Social listening, not social distancing: strategy lessons from Christmas 2020

Sam Bettis, Customer Engagement Director

This year, we’ve found ourselves in a constant state of flux, and the uncertainty is far from behind us. So it’s more important than ever to listen to audiences in real time in order to move and adapt with them, and that means changing the way we think about strategy.

To demonstrate this new approach, we’ve used Christmas shopping this season as an example.

We’ll show how real-time digital listening and insights can be used to understand how customers feel about the topic – including social mentions, news articles and search data. By hearing what consumers are saying and seeing how they act when shopping for gifts, it becomes clear how brands should react.


Unsurprisingly, Brandwatch shows us rising numbers of conversations about Christmas shopping as we move into December. But it’s not enough to know how many people are talking about a topic – we need to understand the sentiment behind their conversations.

For example, we can see that the two most popular topics are shopping ‘IRL’ and handmade gifts. Taking a closer look, discussions of visiting shops on the high street are heavily influenced by fear and anxiety, as consumers ask about hygiene and safety.


Meanwhile, conversations around handmade gifts are much more joyful, as people come online to share ideas and look for inspiration for a thriftier Christmas. Although there’s less buzz about buying online, that doesn’t necessarily mean consumers aren’t doing it. They may want to be vocal about supporting local businesses and keep their guilt-inducing Amazon Prime deliveries to themselves.


While digital listening can help us discover what people are saying, searches can help us understand intent. Once we know how people are speaking and behaving, we can shape effective communications. We’ll know what we need to say, and where, based on platform usage.

This festive season, searches including ‘near me’ are on the rise, as shoppers look to support local businesses who may have struggled this year. Although lockdown saw an increase in searches around ‘DIY’ and ‘how to’, this trend is declining towards Christmas – maybe as people start to prioritise convenience after a year of making sourdough. But although consumers might not be making gifts themselves, it’s clear that personal touches are still important.

Digging deeper into long-tail search terms can provide even more insight. We used to break down search terms around personalised gifts. With this information, it’s easier to construct web content that answers the questions your audiences are asking, and build useful product and landing pages.


With all of this in mind, here’s how brands should approach this Christmas season:

  • Be empathetic to safety concerns – adapt the way you speak about stores reopening to acknowledge fears as well as excitement
  • Be mindful of where consumer support is – if you’re online-only, customers may need reassurance that buying from you won’t be to the detriment of the high street
  • Provide inspiration – everyone’s seeking ideas for an unconventional Christmas, so make sure you’re discoverable and relevant
  • Ease the stress – understand how consumers are searching for gifts and be as useful as possible.

With the right insight, we can be in the right place at the right time with the right answer. Audience needs, behaviours and emotions are constantly changing, and this year has been a glowing example of why brands need to act with agility.

Now is the ideal time to build the foundation of your 2021 communications strategy. Think about what you need to achieve to align with your brand and objectives and keep on a trajectory of growth.

But don’t be too rigid. It’s important that you continue to listen to your customers, keeping the conversation going. By using live data, you can keep your finger on the pulse and adapt to change when you need to.

Want to hear your customers loud and clear in 2021? Contact Sam at


Five ways the coronavirus went digital

Written by Sam Bettis, Customer Engagement Director at krow.x

Read more

Embracing digital for brand and performance

Written by Kirstin Wilson, Senior Account Director at krow.x

Read more

Nearing the new normal

Written by Kevin Doutzenberg, Account Manager at krow.x

Read more