Philip Lynch, Evaluation Director for the Intelligence sector at Kantar Media, advises on how best to manage and protect your brand online through strategic social media listening.
Recent research from Kantar Media highlights that 58% of UK consumers have their buying decisions influenced by social media.
It’s a commercial imperative for companies to not only be involved in brand engagement through social media, but that brands must also develop a fundamental understanding of opinion drivers in order to optimise their engagement strategy. There’s no point just being there; your brand really needs to listen.
There needs to be a change in the mindset of how companies communicate; most companies are comfortable with a linear model in which some form of media sits between them and their customers (whether it be a newspaper, TV, radio).
The key difference in social of course, is that companies can communicate directly, potentially on a huge scale. And the customer talks back.
But most importantly, the customer talks to other customers, and you and your company may not be in on the conversation. Knowing that people are talking about you is valuable but not actionable. Understanding why they are talking is the real goal
Here are some top tips for effective social media listening.
1. Why are our customers venting on social media?
The focus needs to be on understanding the motivation behind statements made in social media. There are a great many systems available to quantify social media comment, or at least part of what is being said, and some go further in providing a measure of sentiment – whether the comment is favourable or otherwise.
But (and it is a big BUT) this knowledge in itself is not actionable because it does not offer insight into why things are as they are. Hence the need to investigate and understand ‘motivation’ as this provides real insight into why good or bad opinions exist, and what can be done to influence the prevailing mood.
2. Remember the big picture
Yes, a single ‘poison blog’ that berates everything about your company can create a sense of threat and panic in an organisation. But what is more important to understand is, do the views of your detractor have traction with other consumers?
For the most part, individual voices within social media are one of millions. So what you should be really interested in is patterns of convergence, when many single voices start saying the same thing. It’s very difficult to react to every voice you hear, so you have to establish where the momentum is, and what’s driving it.
3. What tools are available to help companies listen?
There are several software platforms available to help you to monitor what is being said about your brand. Kantar Media has a system called Maestro that is based on highly advanced linguistic analysis. It identifies risks and opportunities in social media, but goes much further in understanding the drivers and motivations of opinions expressed on blogs, message boards and other forms of social media.
4. What about our customers’ privacy?
There is a misnomer that listening platforms may interfere with privacy, or focus on the activities of individual bloggers. Real ‘Big Brother’ stuff. This doesn’t need to be the case. Most companies using listening technology are looking for wider trends in consumer opinion, with less emphasis on individuals.
Yes, the outpourings of dissatisfied customers can be picked up and companies have successfully intervened to sort out a problem before it becomes anything more than one person’s complaint. This is a tactical use of monitoring. Understanding the big picture – the ‘strategic’ use of social media listening – means there’s a need to focus on the trends, and the reasons behind them, rather than the individual.
5. How social media monitoring can become a real-time marketing tool
Because listening is the simple act of information gathering, and knowing more than the next guy is a competitive advantage. The more you learn - the more you understand - the better decisions you make. Or to put it another way, do you really want your customer knowing more about what people are saying about your product than you do?
Comments picked up on social media have been used to help companies tweak products, or orientate their marketing to address a previously unknown need. Social media listening becomes a real-time market research tool. And that has to be a useful advantage in the current economic climate.
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