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Relativity Exec on Why ‘Social Listening’ is Key to Making Marketing Work

There may not yet be proof that listening to the chatter on social media platforms sells a product — or in Hollywood’s case, movie tickets — but it’s still a powerful tool to help consumers connect with a brand, marketers say.

“I’m a huge believer in social listening — I’m obsessed with the social influencer,” said Liz Jones, executive VP of digital marketing for Relativity Media, at Variety‘s Entertainment & Technology Summit on Monday inside Marina del Rey’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

The executive, who is currently promoting family film “Earth to Echo” (see trailer below), often compiles reports on social media activity around a film’s trailers to Relativity’s top brass and marketing department when a movie is about to unspool at the megaplex.

While getting moviegoers’ opinion can be crucial in relaying the right message about a movie through its promotional materials, “it’s easy on social media (for people) to say I want to see this movie, but going to see the movie is another thing (and hard to prove),” Jones said. “I’d rather them say that than not saying that but what else can you do to translate that to ticket sales?”

Social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Instagram have been key tools in building the audience for teen-skewing AwesomenessTV, said T.J. Marchetti, chief marketing officer of the DreamWorks Animation-owned digital network.

In January, the site logged 550 million views. That’s grown to nearly 1 billion now.

“What was done on social was more impactful than what we did (on TV shows like ‘Good Morning America’)” to promote the site’s content, Marchetti said on a panel about the challenges of targeting the digital savvy.

Meanwhile, social media platforms also have proved pivotal for new ventures like online lodging site Airbnb.

The site is adding 50,000 rooms a month to its service (far more than the 30,000 to 50,000 the hotel biz tends to add in a year) — not bad for a company that “didn’t have a way of explaining what Airbnb was a year ago,” according to Amy Curtis-McIntyre, the company’s chief marketing officer.

“We solve a ton of problems through Twitter,” she said, citing how more consumers are turning to Twitter to voice their frustrations about a brand. If the company can quickly solve a customer’s complaint, “you have the opportunity to turn them into a brand ambassador. We’ve found if you get someone to try (Airbnb) and the experience is a positive one, they’ll spread the word and even become a host.”

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