Think back to your last major purchase of an appliance or holiday. Did online reviews and feedback play a part in your decision on where to place your hard earned cash? The sources we rely on to make spending decisions are changing fundamentally. Along with friends and family, we are increasingly influenced by a new category: ‘strangers with expertise’, or trusted online connections.
Social media conversations about brands provide a rich fire hose of data, chock full of unprompted observations and recommendatory behaviour amongst peers and influencers online. With a robust social media listening programme in place, the internet effectively becomes your independent focus group.
Recently a senior telco executive asked me: 'Why should I listen to social media – it’s just like talkback radio isn’t it.' However, just like talkback radio, closer analysis of what might look like a mass of inconsequential conversation reveals trends and patterns, insights that should inform strategy, product, content and channel decisions.
In social, just as on talkback radio, a one-off comment or blip in traffic may not mean much. But a good listening programme arms us with the ability to discern the blip from the trend, respond appropriately to an established pattern and back up our decision.
This ability puts us in a better position to drive positive word of mouth around our brand and mitigate risk to our business. It also prepares us to deal constructively with the over-reacting C-Suite exec brandishing a flaming post on Facebook.
Many brands have a tight overview of their most visible owned platforms, such as their Facebook page or Twitter feed (i.e. the ones the chief executive can see). However, most are unable to form an accurate picture of the way their brand is regarded and discussed on the open web.
Our experience is that brand sentiment and conversation differ wildly when a brand is not being directly addressed, which means brands that do not use a comprehensive listening tool are not developing a representative or holistic picture of their real competitive position online.
A well-structured, real-time listening programme will put you in a much better position to achieve any or all of the following:
- Respond to prospects and customers according to their expectations
- View and resolve operational issues in a timely manner
- Identify and manage emerging risk
- Support campaigns
- Benchmark your brand health online against competitors
As a marketer or product manager you want to know what is being said about your product amongst peers online. If you can’t answer these questions then you need to consider dialing up your social media listening:
- Are people talking more or less about your brand online?
- What is your online share of voice in the conversations you would like to dominate?
- Are people more positive about your brand or your competitor online?
- On which social platform does your target market spend its time?
- What aspects of your product or service are driving customers away?
- What else are your customers talking about?
Last year a sobering Nielsen statistic showed that 89 percent of New Zealanders have decided not to make a purchase based on negative online feedback. This statistic alone indicates just how crucial it is to have a listening programme in place. After all, if you don’t know what is happening, you can’t fix it. And that’s what I would call radio silence.
- Jennifer Duval-Smith is executive director of Social@Ogilvy NZ, Jennifer.duval-smith@firstname.lastname@example.org, @jduvalsmith