The MABI Method for Audience Hacking

David Berkowitz David Berkowitz, Former Contributor

How can marketers identify new customers and audiences through social listening? This was the question we addressed when presenting at GrowCommerce 2017 in the session, “Audience Hacking: Finding a Needle in a Haystack.”

There are four predominant ways to identify audience conversations through social listening. You can definitely remember it as the MABI Method:

Mentions: Mentions of any brand or topic

Affinity: Affinities of the audience engaging in conversations, as expressed through their profile bios or the social graph of who they interact with about that topic

Behavior: The kinds of content shared, the channels used, and other forms of behavior

Imagery: Anything that can be identified through visual search by analyzing images and video, rather than text alone

How does that manifest? During the session, we showed how marketers used one or more examples from the MABI Method for a range of goals: product development, finding an audience, engagement, promotion, and tapping advocates.


Here are examples of each that were covered during the session. All of these are actual examples, though some names are not disclosed to protect confidentiality.

Product development: Golin’s Director of Analytics Brittany McKone described how McDonald’s was inspired by social listening to launch its all-day breakfast menu. This kind of market research, analyzing billions of public social posts, can inspire and inform new revenue streams.

Finding your audience: A government agency looking to adjust its messaging during a disease outbreak downloaded a large swath of conversations and sorted audiences into categories such as healthcare practitioners, parents, students, non-profit organizations, and others. The agency then saved these groups as separate lists to monitor trends in each group’s concerns and conversation themes. Following through, the agency adapted its messaging to address such issues, as parents wondering if it was safe to travel with children had different priorities from physicians wondering how to best prevent the disease from spreading.

Engagement: One brand sponsoring a major music festival looked to analyze all the images shared at the festival. They then were able to engage with people sharing images featuring that brand (whether the products themselves, from people wearing that brand’s logo on clothing, or from people visiting that brand’s experience at the festival) and connect with them to provide some added value while they were still there, thus motivating them to spread the word further. Additionally, the brand could review trends through visual listening to understand reports such as the top types of objects, foods, and scenes featured in the photos, and further assess how much value they got out of their sponsorship.

Promotion: Kingsford Charcoal offered up a classic social media marketing campaign a few years back when they sought to find the nicest person in social media. It inverted the Christmas trope, where coal is typically given to those on Santa’s ‘naughty’ list. Kingsford looked for the most polite, positive person and delivered Clifford Brown of Waukesha, Wisconsin a year’s supply of charcoal and a new grill.

Tapping advocates (and their owners): Another favorite from Golin’s McKone was how PetSmart customers frequently featured the retailer’s blue carts in photos. The retailer then started a content series using #petsmartcart and inviting its pet owner customers to participate as well.

All of these tap elements of the MABI Method, and the approach helps those proverbial needles stand out in the massive social media haystacks.


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