Social Media. Are you listening?

by / Thursday, 07 April 2016 / Published in Digital, Latest posts

It’s easy to be seduced by the stories of 70 million, or is it billion users of Facebook and how Kevin Rudd and Shane Warne each have hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter (if ever there was a death knell for a brand…) but the most overlooked virtue of Social Media, especially for the professional services industry, is the opportunity to listen.

Anyone who remembers toiling through endless focus groups on wet Wednesdays in North Sydney talking about which brand of battery they prefer (yes really) has every right to feel a little trepidation about customer research and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only marketer who wonders exactly who nowadays answers their home phone at 6.30 pm and agrees to take part in a twenty minute telephone interview. A representative sample? I’m not so sure.

But the advent of the internet has changed all that. On New Woman magazine almost a decade ago now we were using the excellent online questionnaire software from Edentify to ask readers who we should put on the cover (nearly everyone on the 4,000 strong database replied within an hour of getting the email) and now we’re positively swimming in platforms that will track, itemise, categorise and segment mentions of you, your brand and your competitors in reports that are only limited in potential by the time you have to read them.

I don’t have strong views on the best paid platforms. At last count there are something like 200 or more listening platforms and like every other purchase you make for your business, it’s so important to consider specifically what results you are looking to achieve before buying in to the salesman’s rhetoric. Firstly, it’s really important to think about which social media channels you are wanting to track. There are dedicated tools for each media and some work better than others.

But like all research decisions, the most important question you can ask is what you will actually do with the results. I’ve already worked with too many companies that have beautiful dashboard reports that sit in drawers unused. I’ve seen complicated reports that tell people how many website visits they’ve had and where the user lives. Which tweets people shared and when. How sentiment changes when a competitor makes an announcement. It’s all engaging and interesting stuff.

But if we aren’t learning how to market our products and businesses better, there’s a danger it’s just more stuff.

The best way to test your appetite for social media listening is to trial a free product. The marketplace changes all the time, but here’s a couple of ideas for products you can (and should) try before you buy.

HOOTSUITE has been around for a few years now and has outlasted TweetDeck which was pretty much killed by Twitter. It’s an adaptable and free tool for posting social media updates and reviewing and managing your accounts but also offers tools to add searches that scan Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Foursquare and Google+. The paid version also offers useful tools for campaign monitoring and more, but the free version is an absolute must have and is enabled for use on tablets through easy to use apps.

TWEETREACH may be a little technical for some, but it’s the best tool for simple monitoring of how the effects of your tweets, providing data on the impact and follow on implications of the discussions that unfold from your messages. It’s particularly useful for people wanting to establish who their most influential followers are, helping refine targeting towards the people who are likely to be the best advocates for sharing your content.

SOCIAL MENTION: Entirely free and not requiring a complicated log-on, Social Mention aggregates data from a host of different platforms including Twitter and Facebook. The analytics are pretty basic but nevertheless useful as a snapshot. I particularly like the tool that determines negative and positive sentiment.
GOOGLE. While new products crop up all over the place, the relentlessly unfashionable Google Alerts are hard to beat as a simple way of monitoring mentions, industry sectors or other key words. With almost infinite possibilities in terms of scope there still isn’t a better alternative for reviewing mentions of your brand name, competitor or sector names by entering keywords, so it’s widely used. Remember that whenever you’re doing simple searches on Google, if you want an agnostic search that isn’t influenced by your previous history, open up a new incognito window in your browser before searching.

FOOTNOTE: How to use those findings.

In a world where people cant agree whether we should be measuring clicks or views, time spent visiting or Facebook likes, I think its easy to spend too much time analysing old data. Ultimately, the world doesn’t turn on why your website visits were 10% different to last month.

What I recommend all companies do instead is simply look at what’s working. Form whatever hypotheses you can about the reasons and then, in possibly the most simplistic advice ever…

Do More Of What’s Working! (and perhaps a little less of what’s not?)

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