NEW YORK: Nestlé Purina, the pet food group, is seeking to understand social media "lurkers" – users who are interested in its content but do not actively engage – to ensure its marketing achieves the greatest possible impact.

Lisa Keller, manager/editor of Nestlé Purina North America's social media community management team, discussed this subject on a webinar organised by Social Media Today.

And while she argued that social listening is important for brands – especially in areas such as strategy creation, community management and reporting – it has a flaw that marketers must be aware of.

"One caveat to all of this is that you also need to remember what we call the 'silent majority' in social media," said Keller. (For more, including research tips, read Warc's exclusive report: Nestlé Purina digs deep into social media.)

As evidence, she pointed to figures from customer-intelligence firm Vision Critical showing that "enthusiasts" typically comprise 29% of a brand's social audience, but generate some 85% of relevant posts and updates.

"So there have been many studies … that show that only around 30% of your community are actually creating your content – and that the majority of your social users are something actually called 'lurkers', and are simply consuming your content and other people's content," said Keller.

This trend – "a small set of users that are the ones creating most of the content" – is common across interactive platforms, and poses a significant challenge for marketers.

"For brands, it's important to try and avoid only creating content for those few people speaking up in your communities, as you may miss what the rest of your community may respond to [and] that could help your brand's bottom line."

Using research tools capable of establishing the impact of social marketing on this broader audience, suggested Keller, is essential in truly determining effectiveness.

"So, for instance, you may create content featuring your brand's product that does not 'go viral'. But you can see that it did move the needle for your brand on awareness or actual product sales offline," she said.

"A consumer may have seen that post or tweet and then remembered your brand or purchased your product as measured by these studies … but they may not have engaged with the post at all, because they may not be one of those users who likes to actually create content or take action with the actual channel."

Data sourced from Warc