Customers talk nonstop about brands online. But 96% of those conversations are untagged and ignored by brands: one of the largest missed opportunities in marketing today.
Not seeing your customers’ conversations means missing real interaction, as opposed to just communicating toward consumers. “People talk about their emotions and experiences online. Those who expect a reaction need to know that you’re there, and ready to engage,” Magda Urbaniak of Brand24 told AdWeek.
To have meaningful conversations in a torrent of digital white noise, brands have to be smart about their approach to social listening.
Don’t Listen to Everything, but Don’t be Tone Deaf
Cisco reached a 281% ROI for social listening by picking topics specific to the brand within a particular time frame. During both its sponsorship of the Olympics and its annual IT conference, Cisco Live deployed an additional “social listening center” just to monitor customer sentiment to the events in real time. The setup–grand as it is–earned the company $1.5 billion in savings while speeding up the time to resolve inquiries.
Keyword monitoring is particularly important for successful listening. Use queries that combine several keywords to narrow your search–Unilever, for instance, will want to narrow down searches for “Popsicle” to “Popsicle + Firecracker,” or “Popsicle + Sours.” For brands with unique names, make sure to cover all your bases, including hashtags. For example, New Balance’s line of 247s come in a variety of designs: “New Balance 247 sport,” “New Balance 247 classic,” and “New Balance 247 breathe.”
Just as you wouldn’t butt into a conversation without a clear intention—whether that’s to listen or engage—brands need to know what they want to get out of social. Dell put up an online community called Idea Storm and invited customers to talk amongst themselves and share ideas. Since then, over 550 ideas from customers have been realized in Dell products, from hardware improvements like backlit keyboards to more sustainable packaging by getting rid of excessive plastic wraps.
To simplify the process, brands can narrow down questions into two categories: content and type. For content, brands need to figure out the topic they want to zero in on: do you want to know when people mention you? When they mention your competitors, or the wider industry? For instance, reviews from the app store are great for SWOT analysis, while the Facebook comment section is the place to showcase your brand’s personality and quality customer support. Monitoring online news sites allows brands to react swiftly to positive and negative PR.
Gatorade’s Mission Control initiative put marketers in a room where they monitored mentions, incidents, the scores from different sports games, and top influencers. But understandably, most brands won’t have the budget to build a 24/7 command center just for social listening.
Devise a schedule for monitoring, and a system for who handles customer complaints. Brands should set up a clear process for how to handle inquiries, complaints, or special instances like when Jon Stewart makes fun of your brand on live television. The celebrity host called Arby’s food “dares for the colon” and “weapons of mass destruction.” Instead of pushing back, Arby’s decided to roll with the punches, and even ended up sponsoring Stewart’s last episode on Comedy Central. By being a good sport, Arby’s built a positive rapport with customers.
Look at the bigger trend
Polaris–a famous snowmobile and ATV brand–wanted to create a shirt for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as a part of a campaign to promote its new logo. The brand started a poll to let fans pick the custom shirt for that year, but received more complaints than votes. By locking onto the negative sentiment rather than just the buzz of a new event, the brand was able to reintroduce a new design, which outsold shirt designs of prior years.
Brands can also find their most influential advocates through monitoring trends. Today micro-influencers–or people with less than 10,000 followers–can have more clout than big celebrity endorsers, and be viewed as more authentic. Businesses can find these followers by sifting through popular brand related hashtags.
Social listening is an invaluable tool for validating marketing efforts, or simply connecting with customers. And by arming themselves with a goal-driven action plan, brands can easily sift through the noise to get to the heart of their customers’ needs and wants.