How Man City are using social media to understand fans
Premier League giant Manchester City cares so much about fans' feelings it has recruited a firm to trawl trillions of their social media posts.
Soon, some of the world's biggest clubs could even be tailoring the music inside grounds to what supporters write about on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram - thanks to Boston-based Crimson Hexagon.
The firm, founded in 2007, describes itself as a social intelligence platform and is based on technology developed at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science.
It works with top UK brands O2, the Post Office, Barclays and the BBC, as well as Premier League club Man City and worldwide giants including Procter and Gamble, Adidas and Starbucks, to deep dive into customers’ feelings.
Justin Khaksar, based in the firm’s London office, is managing director for the company in Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions.
“We work with brands and agencies to help them understand consumer opinion and the reasons behind how and why that’s changing,” he told BusinessCloud.
“There are various reasons as to why these brands want to use Crimson Hexagon – from understanding if a campaign has resulted in higher purchase intent, to making changes to a product launch based on consumer opinions.
“The main thing is that these brands get unfiltered access to consumer opinions: where focus groups or surveys are always led and framed, unprompted consumer opinions are more valuable because they come naturally and represent what people really feel.”
The data analysed by Crimson Hexagon is publicly available from social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, as well as blogs, forums and news sites.
It also partners with several of these networks: for example, it has Twitter Certified Product status as a trusted developer to build upon its products. Indeed, Khaksar describes Twitter as “one of our biggest clients” as Crimson Hexagon provides services to the social media giant.
He added: “Examples of questions our technology can answer for clients are: Do our customers believe we provide good value for money? How are people talking about Household Insurance? How did people feel about our last campaign? Did our last campaign have an impact in consumer intent to purchase? Do we need to adjust our product launch strategy based on what our target audience is saying?”
Andrew Gilligan, head of research and insights at City Football Group – the parent company of Manchester City, New York City FC, Melbourne City FC and Yokohama F. Marinos – explained how using the social data analysis software is having an impact across the clubs.
“The capability of Crimson and its ability to pull apart conversations into different themes and topics was a real game changer,” he said.
“It really helps us understand who football fans are, what they're talking about and what their lifestyle looks like beyond football.
“In New York we tracked the music preferences of New York City fans and noticed that there were some R’n’B artists that were trending with them.
“We passed that data along to the matchday team so they could finetune the playlists around the stadium and resonate directly with fans.”
Man City have evolved into a slick marketing proposition since Abu Dhabi United Group bought the club in 2008.
In order to compete commercially on the world stage with city rivals Manchester United and the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal, developing an intimate understanding of fans around the world is key.
“The unique thing about social data is that it is completely unsolicited opinion and commentary,” added Gilligan.
“It helps us build up a deep and detailed picture of the football consumer [and means that], as a brand, we can help our clubs become more relevant and engage more deeply with our consumers [through] specific projects.”
The Premier League club recently held its second hackathon event intended to uncover innovative ways to reinforce a sense of community among City fans.
It awarded its top prize to two teams who produced products aimed at bringing fans across the globe closer together.
Software as a Service business Crimson Hexagon allows businesses to choose the level of support needed via an online platform. It also has a social impact programme which is available for use by non-profit organisations.
“Heliosight is our simple, fast and flexible search tool that enables users to conduct ad-hoc searches to discover insights on anything: events, topics, brands, and to more quickly uncover the social conversation,” Khaksar said.
“ForSight is for users who need to dig deeper into insights from social data – it provides the ability for users to customise analysis in order to gain insight into consumer trends, purchase intent, product attributes, drivers of sentiment, competitors and category-level conversations.”
The popularity of platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat means image analysis is crucial to the future of the Crimson Hexagon, Khaksar said.
Meanwhile it recently partnered with US business intelligence and data visualisation company Domo.
“Currently, we don't sell each other's platforms. It is more of a case by case basis, where we can work together when the prospect/customer demands it, and we are also exploring mutual go-to-market opportunities,” explained Khaksar.
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