By NICOLE NEE
In the age of a social media explosion, the value of social media listening has begun to gain momentum as the foundation of every successful social strategy. The deluge of social media posts is in fact valuable sources of real-time feedback that is trending every minute and every day.
Unlike traditional modes of feedback, the underlying data from social media is always updated, spontaneous and continuous. Hence, social media listening actually makes for more accurate and valuable customer and industry insights that are cheaper and easier to collect.
As our everyday vernacular has been embedded with social media lexicon, it becomes ever more essential for businesses to find out what customers and competitors are saying.
Otherwise, history would repeat itself and we would never see the end of cases like the infamous Maxis incident. Instead of extinguishing the brewing social media bushfire regarding their seemingly poor treatment of loyal customers, Maxis failed to listen and respond appropriately to their customers. What ensued was a full-blown inferno. Given the spontaneity of social media, Maxis took far too long – a week, to be exact – to come up with an official response to the allegations, which made it more difficult to appease its customers.
Don’t treat this as simply a social media tool
The Asia-Pacific region is expected to have the largest social network population worldwide by 2017, yet some companies are reluctant to allocate a bigger budget to social media data mining.
This is perhaps due to the existing misconception that the utility of social media is only limited to furthering a company’s marketing efforts.
However, the deluge of online conversations happening simultaneously on social networks can in fact provide valuable insights to formulate fundamental organisation goals that any business should have.
In other words, social media listening tools can be used by just about anyone in the company and not merely just for marketing purposes. Whether it’s customer service, risk and intelligence, or product development, ensuring that relevant data feeds back to the relevant functions can aid strategic decision-making in a timely manner.
Listen with the intent to understand, not just to reply
Social media listening is more than just monitoring your mentions and responding when prompted, which is what too many organisations are doing. Rather, it is listening with the intent to understand and make strategic decisions with the gathered data.
Never be a passive or selective listener; go beyond the expected and ordinary by seeking opportunities to surprise and engage consumers. This not only builds loyalty and relationships, but also turns these customers into advocates of your brand.
However, with billions of social media posts a day, making sense of what is being said and what is shaping your reputation can be very challenging. To be able to reach the right people at the right time, you first need to know what they’re talking about in the first place, which is why developing a social listening strategy is fundamental to successful marketing.
Social media listening tools are a dime a dozen across Asia, but there is no one solution that provides consistent and extensive coverage across all markets and languages. This is because Asia is a maelstrom of various countries and languages, and the resulting fragmentation of conversations makes it very difficult to understand the prevailing sentiment.
Moreover, there are far more platforms in Asia where a large amount of conversations is likely to be occurring, such as forums and other home-grown market-specific platforms like Weibo in China. Social listening strategies thus have to be market and language specific to be able to form an accurate picture of the actual conversation.
From social listening to social intelligence
Now that you’ve got the data and have started to glean meaningful insights, it’s time to act on them and formulate smarter business decisions. Used preventatively in crisis management and communication, social media listening is a way to discern negative buzz, or identify competitive moves. Being proactive in seeking out competitive risks will afford you sufficient time to build resilience and extinguish potential fires before they manifest in real-time.
On the other hand, social listening also aids in the management of a PR (public relations) crisis as you can constantly check to see if your message is resonating with your customers. We all like to think our businesses are perfect but there are always things that can be improved and critical reviews can provide valuable suggestions on how to do so.
While there are bound to be negative reviews, don’t forget that you can encourage and thank satisfied customers to leave positive reviews to offset negative ones.
Staying on top of market trends has never been easier with social listening tools. Robust social listening will help businesses become better at predicting market trends, by identifying how consumer preferences are changing and what is being said about competitors. With a firm grasp on how to have the right conversations, you can get involved in the right way and engage in timely interaction to stay ahead of competition.
Moreover, the ubiquity of social listening tools has made competitive intelligence widely available for businesses, providing clear insights into the identity of competitors and what they are doing, which businesses can then benchmark themselves against.
Maximise the benefits of social listening and make them last by operationalising the use of the available social media monitoring tools and ensure that the right conversations flow to the right stakeholders.
Make social listening an integral part of normal data gathering to glean valuable insights for business objectives, and inculcate listening as part of the organisation’s culture so that employees would strive to create more meaningful ‘wow’ customer experiences every day, while building a credible reputation for your brand.