SOCIAL MEDIA IS EVERYWHERE
Social Media has yet to have a definition truly nailed down. Wikipedia, an apt source for this information, states that “Social Media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques”… which is interesting. It means that ANY medium through which a two-way conversation can take place counts as a Social Medium which, in turn, means that the pub counts.
This is an interesting (and I believe accurate) perspective as the logical conclusion we can arrive at is that not much has changed between pre and post Social Media: We are still, effectively, talking about “word of mouth” except, this time, it is on steroids. Whereas in the past a conversation in a pub might influence a handful of people, it is now possible to influence tens of millions of people. Herein lies the power of Web 2.0 Social Media: The voice of the customer is now broadcast, linked and amplified to a far greater extent than ever before.
Its not just 140 character “tweets” that the comments are made through. Facebook updates (and updates on other social networks), YouTube videos and Forum comments also add to the noisy conversations that are happening 24/7.
When I ask clients whether or not they use Social Media, they often respond along the lines of “Do I look like I use Social Media?” but upon further probing, most do indeed use Social Media. Most people think that Social Media are the same thing as Social Networks… not so. Most of the clients accept that they use Social Media when I point out that Amazon, Ebay and Google all have social elements and if they have used any of the reviews (or other User Generated Content), then they are, indeed, users.
The reason I have spent so long in explaining what Social Media really are - is so that it is understood just how much UGC there is “out there”. No single corporate entity can afford to store all of the Social data that is produced by users -there is just too much – so how do companies make it manageable and leverage the reams of data?
SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING
Social Media Monitoring tools have been around for some years now, but are only just starting to really get to grips with the volume and diversity of content. Essentially, they all work by trawling the internet for specific triggers and then pulling back the information, rather than storing it all in an enormous database and then running queries. The main difference to the user of one of these tools is that it is easier to start a search and allow it to run into the future than it is to try to go “back in time” through searching stored information, unless the information is stored elsewhere. Sites such as Twitter, however, don’t keep the “tweets” for long, though, so running a search to measure the effectiveness of a new product launch, for example, has to be done right first time… there are no “re-dos”.
Its not just keywords, though, that the budding Social Media monitoring employee should think about. Software is now advanced enough as to understand sentiment to a useful degree of accuracy, and even sarcasm… which is soooooo easy for us humans to pick up, but much harder for machines. The mechanism for flagging remarks as sarcastic is long, though, and complicated and a subject for another blog post sometime, but the point is that these tools are well established and can whittle the billions of comments made every day down to those that are relevant to you or your brand at which point, I would suggest, a human being deals with them.
If you decide not to use any of these tools, you could watch Twitter, for example, 24 hours a day, but what about the other 500+ major social media channels? Its going to be expensive to hire the manpower necessary.
Fig. 1: Social Media Monitoring Tool classes
|Genre of Social Media Monitoring Tool||What it does|
|Keyword monitoring||Monitors the (public) internet for keywords or phrases|
|Buzz measuring||Monitors the volume of comments concerning a topic (collection of keywords/phrases) or keyword|
|Sentiment monitoring||Measures the feeling associated to a topic or keyword|
|Association monitoring||Monitors a keyword for frequent associations with other keywords and their associated topics|
|Influence monitoring||Measures influence of online or offline individuals in the online space|
So, what vendors are the best ones for you? That’s a tricky question. When I last counted how many Social Media monitoring tools there were “out there”, I got to 168, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses to evaluate, which is not the purpose of this blog post. The purpose is to address how best to use Social Media monitoring tools to analyse Web 2.0 data (or so it says in the title).
USING SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING TOOLS TO ANALYSE WEB 2.0 DATA
There are two ways that these tools can be used to enhance a company’s insight on customers, both current and prospective.
1) Monitor the public activity of known individuals and this, in most cases, requires some kind of opt-in from them and is thus hard to achieve (but immensely valuable).
2) Address customers and prospective customers as one entity and see how people are reacting, in real-time, to various stimuli en mass.
This approach could, for example, give a good indicator as to the impact a new advertising campaign is having on discussion volume and sentiment and provide feedback as to how to improve it … or whether to remove it. If taken to the extreme, this data can be mapped and segmented into very precise, small segments which, with the aid of a representative sample of the population, be mapped back to your own customer data… giving new levels of customer understanding to the data analysts. Let me give an example: Customer data indicates that I am a male, I am 27 years old and I earn £200k a year (I wish!). It also shows that I live in west London and drive a motorbike. Finally, it states that I spend £100 a month with your company. With the online profiling just mentioned, it is possible to see what online behaviours others that share these characteristics have, such as hobbies, holiday destinations, favourite cartoon, least liked food takeaway type, political leanings and anything else you might want to know.
Why would you want that kind of modelled information on a customer?
Knowledge is power - power to stop bombarding customers with irrelevant marketing (and thus power to market more effectively), power to design products and services around what your customers are likely to want, not what you think they will want, power to engage with customers about things they care about, not what you think they care about but overall, it’s the power to listen and let your customers know that you are listening.
Since customers that feel a company cares about their opinion sell around 50% more effectively than companies that don’t, I think the argument for Social Media Monitoring pretty much sells itself, don’t you?