Why social media is like talkback radio

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

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

  • Respond to prospects and
    customers according to their expectations
  • View and resolve operational
    issues in a timely manner
  • Identify and manage emerging
  • 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.

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