Like it or not, we live in the age of the customer. Companies can no longer just produce great products, they need to create a great customer experience, as well. For many, the customer experience begins on social media. It’s where consumers decide what they will buy, where they will shop and engage with others about products and services.
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What people are saying about us, our products or brand can influence our reputation as well as how customers value their experience with us. Companies can influence the discussion by engaging with customers across social channels, but it can be hard to ensure you’re leveraging the power of social media effectively.
DNN Webinar featuring Forrester Research
To help us get the most out of our social relationships, Allison Smith, Customer Insights Professionals Analyst at Forrester Research spoke about the power of combining insights from the public social web with insights from a branded, online community. In her hour-long webinar, “Online Community + Social Media = Better Social Intelligence” Smith showed us how to take social media insights beyond tracking buzz.
Consider this: More data was created in the last year than was created from the beginning of time until the 1950s.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand how monitoring and making sense of all the information that comes across social channels each day can be overwhelming, if not impossible to maintain.
According to Smith, social listening — the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product or brand — can be challenging for three reasons.
- Social channels are more fragmented than ever. While Facebook and Twitter may be the most popular, there are hundreds of smaller platforms that appeal to niche user groups or enable user reviews. It’s important to not just limit your social listening to the most popular or well-known venues.
- Context means everything. Do you really love it that your cable bill is so high or are you being sarcastic? Is there really nothing better than having your flight delayed or are you trying to make a point? The semantics of social media can be confusing, especially if you’re just tracking key words and relying on simple sentiment analysis. Manual processing is important because much of what we say and how we say it is up to interpretation unless you truly understand the context in which its being said.
- The language is changing. With only 140 characters, it’s often necessary to rely on social shorthand. With so many acronyms flying around, it’s essential to understand what you’re audience is saying. From abbreviations to emoji, it all means something, unless of course you’re not paying attention.
These three challenges needn’t keep you from missing out on what your audience is saying, however. Smith highlighted a few real-life examples of how brands are turning their social listening efforts into strategic marketing.
After receiving considerable comments across social media to remove high fructose syrup from their yogurt, Yoplait announced that it had removed the controversial ingredient from all products. They let their consumers know that they had directly influenced them to make this decision.
On the back of boxes of Chex brand cereal, you can find customer quotes about Chex. These quotes not only serve to reinforce what customers loves about Chex, from its delicious taste to gluten-free options; it also shows customers that the company is listening.
The American sportswear and footwear retailer has more than 3,000 stores nationwide. With so many locations, the company sought to leverage conversations at the local level.
Using geo-location data, the company identifies shoe trends based on social conversations and then featured appropriate marketing messages based on that data, in-store. So, if Adidas sneakers are popular in Wichita, Kansas — consumers there will receive messaging letting them know that Adidas shoes are on sale.
Social Insights Strategy
Smith says that one of the biggest mistakes marketers make when it comes to social listening is not having a clear objective. If you’re gathering data indiscriminately, you’re probably going to miss out on important trends.
It’s important to know what exactly you hope to achieve by listening in on the social conversations of your customers. For example, it could be to monitor sentiment about a new release, or to better understand their opinions of a celebrity you’d like to hire as a spokesperson.
Additionally, don’t just rely on vague metrics to give you insight. The number of likes or comments a page or post garners only tell part of the story. The other part comes from qualitative research like sentiment analysis or emotions expressed online, which can give you a more complete picture.
A successful social insights strategy also depends on having a sound process in place, so you can be agile in time of crisis or opportunity. Remember when the power went out at the Super Bowl and Oreo was able to capitalize on the event with a very quick and clever marketing message on Twitter?
They were able to do so because they had the right people in place to make it happen on such short notice — this includes everyone from graphic designers, to social media managers to legal and compliance experts.
Planning ahead for agile social media success is akin to disaster preparedness: do you have the right tools in your tool kit? Regardless of whether it’s the Super Bowl or a major product release, planning for all the possibilities — good and bad — can help you build a team that’s both flexible and responsive at all times.
Create a Stellar Social Insights Team
According to Smith, if your company is considering building a successful social listening and intelligence team, there are three key positions you should include:
Social Media Strategist
Develop and maintain a comprehensive social media strategy that defines how social media marketing techniques will be applied to increase visibility and traffic across all brands and products
Social Dashboard Administrator
Monitor and evaluate web and social analytics dashboards and reports to identify trends, analyze context and evaluate relevance
Social Data Analyst
Examine and gather data from multiple data sources, as well as optimize posting strategy by tracking, measuring, and reporting on social growth and campaign effectiveness.
Of course, no team should exist in a silo. Ensure that whatever team you build, it’s effectively contributing with all departments from customer services to sales and product development. The more information and knowledge be shared, the better experiences you can provide customers.
By implementing these best practices, you can begin to apply social insights toward product improvements, improving customer satisfaction, and increasing referral sales. Best of all, you’ll be creating a customer experience that built on social intelligence from which you can learn and grow.
Better Social Intelligence with Branded, Online Community
How can you achieve better social intelligence? By combining social media insights into your branded community.
By itself, an online branded community is only as good as the quality of the customers that participate. As well, if you’re not delivering targeted information in the right manner, your efforts can be rather futile. However, branded communities provide a platform through which long-form messages (beyond 140 characters) can be delivered, and the ability to provide more information and feedback about pressing questions and topics.
With social media, your followers are there for a reason: because they want to engage with you to resolve an issue, to ask a question or to offer praise and feedback. Additionally, the conversations that take place are organic and take place in real-time, which provide great information about what customers really care about.
By combining the two — social media with an online branded community — your company can leverage their strengths while minimizing weaknesses to ensure that your customers are getting the information that they need when they want it.
Four Ways to Implement Social Listening with a Branded Online Community
- Use social listening to inform your online community’s content strategy: topics, themes, content formats
- Identify influencers on social media to invite into your online community
- For issues or concerns expressed on social media, direct users to a resolution area in your online community
- For questions asked on social media, drive users to read user-generated answers to common questions in your online community