Social Media Monitoring, or listening, is the process of continuous and real-time discovery of conversations surrounding your brand, product or service. The conversations that should be monitored are many – You should listen not only to your customers; but also to your prospects, competitors, industry thought leaders, etc. You should listen with the intent of learning, engaging, and ultimately protecting and growing your brand.
I don’t want to bore you with statistics, but…
A July 9, 2010 report issued by Nielsen shows that social media usage grew by 43 percent in the past year. Internet users now spend an average of six hours per month on social media, with three-quarters of the world’s population having visited a social networking or blogging site.
Facebook – There are over 500 million active users on Facebook. 50% log on daily and the average user has 130 friends. There are over 900 million pages, groups, communities and events and over 150 million active users who access Facebook through mobile devices.
Twitter - Twitter has over 100 million registered users and approximately 65 million tweets are posted daily.
Foursquare – Foursquare averages 100-million check-ins per day. They also announced a record 275,000 check-ins in one day in March of 2010.
MySpace – Yes, MySpace is still relevant, especially for 18-24 year olds. They have 122 million active users who spend an average of 2 hours per month on the site. Additionally, MySpace recently announced that their users can post to Facebook.
Social Media Statistics courtesy of Facebook.com, The Huffington Post, HitWise and Nielson
The success of many businesses, specifically B2C businesses, can be significantly impacted by good or bad reviews online. The majority of consumers are checking the web to help them to decide where to shop or dine. In fact over 70% choose to do business with a company based on customer care experiences shared by others online and 59% use social media to vent their frustrations.
In the very distant past there was the proverbial soap-box – citizens who elevated themselves by standing on a wooden crate and speaking their mind. Now there’s an entirely different type of soap-box – which is social media.
Customers have had a voice for many generations; after the soap-box and before the internet, there was the telephone. During that time, consumers could only broadcast their messages to their family and friends over the phone or in person, significantly reducing the risk of one customer single-handedly ruining a company’s reputation.
Today, however, the average Facebook user has 130 friends which means every time they post a status update (possibly about your company), there is a very good chance that a large percentage of their friends will see their comment. If it is heated, funny or clever enough, it will more than likely be shared by a percentage of their friends and colleagues who read it – This is what is known as a viral loop. The most important factor in monitoring your brand, however, is realizing that what people say does not only have the propensity to become viral – it is permanent and available for all to see indefinitely.
By monitoring your brand, you will have the opportunity to nip any issues in the bud as quickly as possible and, adversely, have the opportunity to reward your brand advocates!
Social media monitoring is still in its infancy. Sure, there are a myriad of free and paid tools; however, I have yet to see a solution that is all encompassing.
Paid tools such as Radian6, Alterian SM2 and Visible Technologies generally start at $250-$500 per month and many of the paid tools have limitations or restrictions, such as limiting the number of keywords you can monitor, or the amount of search results you are entitled to per month. Often, when you upgrade or increase these numbers, your monthly fee significantly increases as well. Additionally, you may find a tool or tool(s) that have most of the options you are looking for (such as unlimited keywords), but lack in other areas (such as not searching all of the social media channels).
There are many free tools available as well, such as SocialMention, HootSuite, Google Alerts and BackType; however, these also have limitations, such as the amount of historical data available. Many can only retrieve data for a limited period of time (in some cases only a few days); whereas, many of the paid tools download real-time data and store it on their own servers so that the data can be accessed for a much longer period of time.
In addition to the software restrictions, social media monitoring can be time and labor intensive. To do it right, you must scour the web for mentions of your brand utilizing the tool(s) of your choice combined with manual monitoring to assure that positive mentions are amplified and negative mentions are responded to in a timely, if not immediate, manner.
In addition to the basics like monitoring your brand for complaints and compliments, here are some additional things you should be on the lookout for:
Opportunities – People not only share what they have done or purchased, but they often ask their network and friends for advice, especially when they are ready to make a purchase. This could be an opportunity for you to offer assistance or a discount on an item that they are interested in.
Competitive Intelligence – If you monitor your industry and the keywords (products and services) related to your brand, you will be one of the first to know when a new competitor is in your space. By monitoring your competitors closely, you can also see what is working for them and what is not. You can also see what they are doing badly and focus your marketing efforts on those areas – highlighting the fact that you specialize in an area in which they are lacking.
Crowd Control – Ever heard of a swarm on Foursquare? Well, this can bring hundreds of Foursquare users into your establishment today. By listening, you can find out why and how to encourage your customers to swarm to your location. By monitoring and being actively engaged you can offer up a Swarm Badge on Foursquare and some additional promotions or start a Meetup group and watch your establishment fill to maximum occupancy.
Influencers – Determining who your influencers are is critical. These are the folks that can either make or break your brand. Finding those with clout can be a difficult task – as the conversations can occur in a number of different places. Once you find your influencers, it is equally as important to nurture them. For those that trash you, if they have legitimate concerns, you must work to correct the problem – or their perception of the problem, as quickly as possible. Admitting to mistakes is actually one of the many things that make a company and brand reputable. On the other hand, you will find those that sing you praise, it is important to recognize them as brand advocates – and reward them when possible. This will not only strengthen their advocacy, but will ultimately gain you additional business.
Before you jump in, there are a few things you need to consider and determine up front:
- The overall volume of mentions across all channels
- What the overall sentiment surrounding your brand is
- If you are not the CEO or President – if you will have the support of upper management
- Who is going to be conducting the monitoring
- How many people will you need – this will vary based on the size and popularity of your brand’s product(s) and service(s)
- If you will have dedicated employees or work it into existing job descriptions
- What kind of training will be needed and who will conduct the training
- Which tools you will you use
- If it make sense to do it yourself or to outsource it to a company with the resources (policies, tools and people) already in place
Process and Data Flow
- Who needs to be notified of the various findings through social media (i.e., Customer Service, Marketing, Legal, etc.)
- How your findings will be documented and distributed
- What needs to be done with the findings and how you will determine lessons learned and ways to improve – This is an important one, as monitoring is only the first step. Monitoring goes hand in hand with reporting. Defining key metrics is a topic we will cover in a subsequent blog post
Your customers and prospects are discussing your brand, your products and your industry right now, regardless of whether you are present or not. By actively listening you can protect your brand; more effectively promote your products and discover opportunities to beat the competition.