Where is your social media research department?

Where is your social media research department?

Most organisations place great focus on putting their customers first and take every opportunity to remind anyone who will listen, how important their customers are.

In doing so, corporate and brand communications used to be a one-way street – companies talked and customers (often) listened. Now of course the new media landscape means brands need to engage and have a dialogue with customers. And this dialogue is often at the behest of the customer, not the other way round.

So when organisations say they put their customers first, unless it is empty corporate rhetoric, what they really mean is that they listen closely to what their customers are saying and interact with them to solve problems, improve products and find ways of providing them with a better customer experience.

This holistic approach to customers involves many parts of the business (marketing, PR, operations, R&D, insight, in-store and online retail outlets, sales staff, call centres to name but a few) working together to make it happen.

Given that so many customer conversations are now recorded online, businesses are now listening and engaging across a multitude of social media and open access fora, blogs and review sites. The main way of doing this is through Social Media Monitoring or as we like to call it Active Web Listening (AWL) because the listening element should not just be passive. Using automation to monitor what is being said about a brand and whether that is positive or negative is a good starting point. However user companies often underestimate the importance of data accuracy and are influenced by how flashy the reporting dashboards are. DigitalMR has developed a list of 20 questions that a company should ask their social media monitoring provider before they buy. The aim should be to continuously improve accuracy and usability of results through manual curation and analysis of results. This helps clients to understand and prioritise what is important and where action is most needed.

While media monitoring was initially viewed as an extended “news clippings” service for the PR and corporate affairs departments, the interactive nature of the internet means AWL can dig deeper and wider, informing many, often unconnected parts of the business.

The question is – where should your social media research department sit and can the information be shared? Departmental silos can be counter-productive, because to be truly customer focussed all areas of the business need to be involved. Below is an overview of how AWL can help diverse departments and over the next few weeks we’ll continue the theme and provide greater detail on how AWL can improve decision making for specific areas of the business.

Corporate Affairs/PR
AWL can is not just about fire fighting adverse publicity and assuaging disgruntled customers. Issues highlighted on fora and social media often spearhead what is to follow on mainstream media. So for managing corporate reputation AWL is used to look for early indicators of problems so they can be dealt with quickly.

By monitoring key issues being discussed, understanding tone and language, working with the main influencers and prioritising response – red flags can be identified and dealt with quickly. In this way, AWL often becomes the first step to building your social media PR strategy.

Marketing Communications
Marketing Communications are very wide-ranging and AWL can help in many of those areas. From broader monitoring of how customers are responding to your communications through to targeting key communication channels and building online advocacy and WOM through identifying key influencers.

Research and Insight
AWL provides powerful insight in its own right – especially when trawling for new ideas. It can also feed into your broader research programmes by highlighting which are the key areas where you need further study, what are the key topics, trends and issues associated with your products. Use AWL to target and recruit respondents/participants to online focus groups or ongoing private online communities.

Customer Service
AWL can help detect commonly reported customer gripes and more importantly allow organisations to respond directly to customers. This can often be achieved in close to real-time by service companies, especially if they have flags and alerts set up on their system. This type of responsiveness is also great for generating online advocacy – if users of a particular forum or review site see a brand respond quickly and effectively the brand earns their trust and they are more likely to engage with it in the future.

AWL also enables you to discover where the “pain points” lie at an operational level. For example if a frequently reported issue is product delivery, AWL can help look at levels of performance either geographically or by different courier company in order to put things right. In this way complaints can be dealt with in a positive way and service improved.

AWL can be used to help in the creation of new products, product improvement or even totally new uses for existing products. For example, consumers have commented on using Listerine mouthwash to successfully treat toe nail fungus and also as a mosquito repellent! These applications would have remained undiscovered if conversations in forums hadn’t gained traction on the web. AWL can also help in the co-creation process through recruitment of key participants in online research projects. Ideas can be channelled through structured co-creation projects within online communities which in turn bring customers closer to the brand and aid advocacy.

In the quest to engage more deeply with customers, different departments within organisations are now becoming more interlinked and more interdependent. To facilitate this collaborative approach, insights generated to improve customer experience should no longer be restricted to just one or two business functions.

Common Applications Of Active Web Listening

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