also think that they have maybe a brand, or an image, issue with engineering and IT often see as ‘it’s for the boys’. I think it’s also about the parents and the carers. So often we teach our children when they come home about doing their homework, reading, writing, maths. But what about the children who want to learn technology, and they want to learn to code? And if the parents aren’t IT, how do they support them. So I think it’s really about, as I say, the education, but then also then about the parents and finding these great programs that are out there to give the kids opportunity.

Sarah: Your daughter is eight and she’s already taken an interest.

Andrea: When I first showed her the iPad, she just took it instantly. It was quite amazing to experience. We certainly encourage here to use it. There’s s o many educational programs for children that you can use on the iPad. So I’m a big advocate of it.

Sarah: It does bring up that other thing as well, because I have a little boy who’s 18 months, and he’s very savvy when it comes to technology. You know, he’s coming up to the television and trying to swipe it like an Ipad. But I do kind of worry that (you know) we’re introducing technology to these kids too early, because there’s been research that show that it’s actually changing the chemistry of the brain. When should we be introducing this sort of stuff to our kids? Because as a parent you sort of think to yourself, I don’t want my kids to have their head in technology all the time. But at the same time, you don’t want to hold them back, because that’s the future.

Andrea: I think its each individual parent’s choice. For our daughter’s, Charlotte, we introduced it quite early on, so it was before kindergarten. But we’re very strict with her, both from what she can do on there and so content she can see. And also how long she spends on there, because the last thing we want is to build a relationship and the communication is with the back of an Ipad all of the time.

Sarah: IT is a well-paying field, but there id still a gender pay gap when it comes to technology, isn’t there?

Andrea: Where I work at Isentia, we pay the market rate and we pay on skills regardless of gender. But it is a known issue within many industries and with many organisations and that’s something we need to address.

Sarah: What advice you want to give to women that you mentor?

Andrea: I would say, seek every opportunity. Just go for it – what can you lose at the end of the day? I think work with other areas of the business as well; get to know the business and the industry in which you work. Do things that are potentially outside your remit so you can learn and grow from them.

Sarah: You are a trailblazer and a Game Changer. Thank you for joining us today.

Andrea: Thank you.

Disclaimer: Featured in Game Changers

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Blog
Isentia’s CIO, Andrea Walsh on Game Changers

From programmer to industry leader, as one of Australia’s only Chief Information Officers in technology, Andrea Walsh has shattered the glass ceiling. And she’s championing other women, while she’s at it.

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When it comes to reputation management, understanding your audience perception puts you a step ahead. Learning your audiences frustrations and what drives them, provides insight into how to positively engage with them. As a PR or comms professional, knowing which audience segment impacts or influences your brand reputation is key, especially when sharing messaging.

Reputation is important at the best of times, yet throughout the pandemic, pharmaceutical companies gained the media spotlight whilst their reputation was under scrutiny. As a result, they had to act swiftly and develop new vaccines for immediate and long term use on a global scale.

How do audiences perceive the pharmaceutical industry?

Since the pandemic, we've learned companies are expected to lead. Large companies that failed to take significant actions lost reputation. Those that acted on the opportunities presented to them, flourished. To build or maintain a positive reputation, companies needed to become agile and evolve their operations. 

By using media monitoring and audience intelligence tools, brand reputation and audience perception can be tracked and managed by monitoring traditional and social data, news and industry-specific artificial intelligence (AI). 

Audience perception comes from customer experience, functionality and reputation across mainstream and social media conversations. With social media being an unfiltered platform, it can be hard for brands to control their narrative. However, when you know what your audience is saying about your brand, you can better understand the influential voices and outlets leading the conversations. Monitoring traditional and social media allows you to:

The change in audience sentiment

As an industry that’s responsible for the research, development, production and distribution of medications around the world, having a positive reputation is invaluable.

Pharmaceutical companies frequently use social media to communicate health concerns, new advancements and potential outbreaks. Furthermore, they have been in the spotlight for the past 24 months, helping a society navigate through COVID-19 and out of lockdowns.

The pandemic led to a rapid change in public sentiments over a short span of time. People expressed sentiments of joy and gratitude toward good health, yet sadness and anger at the loss of life and stay at home orders. 

It’s important to understand audience perception toward health-related content, and how your audience perceives the news you share or is shared about you. As the world turned to pharmaceutical companies for vaccines, heightened media coverage meant the public were listening, watching and paying more attention than ever before. This gave those companies the opportunity to redefine what they stand for.

