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Impact of 5G on social listening

Farhan Shaikh

5G, the fifth generation of mobile internet connectivity, is right at our doorstep (depending on where you live[i]). By 2024, it is expected to reach 1.9 billion people, or 65% of the world’s population. It is expected to deliver everything we, the consumers, have been waiting for – faster streaming, stable connections, wider coverage, and super-fast downloads and uploads.[ii] Some network providers have already started rolling it out, some are in beta, and some are waiting for regulatory approval. Companies have been publishing their points of view on how 5G will affect different industries and verticals. One horizontal aspect that will touch every industry is social media and the way it is consumed. This means that 5G will also change the way we analyze social media data.

Both consumers and brands will have access to 5G technology, and that will have a multiplying effect . It will allow them to become more intimate and offer interactions that are more fluid, more personalized, and highly contextual. Speed will have a snowball effect on customer engagement across different channels. There will be more data points to capture, and more meaningful analysis to perform. This, in turn, will leave brands with improved consumer insights and reduced turnaround times.

In other words, 5G will have a direct effect on social listening, helping it evolve into social intelligence. Here are some of the ways how:

Improved reach and connectivity

With stable and faster internet, consumption is bound to increase. This will help brands reach larger audience who have increasingly shorter attention spans. Faster download speeds will mean that brands will be able to invest in personalized communications and engaging web pages/apps without worrying about loading time.

2022 or 2025? Driverless cars are expected to be here sooner than predicted.[iii] Driving is just one of the few tasks humans will not have to worry about. Slowly and steadily, many tasks will be automated, creating more time for humans to focus on other, important things.

Imagine large events, such as football games or a music festivals. Imagine the poor connectivity caused by the spike in users which network is unable to handle. 5G inherently supports high-density traffic, ensuring multiple simultaneous connections – even in extremely high traffic zones – so people can continue to consume media, stay connected, and remain online irrespective of the rush.

Real-time data flow

By the time customers tweet about their in-store experience, the low-energy sensors out there will have pushed the customer data to servers that are accessible from digital command centers. This data can involve customer type (individual vs group), customer feedback (one-touch feedback on the offline experience), or even capture the details of any “out-of-stock” issues that particular customer may have faced. Moreover, 5G will enable much more accurate GPS positioning. High-speed data access with accurate geofencing will allow brands to contextualize the conversations while analyzing them.

Faster processing

Many analysts complain about how long it takes to download data from leading listening tools. There are also limitations on the volumes you can download at one go to avoid network issues. Even after accessing the dump, data processing tools that work in the cloud have certain challenges with respect to data upload. The entire process of data cleaning, formatting, and visualization often includes a lot of waiting time. This entire cycle will see a drastic change with 5G due to lower latency, which will help reduce the overall turnaround time for analysis.

Visual highway – YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and more

People consume and produce more and more visual content – photographs, memes, GIFs, and videos – and 5G will help them do so even faster. Some of the social-listening tools out there have already showcased their capabilities in image[iv] and video[v] analysis. There’s still room for improvement though, and I am sure they will be ready for it when 5G is rolled out on a large scale. After chatter, videos will be the next thing brands will want to monitor from their command centers, banking on near-real time processing and tagging by social listening tools.

Rise of reviews

Improved connectivity and reduced costs will boost mobile commerce.[vi] Faster loading pages and intimate mobile experience will help brands engage customers and probably earn more reviews from them. Customers will be able to provide reviews and ratings on the fly – without eating much of their time, which to date remains an important block. This will help brands analyze customer requirements better and thus improve their products and services.

New data sources

It’s 2019. Social intelligence is no longer limited to social media sources. 5G will only help enhance command center outputs with multiple new data sources. Consider the AR/VR experience while shopping – on the app or even in store – precision-guided support by remote customer care centers without any lags, immersive gamification of standard processes, and much more.[vii] As end customers start using the next generation services, companies will have new data points to analyze. This can help social media command centers provide more meaningful analysis and insights.

With 5G, the future of social listening looks exciting. Of course, this will take some time since all the 5G capabilities won’t be available from day one. But sooner or later, we will get there and that’s when things will get challenging. Social-listening tools are investing in some of the capabilities, but a lot of work has to be done at the service provider’s end. Marketers and brand custodians will have to work closely with data scientists to keep exploring and experimenting.

The days of off-the-shelf social media metrics were already numbered (they should really already be past, but many out there continue to invest in limited functionalities). With the advent of 5G, “vanilla” social media listening will also not make the cut.

At Capgemini Invent, we have been successfully making use of multiple data sources, along with social chatter. We not only work with the marketing and consumer insights departments, we also support other departments – be it research and development, supply chain, or even talent management. Reach out to me at for any queries, possible use cases or to discuss the next social media experiment brewing at the back of your mind!