Social Listening: Your Customers Are Talking. Are You Listening?
September 13, 2011 11:22 am
With the number of Sri Lankans on Facebook passing one million recently, more and more Sri Lankan brands are now starting to realize that the ‘eyeballs’ of their consumers are no longer lies within the range that they could reach through prime time TV. Historically, the advertising budgets of brands always followed the eyeballs of their consumers; from press to radio, radio to TV, and TV to web. From the obsession of brands going online with web advertising (banner ads), where is the next destination to follow the eyeballs of your consumers?
Today, more than 60% of the world’s internet users have
joined at least one social networking site like Facebook. 58% of Sri Lanka’s internet
users are already having a Facebook account. 25% of search results on Google
for world’s top 10 brands, links to user generated content. 90% of consumers
online trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust opinions of
It is estimated, consumers generate over 250 billion
‘influence impressions’ annually on social networks by sharing what they like,
read or do. These are ‘social impressions’ which can change the behaviors of
those others who exposed to them. When I say “change the behaviors”, it
includes your consumers purchase behaviors as well. Wait a minute; isn’t that
the job that your marketing department is suppose to do? Influencing the
purchase behavior of your consumers?
All these statistics lead us to one conclusion; that is people are increasingly having conversations online through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and blogs. These online conversations lead to behavioral changes among the masses. If that is the case, then aren’t you interested in knowing what your consumers are talking online? What are they saying about your brand? How do they compare your brand with competition? May be 10 years ago, all this information were very expensive for a brand with an average marketing budget to afford, given the fact that regular focus groups were bit too expensive, and research firms were charging a fortune to gather a summary of consumer opinions. However, thanks to the fact that Social Media is fully open and easily trackable, listening to your customers on social media is not going to be that tedious and expensive endeavor even for most average brands.
In the age of social media, the ‘image’ of the brand is no longer in the full control of the brand owners. Increasingly, the conversations taking place on the social web is affecting the way your brand is perceived in the eyes of your consumers. Those brands who adopt to this reality, and adjust themselves are finding it very easy to win the race, while those ‘protective’ brands who wish to delete every negative comment on Twitter are losing it very fast. The first thing companies must do is, to make their organizational culture ready for social listening. Are you ready to read that blog post which describes how incompetent your customer service executives are?
What is social listening?
Social listening is the active process of companies monitoring and analyzing the online conversations taking place on the social web, regarding their brands, competition, industry in general and any other area of interest which can generate business insights for the company.
There are free and paid social analytics tools available to make this process less painful for companies. However, more than the tools, what is important is to get your process right. Here is a simple five step process for a company to roll out an effective social listening plan.
Step 1: Know what you want to listen
Set your conversation criteria. What do you really want to
monitor? Are you going to track the conversations only about your brand? Or,
are you monitoring the competition as well? How about the industry in general?
First, decide what type of information you want to track. With your
conversation criteria as a guiding principle, then list down the ‘trigger
words’ you want to monitor.
Step 2: Learn where you currently stand
Monitor the conversations around the ‘trigger words’ which are already happening. There are free tools available for you to effectively track social media conversations based on keywords. Use the analytics options available on such tools, to measure the current ‘consumer sentiment’ about your brand. Is it positive? Is it negative? Or is it neutral? Who are the most inflectional people on social web, blogging/tweeting about you? If the available analytics options are not enough, develop your own algorithms to analyze the tracked data. Get a clear understanding about where your brand stands now.
Step 3: Action points
What are the actionable insights from the data that you have
gathered? If people are talking negatively about your brand, what can you do
about it? Are they blaming you for a problem that you have already fixed? If
so, how can you trigger people to talk about your fix? What improvements you
can make in your products, processes, and communications?
Step 4: Respond to feedback and engage
Once you know what actions to be taken, the next thing you have to do is responding to your consumer feedback. A set of frustrated customers might be having a conversation online about a customer service issue, which you have already solved. Apologize to those who were affected, and tell them your side of the story (politely! Never sound like “there’s nothing wrong in our end, and it was all some other party’s fault”).
Step 5: Manage and Optimize
Keep monitoring the outcomes of this process, and keep optimizing. Learn from the mistakes; specially the mistakes of others! You don’t have to repeat the same mistake to learn the same lesson. For example, if you are an oil company, you don’t have to spill another million gallons of oil into the sea, to learn that social media bites!
Who should be responsible for social listening?
If you ask this question from a typical marketing consultant
the answer most likely will be “it should be everybody’s job”. But we all know,
nobody actually ends up being doing the job of everybody. So, there should be
somebody who is made responsible and accountable for the function of social
listening. In most developed countries, the job title “Chief Listening Officer-
CLO” is now becoming very popular. Although, this is not a C-level position who
sits in the boardroom alongside with CEO’s, CTO’s or CFO’s; it’s a very
meaningful title for someone who is responsible for the social listening
function of a company.
In my opinion, all Sri Lankan companies should now start
considering creating a vacancy for a CLO in their marketing team. This person
should be assigned the responsibility of listening to the conversations
happening online about the brand, and actively engaging in those conversations,
representing the company. Few Telco companies in Sri Lanka are already having social
media managers in their marketing teams.
Is it really important to put that much weight on social media, in a market where the internet penetration is barely less than 10%? Well, this is a decision you need to discuss within your company and come to your own conclusions. No one is there, to force you to put emphasis on social media, but the fact remains that the people will talk about your brand (positively or negatively), regardless of if you are willing to get onboard or not. By the way, when did you last Googled for your brand to see what’s appearing on top? Well, if you are looking for a starting point, take that as a hint!
Article By – Mr.Amitha Amarasighe
Epitom Consulting is conducting a workshop on “Social Media Marketing” on 24th September 2011 at the Galle Face Hotel from 9 a.m – 5.30 p.m. Epitom Consulting is a fast-growing business consultancy firm striving to serve the knowledge base of Sri Lanka.
Since its inception, the company has conducted many trainings and workshops on a number of highly practical and vital topics. The founder T.Ragulan ensures that this workshop would help participants identify the power of Social Media and its importance in the today’s corporate world. The workshop will be conducted by Mr.Amitha Amarasinghe who is a conversant e-Marketing professional, with more than seven years hands-on experience in the industry. He has experience in various digital marketing tools and platforms including, Search Engine Marketing; Email marketing, Social Media Marketing, and Online Community management.