I recently came across a post on econsultancy.com entitled Social Media Monitoring: time to ‘sod it? The post raises two major concerns regarding social media monitoring:
Firstly, people will become more negative towards organisations using monitoring technology in order to “gatecrash” conversations. Brand consumer trust will diminish.
Secondly, the time, effort and resources associated with managing online buzz will become too much. Organisations will realise (some already do) that people will always express their opinions and they should be allowed to do it in, what they consider to be private.
While these concerns are reasonable, they make a case for better/ clearly defined/ purposeful monitoring initiatives. The consumers we are dealing with are empowered and want to be heard. And they should be. They are increasingly connecting with brands on social networks. According to SheSpeaks “Annual Social Media Study 2009”, 80% of female Internet users said they had become a fan of a product or brand on a social network. In addition, 72% had learned about a new product or brand, or joined a group around one.
Studies also suggest that consumers not only want brands to be on social networks but also want to engage with them. As per Cone Inc., new media users overwhelmingly believe companies or brands should not only have a presence in new media (95%) but also interact with their consumers in this space (89%). Consumers feel companies’ or brands’ top priorities within new media should be to problem solve and provide information (61%, up from 43% in 2008).
Further, solving customer service issues on the social web gives the consumers ready tools to share their positive experience with their network. We know that “75% of Americans are very likely to speak positively about a company after a good service experience in contrast with 59% who are very likely to speak negatively about a company after poor service”. (American Express, 2010)
At the end of the day. companies will need to put in place a social intelligence infrastructure for managing and analyzing social media conversations. Tough questions such as is this a departmental or an organizational initiative will need to be answered. Another mind bender, should companies listen to everyone or a chosen few?
I would suggest a three pronged strategy:
- Identifying a set of influencers and/ or category enthusiasts who have social clout and setting up filters so that all conversations from this set – blog posts, tweets, forum replies etc – pour into a manageable database for further analysis and action.
- Shifting conversations to “Brand Backyard” to solve relevant issues and garner actionable insights. The Brand Backyard includes sources such as customer communities, blogs, discussion forums and profiles on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter maintained by the brand. Further synergy can be built within these sources by integrating them to provide customers a seamless experience. Lithium Community for Facebook does exactly that. A brand’s Facebook fans and its private community members can ask questions, access discussions and review products without ever leaving the Facebook page or the site.
- Monitoring the social web by setting up alerts to identify any potential issues. Even with the above two in place, it is necessary to monitor the social web even if on cruise control. The idea is to identify any emerging issues or PR opportunities.
These steps should help brands to not only manage the quantum of online conversations but also build a positive customer experience overall. These are some of my ideas. What are your thoughts on managing this challenge?