Brands that have integrated social media with their traditional marketing strategies know that online marketing and monitoring go hand-in-hand. While most brands are using various paid and free social media monitoring tools available, many are still unsure about what they should actually be tracking or looking for. According to by Web Liquid and RTW/US, amongst 237 marketing executives, only 4% found the monitoring tools they used were “very valuable”, while 71% said they were ‘somewhat valuable’. Curiosity piqued, the research team at Position2 examined why a large number were not entirely satisfied with their social media monitoring efforts.
- Most companies have a social media monitoring strategy in place, complete with a robust command center and a well-trained crisis management team. However, many brands, especially the new entrants, are unsure about what they are looking for and do not have a ‘listening strategy’ in place.
- Social media is a dynamic space; and brands need to understand that listening should be an ongoing process, continuously evolving with the ever-changing tastes and needs of the social consumer.
- While it is true that the main purpose of social listening strategies is crisis identification, there are other, equally vital, benefits like understanding consumer requirements, listening with the purpose of uncovering industry trends and knowing what the competition is up to. According to a MarketingProfs study, 80% of CMO’s said that listening to consumers through social media helped shape product decisions.
Social Listening Strategy: Three Crucial Must-Haves
Listening is the first and most important part of a well-rounded social media monitoring strategy. This is then followed by ‘acting’ on the relevant conversations by ‘engaging’ with the audiences and influencers. While monitoring the buzz online, one question that brands need to ask themselves is ‘what am I looking for?’ Irrespective of what industry your brand belongs to, while creating a social listening strategy, there are certain ‘must-haves’ that marketers need to keep in mind
- Target Audience and Influencer Identification:For companies looking to improve those revenues and polish their brand’s image online, listening to and identifying conversations pertaining to their brand(s) helps a) know who they should market to and b) identify and convert the ‘influencers’ into brand advocates. Determining target audiences and identifying the influencers sets the foundation for further engagement, which is why this should be featured in the ‘must-have’ section of the social listening strategy check-list.
- Finding Your Target Audience? How Does Listening Help?With millions of users thronging the plethora of networking channels out there, one of the greatest challenges for brands is finding their target audience. Gaining a better understanding of your consumers is a good way to determine what they want and design your marketing messages accordingly. Social media monitoring tools like Brand Monitor make this a hassle-free process by doing the ‘listening’ for you, determining the trends based on industry-specific conversations and identifying the channels where your prospective customers are likely to be found.
- Influencer Identification:In our previous blog, The Impact of Social Media Influencers on Brands , we discussed how influencers are imperative to a brand’s success online and how social media monitoring tools help identify these prospective brand advocates. Although marketing professionals understand the importance of converting these influencers into brands advocates, in some cases, are not sure how to identify and develop meaningful relationships with them online. Identifying these power users requires some amount of research and careful listening , making this one of the important steps to be kept in mind when creating a social listening strategy.
- Signs of a Crisis: One of the main reasons why brands monitor and listen to social media conversations is to identify the signs of an impending crisis and avert a PR nightmare. According to a report by Harvard BusinessReview Analytic Services, 46% of the respondents said that they effectively used social media analytic tools to continuously monitor and understand what people were saying about their brand online. Although companies are well prepared to handle a crisis situation, there are some gaps in the crisis identification plan that need to be filled during the designing stages of the social listening strategy.
- Monitoring Sentiment: Sentiment analysis is a tried, tested, and highly recommended method of keeping track of your brand’s health online. Paying attention to the sentiment associated with your brand or a recently launched campaign is a good way to know if it’s time to press the panic button and swing into damage control mode. –Tracking Offline Campaigns: Listening to consumer conversations is important, both offline and online. There have been many instances where offline campaigns have drawn the attention of the digital audiences who have taken to networking channels like Twitter and Facebook to either vent their ire or sing praises. What we suggest? Watch out for those critical mentions of offline campaigns on online channels by including this in your social listening plan.
- Social Customer Relationship Management: When talking about social consumer relationship management, we can’t help but think of Dell. After the 2005 ‘ Dell Hell ’ customer service fiasco, thecompany’s customer support team understood the importance of listening to what their customers were saying online and regarded social customer relationship management as a very important aspect of their crisis identification and social listening strategy.
- Tracking Competitor Activity: Marketers are using monitoring tools for more than just tracking brand mentions and identifying signs of a social media crisis. Today’s brands are keeping a close watch on industry trends and competitor activity by careful listening and tracking of online mentions concerning the competition. Here’s why we think marketers should consider ‘tracking competitor activity’ as a vital part of their social listening strategy:
- Using monitoring tools to listen to the buzz concerning rival brands always keeps you one step ahead.
- For your brand to stand out in a crowded online marketing space, it is important to know everything that is going on in the industry and how the competition is performing. After all, you wouldn’t want to offer the same product or design a campaign the same way as the others in the industry.
- Competitor intelligence, obtained by listening to the online buzz, includes information on the latest discounts and deals offered by the rival brand. This gives your marketing team a heads up on how they can tweak their online campaigns and capture the attention of the customer by offering something better.
Among the companies that reported not monitoring their social media activity in 2011, 70% said that they planned to do so in 2012 (State of Social Media Marketing Annual Survey Report). While it is encouraging to see brands perceive social media marketing and monitoring as two sides of the same coin, some marketers are not sure about what they are actually looking for; are they concerned with influencer conversations, do they want keep an eye on the competition or do they want to be well-prepared for a crisis? Irrespective of what industry they belong to, it is crucial for brands to design a robust social listening strategy before actually going ahead and setting up a command center or building a crisis management team. Having a clearly defined social listening plan not only saves time, but also helps tackle situations better. Our research suggests that competitor intelligence will be one of the most important aspects of brands’ social listening strategy in the future. Social engagement starts with listening; therefore we expect brands to consider this to be an important part of their media monitoring strategy, enabling them to use social listening as a guide to navigate through and better understand the ever-changing and ever-evolving world of online marketing.