Now I have no desire to add to the tome that is written about social media (although I am just about to!). It is, without doubt, the hottest topic for online marketing blogs throughout 2011. And there’s every good reason for the weighty commentary, because here at last is a way to interact with consumers at mass levels with the same rapport you have previously only been able to achieve with 1-2-1 communication.
If harnessed correctly social media is proving to be a hugely powerful way to get brands noticed and talked about, collect great information (as consumers seem strangely willing to share information in a social environment that they would never dream of doing over the phone or on email) and also to learn what your customers are saying about you.
I’d like to focus on the last area, learning what your customers are saying about you, achieved via social media monitoring.
With millions of people making their feelings known online every day, tracking and managing online sentiment towards your brand is seen by most organisations as a must. It’s essential for brand management, gives great insight into where your customer service might be short of the mark, and gives companies a strong indication of where their performance differs from their competitors in the eyes of the people who matter, consumers.
But the opportunities don’t stop there. Social media can also be used as a huge research pool for your industry; consumers are expressing opinions constantly across a wide range of issues, however niche. And each of these niches has a set of key influencers; they may not have a winning Klout score, but those inside the community know exactly who they are, and if you are providing products or services into that community you should too….
Most large companies turn to one of the major social media monitor providers for their monitoring services, like Radian 6, Sysymos or Brandwatch, using their GUIs to define keywords to search for.
Current services work well when you are trying to track mentions of your brand or of your products and services on mainstream social media sites like Twitter or Youtube…as long as you have an unusual or distinctive brand name. But we think the market will soon be asking for more. Here, in our view, are the emerging issues for social media monitors:
- If you are lucky enough to be a household brand name you will be suffering a lot of ‘noise’ when analysing sources like Twitter. If you are Tesco for instance, a simple brand name search won’t differentiate between highly relevant tweets like ‘Prices seem to be going up and up in Tesco these days’ and irrelevant mentions like ‘I’ll meet you outside Tescos at 4’. If you are tracking volume and sentiment of mentions, noise in household brands renders analysis largely meaningless.
- The noise issue increases further when brands try to spread their wings a little and start to monitor industry wide terms. For instance, if itunes were to start to track terms like ‘music track’ or ‘music download’ to understand how people are interacting with each other regarding digital music, picking out the meaningful comment from the banal would be pretty difficult.
- Even when successfully tracking mentions of your brand, the next meaningful activity to undertake is to try to sub-analyse comment into, for instance, customer service related comment, or views around brand perception, issues with products and services etc. This requires taking the ‘stream of consciousness’ served up by current media monitors and running it through a secondary text process to categorise comment the way you want to see it.
- Beyond that, companies are going to want to see how ‘noise free’ tracking of brand sentiment may correlate with key internal metrics, like sales or complaint volumes. You may find certain categories of comment have more profound impact on certain metrics, like call centre inbound call volumes, giving you a much clearer indication of the issues that need addressing than your call analysis provides
- For different industries, mainstream social media monitoring isn’t enough, the dedicated blogs for niche industries are everywhere and the relevant ones need to be searched out and tracked for your industry. Social media monitors need to provide the flexibility to allow you to crawl very niche or very localised blogs and forums to give you all the coverage you need about your industry (eg industry regulators, community forums, special interest sites)
Current social media monitor providers will point out that some of these issues are addressed by multi-faceted search (ie, using AND, OR and NOT statements when defining search terms). This fundamentally misses the point. Social media monitoring services have, to this point, been sold to marketers as dashboards. Some of the evolving issues above need an analytical mind set and approach and frankly, time to iterate and improve. Marketers aren’t the right people in the organisation to do this. Data needs to be held relationally, using multiple fields to analyse comments, just like the way CRM data is held today. It can’t be managed through linear dashboards.
In our view, getting this area right will become a crucial part of an organisation’s intelligence led differentiation versus its competitors. More and more organisations will seek bespoke solutions, ownership and control. Insight teams will take on the role of providing the right summary of social media, complimenting and integrating with their existing work around CRM analytics and commissioned research.
…and organisations will spring up to help internal insight departments get the design of their social media monitor right and combine it with existing insight activities; organisations like TCG!
Do you think Social Media Monitors will pay heed to this blog? I doubt it, they won’t even have crawled it.