Social media has simplified the art of the soapbox shout. Information is shared with the masses now using easy-to-use Web 2.0 tools and is recorded and cached for infinity. A shout out loud in social media has no geographic boundaries and is not time-limited. These two points make the non-stop monitoring of social media an important to-do for any brand owner. And monitoring social media does not just mean blogs. It should include video and image sharing sites and microblogging sites like Twitter, along with opinion and discussion forums.
As a provider of the tools for monitoring hundreds and even thousands of well known brands online, we’ve found a multitude of reasons for paying attention to what’s being said in social media. Here are the top ten:
The complaint – Watch for posts complaining about your products or services, company, and staff. Catching something early means getting a chance to show how responsive you are. A complaint is an opportunity to demonstrate problem-solving abilities. A posted complaint may also draw out other comments from people with the same concern, which provides an opportunity to reach out to them as well. And who knows, impressing customer with great customer service may generate some positive posts about how you resolved the problems.
The compliment – Compliments can come in many forms. It could be a congratulations message about a recent award. It could be a customer raving about the experience they just had with a product or with customer service. Social media compliments are the online equivalent of those old school references or testimonials of days past. Create a delicio.us account or use another social bookmarking utility and save all of these compliments in a list for future use. Potential clients looking for reassurance on a purchase decision would love to see what others think of your company and products.
The expressed need – The best way to watch for expressed needs is to look for keywords often used to describe those needs. People shout out what they are doing and ask the general public for advice occasionally when they are about to make a purchase. Both of these situations provide an opportunity to reach out with an offer of assistance or a free demo for example. While this may seem intrusive at first glance consider that great retail clerk who offers to help when you are trying to locate a pair of shoes in your size. A social media poster often appreciates that someone is listening and does not mind an offer of assistance expecially if it’s done in a helpful way.
The competitor – If you are watching your industry and the keywords used to describe it you will probably be the first to know when a new competitor appears on the scene. From a competitive intelligence perspective you may also wish to be alerted any time a competitor’s name is used. Knowing this may highlight opportunities to reach out to potential customers who have indicated they are trialing a competitor or dissatisfied with a competitor’s product or service. You may also discover which industry players are advocates for competitive brands giving you the opportunity to reach out and see if they are interested in knowing more about what you have to offer. Competitors will also often talk about subjects they are strategically interested in and being able to stay on top of those discussions allows you to anticipate potential future moves.
The crowd – Topics will often pop up online that draw huge crowds from a page visits or commenting perspective. There is a lot to be learned in discussion threads especially when they have the potential to affect your brand. Following the swarms can give you a better understanding of current sentiment and thinking towards a certain topic and who the players are that have opinions on it. It also may point out a topic that you will need to monitor going forward. Tracking a topic’s viral nature and how long it lives can give you an idea of its relative importance. You may also decide to participate in the crowd discussion thread early in the process, giving your company exposure to those currently involved in the discussion and to those yet to join.
The influencer – Influencers within a space can carry a lot of weight. They gain there power either from the number of times they post on a topic, the number of people who link to their posts on a topic, the number of people gathering to comment and how engaged visitors to their posts become. The hive that forms around an influencer helps spread an opinion on a brand faster and that opinion express potentially carries more weight. Often an influencer’s post appears prominently in a topic’s Google search results thus affecting the views of even more potential customers. Knowing who these influencers are and their opinions of your brands helps you determine who to reach out to for help as advocates or to understand why they currently hold a negative view.
The crisis – Discussions happening in social media can serve as an early warning system before an issue goes mainstream. By using advanced tools you can observe new words popping more frequently about your brands. If you were an airline, as an example, the sudden appearance of the word “cancellations” along with the words “bad” and “customer service” would immediate trigger a need to drill into the posts driving them. Tracking these “crisis” words over time on a go forward basis would also then help gauge the effectiveness of any outreach campaigns to address the underlying issues.
The ROI – There has been a lot of buzz lately on how to successful measure online marketing and outreach campaigns. Much of the focus has centered around the topic of engagement. While a universal engagement metric has yet to be agreed upon there are still a number of effective ways to measure engagement and ROI in general. Track the mentions of a brand in user-generated content before, during and after a campaign. Isolate positive words associated with a particular brand and gauge the number of times they were used over a period of time. Alternatively, you could sort all posts mentioning a particular brand or topic by number of comments or views to uncover the top 50 discussions where potentially engagement was the highest.
The audit – A brand is the sum of all conversations and is no longer completely controlled by the corporation. By analyzing social media a corporation or agency can score a brand’s overall user sentiment, determine which words are commonly associated with it, understand which competitors rank closest in buzz or online mentions, uncover which sites are advocates, and rank which social media channels contain more discussion versus others. By isolating which sites are discussing your brand or a competitor’s brand, an audit can also help pinpoint possible ad placement opportunities for reaching the most valuable and engaged audiences.
The thread – With so many social media channels to shout out on, conversations often become splintered. A discussion can start within one channel and quick leap into another making it rather difficult to follow. Following discussions using keywords associated with it can help bridge the thread across all types of social media. This thread would then appear as a connected conversation for easy analysis.
Customers, prospects and peers are discussing your brand, your industry and your competitors right now in social media: with or without you. Unfortunately, choosing not to listen doesn’t make those conversations go away. Actively listening means protecting brand reputation, discovering opportunities, staying competititive and avoiding runaway crisis’.