"Uh, What's up Doc?"
We'll tell you what's up: take off the ear muffs and put on your listening ears for this!
In the social media age, serving customers means listening to their complaints even before they knock on your door. Monitoring social Web channels for brand mentions has displaced the complaint department line-ups from your place of business to virtual environments.
This means seeking your customers out to resolve matters before they hit a boiling point. Winning over customers in this manner translates into new opportunities for any community members who have their listening ears tuned to your timeliness, creativity and resourcefulness. Listening also opens up new possibilities when social media monitoring takes on a proactive role.
|Reinterpreted from the cover of Looney Tunes #18 (Gold Key, 1975). All characters depicted are copyright of their respective publishers and Warner Bros Inc.|
This includes the potential to keep a pulse on industry trends and conversations identifying the strengths and weaknesses of competitors. Following Twitter trends is one example where listening to consumer ideas and opinions does more than just keep you in the feedback loop, but crowd sourcing also works as an excellent temperature gauge to inform product/service concepts and ideas which haven't yet been road tested.
Where things get complicated is when larger brands have a tougher time managing the long line-up of complaints. We advise a depth of sourcing strategy that takes you to all the corners of the social Web where discussion about your business is happening. Strategies on engagement and outreach are a must and need to be abided by in order to keep things manageable and realistic. A reactionary approach that places emphasis on high bandwidth channels overlooks the importance of smaller, local online channels with audience membership gained through an evolved and tight-knit sense of kinship.
Brands appearing genuine and excited about opinion and feedback, especially when it emerges from micro-niche areas of the social Web stand a much better chance of witnessing the extinction of customer complaints and winning big in the customer loyalty department. Companies and brands having the most success in social media understand there is a contagious energy derived from social media relationships and what is born from positive consumer experience is this idea that change serves as an inspiration to other companies watching, studying and aspiring to do the same.
|I remember when we first started out. The buzz words then were "current awareness" and "reputation intelligence." Much to my chagrin, this was also a time when monitoring companies were more frequently likened to "corporate spies."|
But a lot has changed since then and the term "monitoring" has really taken on a life and definition of its own. And along with it, a practice took shape and form which insisted that proactively protecting ones online reputation meant discovering timely discussion and conversation about companies, brands and their people. When monitoring translates to responding to audiences, improving consumer satisfaction and building human relationships even when the transaction between "customer" isn't implied, the life monitoring and listening takes on is one that quickly becomes an integral enabler to business success.
A few posts and comments later, and I realized that there needs to be a distinction between the two. Up until this point, I looked at "monitoring" purely as the proactive exercise of staying on top of incidents that can make or break a brand and or reputation. A mechanical function which might be compared to the way an actor can play a lead or assisting role. While you could make the case that a supporting role can sometimes make all the difference in a film, to me, the online adaptation of monitoring seemed to fit more of a supporting role in relation to the outcome. And "Listening" was always the "smarter" reiteration. I say this because when I first heard Nathan Gilliat use the term, I thought it was a great way to abate the "big brother" pundits. With one word, you approach the mechanical function of monitoring with the understanding that you are actually genuinely interested in paying attention to what people are saying about your company and looking to make the situation right when things go wrong. And I'm sure these terms mean much more to others. In my case, listening took a little more time to resonate with me, and I'm sure my parents might have their own views on how sorely missed it was in my early childhood
What Makes Them Different
So if you followed my thoughts this far, then I'm going to begin parsing my understanding of what makes the two distinctly different when it comes to social media monitoring strategies. I'll use the example of sourcing social media to uncover incidents and insights of interest. If we can agree on the use of monitoring as a mechanical function, and listening as the progression to assuming a more active role in making matters right when problems are discovered, then we need to assess our understanding of our current approach. Namely, this is something I touched on here and here, but I'll elaborate for the purpose of driving this point home. While useful, monitoring can take an auto-pilot mode unless we are understanding that exhaustive sweeps of the Web means including all source types. The mistake many make is excluding walled-gardens, comments, changes on Websites, and incidents without the handy permalinks to directly anchor you to the discussion. The danger here is twofold. First, you are going to miss stuff. Secondly, and most importantly, its the kind of strategy that most likely has been dictated by the false notion that if you can't find it, then more than likely others won't. This has always been proven wrong, and can be especially problematic when past transgressions are mysteriously discovered by harsh critics and are used as ammunition in current and heated debate.
The difference with listening is that you are now prepared to assume the role of do-gooder. This implies making yourself accessible and knowing where the conversations are happening. This also means having the depth of sourcing down pat, and being prepared to manage the workload of a tough audience on any given day. Most important of all, listening implies that you're in it for the long haul, and that your not only going through the mechanical function just to make sure your Google resume has been spot shined and polished.
Listening implies you aren't selective and that its never about impressions, but rather are committed to what the true meaning of the word implies.