Australian trust in pharmaceutical companies versus global country average. Source: Ipsos and Statista

The role of social media

Historically, the sector had been tarnished by bad publicity. However, the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Monitor 2021 report revealed pharmaceutical companies are now seen as more trustworthy than they were three years ago. 62% of Australians say they trust pharmaceuticals, in comparison to a global country average of 31%.

Social media intelligence plays an important role in how audiences discover, research and share information about a brand or product. Pharmaceutical companies need to continue their connection with their audiences, through storytelling. With this, they can influence a positive narrative and maintain the positive shift in reputation.

During the pandemic, Pfizer dominated social media. On Twitter, Pfizer was the most mentioned company compared to other competitors during the same period. Conversations about the actual brand were not as popular as vaccines, yet social media buzz was inline with Pfizer's consequential milestones and notable events during the pandemic.

Audience perception on twitter

With company mentions of this calibre, there’s no denying the number of conversations involving pharmaceutical companies. Audiences are talking in an unfiltered manner. Whether it's about their credibility, reputation, or the effectiveness of treatments, there’s no escaping the global conversations about the pharmaceutical industry.


Companies cannot afford to ignore conversations that could influence their reputation. Rather than treating it as something beyond their control, using reputation management tools within a media intelligence platform can assist in rolling out a more effective and efficient comms strategies on both traditional and social media.

The power of audience perception

A recent study on Eczema & Atopic Dermatitis by our sister company, Pulsar, shows a topic that is considered an intensely private conversation, has since moved online. An analysis was performed on the relationship between influential figures and wider audiences.

The below chart shows what the engagement metrics look like for the 19 most-engaged with accounts describable as either dermatologist, esthetician, medical doctor, nurse or pharmacist. 

From this chart it tells us dermatologists hold authority in this conversation with three of the highest engagement tallies originating from dermatology accounts. This suggests their audience trust their expertise and are favourably perceived.

Comparing the mentions and engagements of the top 19 influencers, by engagement, in the atopic dermatitis and eczema conversation. Sept 2020- Oct 2022. Source: Pulsar TRAC.

Audience perception on twitter
Audiences engaging in the conversation around both eczema/atopic dermatitis and medicalised skincare on Twitter, set against the more general eczema/atopic dermatitis conversation over the same period. Sept 2020 – Oct 2022. Source: Pulsar TRAC.

The above chart shows a comparison analysis on audiences engaging in conversations around both eczema/atopic dermatitis and medicalised skincare on Twitter. This is set against the more general eczema/atopic dermatitis conversation over the same period (Sept 2020 - Oct 2022).

Healthcare professionals remain a significant presence. Viewing the two audiences alongside each other:

  • Young black communities cohere into the single largest community.
  • LGBTQ+ communities emerge as a far greater presence in the wider conversation. 

From this study, we can see there is a seamless loop between conversation analysis and audience segmentation. This allows for a dynamic view of how each community talks about a topic differently. 

3 pillars to consider when repairing brand reputation

1. Be active and engaged on your social networks to help control the conversations. Turning the mythology around can be difficult, but with a compelling or positive evergreen story, it can change the perception audiences have about your company.

2. Monitor what is being said. Negative news gets more attention. This creates unwanted negative conversations and commentary. Tracking analytics, such as media mentions, share of voice and media outlets with a media intelligence solution allows you to keep a vigilant eye on the type of media coverage you’re receiving. When repairing a negative reputation, at least 35% of the company’s share of voice should involve company representatives.

3. Create a recovery roadmap to deliver on business improvements. Be transparent and authentic when it comes to communicating to customers and stakeholders. This will help with rebuilding trust and repairing your reputation. 

When a company needs to repair their reputation there is a need to use sources of traditional and social media. These will form the pillars of their repair strategy. These pillars can support a comms strategy with real-time data, identifying what's working and what isn’t.

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Blog
Reputation Management: How Important is Audience Perception?

Reputation management is crucial for any brand. With unfiltered social media, it is critical to understand your audience perception.

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Image of falling stock prices in a crisis on a blue background

In today's fast-paced world, audience intelligence is critical to crisis management. By understanding who your audience is and what they want, you can more effectively manage a crisis. 

The constantly changing landscape of the internet and social media can make it difficult to stay ahead of the curve. Additionally, the vast amount of data available can be overwhelming and make it difficult to identify the most important information.

Getting a hold of the narrative in the media is crucial. It's inevitable that at some point, your brand will receive negative press. Whether it's a simple misunderstanding or a full-blown crisis, bad press can have a serious impact on your brand's progress. 

Surviving a crisis: Optus & BeReal

Crisis management bar graph of Optus data breach mentions in the media
More than 100,00 mentions of Optus in the media since the data breach announcement.

