Do you have a system in place to capitalize on your online social presence in real time?
Does your social media marketing strategy include a way to handle massive amounts of unstructured (text) data?
If your answer to these questions is NO, you are missing huge opportunities to increase the performance of your marketing strategy.
Social networks create massive amounts of textual data every day through Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, and Twitter posts. More text is entered on blogs every day and in emails sent around the globe. Even if you wanted to listen to all this conversation, it would be impossible without a huge staff to read every post, comment, tweet, email …. Then you have to do the same thing with conversations related to your competitors, industry, suppliers ….
Although difficult, listening may be more important than anything else you do to promote your business, especially in terms of social networking. Consider the following quote from Bill French:
Listening to what customers, competitors and experts are saying can be a much more productive social networking tactic than promoting your [business] through blogs, tweets and the like.
Therefore, even if you don’t choose to establish a social network presence, a good listening post is a must. A listening post is a tool for crawling the internet in search of mentions of keywords, such as your company name, your competitors names, your brand names, etc.
Companies make a big mistake when they fail to establish effective listening posts; a mistake that can cost them dearly. Here are 5 Reasons you need a listening post:
1. Monitor online brand image
Online reputation management is critical in today’s networked economy. According to Nielsen, the world spends 110 Billion minutes of blogs and social networking sites or 22% of all time spent online. They also find that three of the top global brands are social networking sites and the average users spends 6 hours on social network sites (more than doubling in just a year).
What these people say during that time online may be damaging your brand. Even if you’re not crazy about talking to customers online, you’d better hear what they’re saying.
2. Complaint handling
When customers complain, they don’t care if they do so in a place designated for complaints — they want it handled. That means they might be doing it on your Facebook fan page or in their tweets. Having a listening post which detects these negative comments gives you a heads up on fixing the problem.
For instance, at the SPSS workshop they recounted a story about an airline passenger who slept through the meal service. When he woke up, he tweeted his unhappiness over the missed meal. An adroit employee monitoring social networks “heard” the post, sent word to the airplane staff who used the manifest to determine where the passenger was sitting and brought him a meal. Imagine his delight and, of course, he shared that on his social network, too.
3. Discover what customers want
Market research is EXPENSIVE and often, despite their best efforts, its difficult for market researchers to determine what customers want. More than poor planning, this is a function of the inability of consumers to articulate what they want. Its also difficult for them to conceive of something that doesn’t yet exist so how can they ask for it.
By listening to customer conversations, especially lead or influential customers, companies can detect problems they encounter with existing products or problems not currently solved by existing products. These represent prime opportunities for companies to develop innovative products with a high chance of success.
4. Track trends
Again, marketing research costs time and money. Listening to customers to see how they construct their lives, how they live them, and the things that give meaning to their lives offers critical information for making decisions regarding your brand — product or market extensions, eliminating products, etc. Importantly, this information comes in continuously, making it easier to track trends. This information is also rich, providing insights in constructing marketing communications that hit their sweat spots (or hot buttons).
5. Determine what other firms are doing
Listening to the conversations your competitors are having among themselves and customers can offer insights into what they’re planning – giving you a heads up and time to develop your own alternatives.
Knowing how customers view your suppliers and downstream channel partners is also important since S**t flows both ways. If they are unhappy with your distributor or your supplier has developed a reputation as a bad corporate citizen, you need to know this well ahead of time so you can develop new channel partners before the discontent spreads to your brand.
Having a lot of textual information can be almost as bad as having none. Next week I’ll discuss tools for analyzing this data — bringing it down to a manageable size and apportioning information to decision makers.
Meanwhile, don’t forget tomorrow is “Ask a Marketing Expert“. Remember, its FUN … its FREE … its FRIDAY !