Did I miss anything? Lets hear what you have to say on the topic.
|Lots of great discussion in the past few weeks concerning the "how to's" of social media monitoring. A Social Media Monitoring (SMM) event that just passed resulted in the passing around of notes, thoughts and opinions on the future of social media monitoring and measurement - read more about it here.|
One thing about advancements in SMM is that in order to move ahead and develop new thoughts and ideas, we tend to overlook some of the basics. This is the bit where we may be getting a little ahead of ourselves in terms of understanding what's really important in formulating the right monitoring or listening strategy. For the purpose of helping you visualize this exercise better, I've chosen the custom built, high-priced Ferrari and the "budget" pseudo rental car concept known as Car Sharing.
What's Under the Hood
For this section, I don't mean to belabour the point that we need to be able to see what's under the hood of your car or SMM tool, but rather that you need to be somewhat familiar with the concept that there are many moving parts that contribute to getting us from point A to point B. Simple enough? Now, with social media monitoring, we know that RSS syndication and collecting feeds can help you significantly accelerate the content discovery portion if you are choosing a DIY approach. There are plenty of "free" lists of SMM tools available - this directory put together by Mark Goren is quite good. However I would caution you that the "free" tag is very misleading, as the cost is almost always tedious manual work to strike the right balance between discovering the content and purposing it for your marketing or business strategies. The challenge escalates to unmanageable proportions when we speak of the difficulties with monitoring search terms that are used in everyday language. As an example of what I'm referring to with this last point, we have a client whose combined monitoring assignment (themselves and competitors) exceeds a thousand mentions each day, of which an average of only 3% (30 mentions) is relevant to their monitoring scope. In cases such as these, one must be prepared to make the time commitment to review each incident and in some cases, there might not be enough human hours in the day to task this to a single person which makes a good lead-in to the next part.
Maintenance and Upkeep
We hear a lot about the analysis and measurement of social media monitoring not measuring up to the hype. The truth is that the expectation is that incidents flagged with lower priority using either tonality or some sort of influence barometer isn't going to cut it. This part is appropriately called maintenance and upkeep because this is where you decide whether you want to hand over the job to someone else (or in the spirit of the car topic, a mechanic) or to do it on budget and make the maintenance and upkeep a self-jobber. Again, I will direct you to a recent post by Mark Goren - the takeaway from Mark's post is that reading allows you to understand the context and is the fundamental piece that makes it possible to move to the next stage, and answer the question "now what?"
The "Now What" Stage
This is where you take all your findings and decide how you are going to make sense of it all. There has been a lot of recent discussion on "social media measurement" and "ROI" so I'll just ask you to sift through the results and decide which variables make the most sense to you. But a lot like the reading stage, much of how we decipher what's important comes down to being able to relate to each incident. The manual exercise of deciphering the meaning and understanding the human aspects of social media make it possible to forge the kind of relationships where trust and reciprocity can flourish. No doubt, listening is an important step to managing the "economy" aspects of conversations, but the success of your engagement and the viability and currency of your reputation rests on whether you rely on the SMM tool too heavily, and allow it to interfere with using common sense, sound human judgment and manual practices.
Checking Blind Spots
I've added this category because this is where we need to rid the tendency of putting on the blinkers, and to stop using a "One-Way" view. Rather than obsessing on "measurement" and "ROI", monitoring strategies need to check their blind spots regularly and this means a depth of sourcing strategy which is exhaustive and will uncover incidents in every area of the social Web. Most strategies overlook the importance for an all inclusive social media monitoring plan and find themselves veering dangerously off the road when an unknown incident abruptly jumps in front of their view. I highly recommend reading this response from Daniel Dessinger which articulates this point very well.
Ferrari or Car Share
This is where you decide whether you need to be seen driving the sleek social media campaign in style, or whether you're content with getting from point A to point B using Car Share. Both do the job adequately, and I don't want to turn this into a paid vs. "free" or budget debate, but there are elements from this debate which are important to tease out. First is whether you have the time to get from different points without it interfering with your job, and if your finding your Car Share is starting to cut into the time you would normally use to impart your knowledge and the level of care and expertise your project requires, then this is where you need to consider stepping on the pedal and only one of these two choices of cars is going to deliver. I'm not suggesting you need to go from budget to the highest tier of service, but perhaps go with a vendor that offers some flexibility and roominess when it comes to upgrading the service to meet your needs. There are plenty of vendors who are providing best of class SMM at different prices - we happen to be one of the ones using a fixed price approach and we include human review in all our tiers of service. I'll also link share you to a Wiki put together by Ken Burbary for paid service providers.
Did I miss anything? Let me hear what you have say on the topic.
RepuTrack™ monitors online media from Web sites, blogs, message boards, forums, chatrooms, microblogs, social networking sites, video and images worldwide.
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