On 21 September, there was a data breach of telecommunications company Optus where many of its customers’ information were compromised. In response, the company adopted a cautious and controlled approach in delivering its external communications. 

However, the approach allowed the media as well as social media to swirl negative narratives about the company’s “inaction”. In the three weeks after the announcement that its databases had been hacked, there were more than 123,000 mentions of the company in the media. 

In this instance, addressing a crisis quickly to minimize the impact on your business is critical. Seeing a spike in media coverage becomes a good barometer of how negative sentiment can escalate against your brand. 

In another example, rising social media app BeReal suffered a shutdown in September. The app focuses on users being authentic in their posts by prompting them to post pictures of themselves at random times of the day. With almost 15 million downloads of its app in September alone, the shutdown caused a stutter in its communications approach.

Image of BeReal tweet on shutdown
Source: Twitter

With a single tweet acknowledging the shutdown of its service, users were left puzzled as to what had happened. Media queries were left unanswered. This silence by the social media platform led to high-profile news sites such as Yahoo and TechCrunch covering the shutdown. 

This is a highly risky communication approach in an extremely competitive market of social media platforms. Social media giant TikTok rolled out its version of BeReal while Instagram has begun testing the function. 

Image of tweet on BeReal shutdown and crisis management
Source: Twitter

The lack of transparency during a crisis such as a shutdown can lead to negative publicity and a loss of trust in the company. If users are not given clear information about why an app is shutting down, they may feel ‘lost’ and ultimately lose them as users

7 things to consider for your crisis management strategy

While it's impossible to completely avoid negative press, there are steps you can take to manage it and protect your brand's reputation.

1. Acknowledge the crisis & remain transparent

In the hyper-speed age of information-sharing and social media, it's more crucial than ever to be open and honest with your audience. 

When something goes wrong, don't try to hide it - own up to it and let people know what you're doing to fix the problem. 

Being open and transparent will help build trust with your audience and show that you are committed to making things right.

2. If it happens in your industry, it's your crisis

When a crisis strikes your competitor, there is no time to revel in their troubles. On another day, the crisis could happen to your brand and the scrutiny would be as intense as it was for your competitors. 

Take notes of what is happening in the media and quickly facilitate actions to counter any possible scrutiny that might come your way. These actions must be part of your crisis management plan.

3. Anticipate and monitor the crisis

In the high-speed world of audience intelligence, crisis management is essential to protecting your brand. Rapid response and proactive communication are key to mitigating the damage of a negative event. 

By monitoring the conversations online and identifying potential risks, you can take steps to prevent a crisis before it happens. If a crisis does occur, having a plan in place will help you quickly contain the situation and protect your organisation's reputation.

Make sure you have a media monitoring function so that you can monitor the escalating spread of news. Additionally, a social media intelligence platform can identify topical discussions your audience are engaged in.

4. Don't argue, trivialise or act defensively

Crisis management is the process by which an organisation deals with a major disruptive event. It's critical to remember that in a crisis, your audience is seeking reassurance and guidance on the issues.

Therefore, it's essential that you don't argue, trivialise or act defensively. Instead, you need to be calm, informative and decisive in your actions. This will help to instill confidence in your audience and allay the media pressure to give you space to address the crisis.

5. Keep it short and sweet

The message you send out must be brief and informative in order to effectively manage the crisis. Getting involved in a large-scale debate is not advisable because it distracts your focus from finding solutions. 

A brand crisis can be a very difficult situation to navigate. Your audience is interested in what you are going to do next and what will happen to them. It's important to keep your audience updated on what is happening and what you are doing to resolve the issue.

6. Address your most important audience

In the event of a crisis, it's essential to quickly identify your key audiences and address their concerns. For a fast-moving consumer goods or a services organisation, the customer comes first because they are the primary audience of interest. 

It also depends on what type of crisis it's. If there is a workplace safety and security matter, it's better to address your employees first and reassure them on resolving the crisis. 

Ultimately, it's best to identify key audiences and have various sources of information to implement this preemptive approach. From discovering communities in social media narratives to stakeholders of your business, keeping the flows of communication open is a priority.

7. Keep authorities and the media on your side

In the event of a crisis, it's essential to effectively communicate with the authorities and the media. Provide updates to the media and work with authorities to ensure that they are kept informed of the situation. By having a good relationship with them, the crisis is managed effectively and the negative impact on your business is minimised.

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Crisis management with audience intelligence

Crisis management is crucial for any brand. In today’s social media-driven world, a brand crisis can quickly spiral out of control.

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