Social listening: Is it making or breaking your brand's digital strategy?

Responsiveness, non-intrusiveness, an eye on the competitor's activities, data sharing, relevant influencers & the right tool form the essential commandments of social listening

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Jun 19, 2014 8:42 AM
Social listening: Is it making or breaking your brand's digital strategy?

Social listening has become an important facet of every brand’s digital strategy. With the world moving online increasingly, its importance cannot be overstressed. In this article we take the views from a few social media experts on the do’s and don’ts when it comes to social listening.

Use the right tools
Any social listening strategy should be composed of the right platform, the right strategy and the right tools.
“Use a solid, reputed social media monitoring tool combined with proven, best practices for the manual process that follows the essential fetching of results (which come from the tool),” explains Sanjay Mehta, Co-CEO of Social Wavelength.

The right tool makes the job easier but this does not mean that you get carried away by marketing spiel, cautions Siddharth Hegde, MD & Founder of Ethinos Digital Marketing. “Go for a month or two of trial before deciding to engage with one tool. Often comparing tools real time when you use them gives you a real feel,” he further advises.

Listen To Everyone
When it comes to social listening, most brands focus on two key areas -keyword searches and what people are talking about their own brand. However, to get a more holistic view of what people are talking about and how it affects the brand, social media managers need to spread their attention even wider.

“Listen to what your competitors are talking and what people are talking about them. Nokia, for example, does this really well. Also, you need to keep your ear open for trending topics on social media,” says Preetham Venkky, Business Head KRDS India. The trick is to understand what your TG wants. Hegde calls this “understanding the watering holes,” basically where they hang out, seek advice, complain, etc. Echoing Venkky, he says, “Understand how your brand compares with the industry average (in terms of share of voice and sentiment).”

Be responsive
This has to be the golden rule for anyone. Just listening is not enough, it has to translate to practical measures that either solve your customer’s problems or enrich their life. A simple measure that can be implemented says Mehta is having 24x7 social CRM. “If your consumers are active across multiple time zones and on weekends as well, set up listening process to cover the various time zones, e.g. 16 hours a day x 7 days a week, or even 24x7, if justified for your brand. Essentially, the filter is that if you run your CRM call centre for extended hours, then you should also be running your Social CRM for those extended hours,” he says.

Even more important is to empower your social media manager to take quick decisions without getting stuck in the red tape of processes and escalation. This is a little tricky but with proper co-ordination can be managed. A good example is of United Airlines. When professional golfer Rory Mcilroy tweeted that his golf clubs were lost in transit, the airlines tweeted back to him from their official handle that they had been found and would be delivered to him the next day. On the other hand, Indian telecom companies are examples of how the public’s ire can be raised by unresponsive or apathetic social accounts.

Don’t have blind faith on influencers
Social influencers are always sought by brands to endorse their brands or carry out contests, promotions, etc. online on their behalf. They are the social media equivalent of celebrity endorsements and for some of them it is big business. But how important are these social influencers? Is having 1,000 or 10,000 plus followers the only barometer of your influence? How many of these legions of followers are even relevant to the brand? Says Venkky, “30-40 per cent of these influencers are just gas; they don’t speak anything relevant. Measure influencers on the basis of their reach, the context and the quality of their posts.”

Share the data
Data that a brand gleans from its social listening exercise is a treasure trove of information and can be used across the board, so ensure that this information reaches the right people at the right time. “Ensure that the results of listening are seen by the top management across relevant teams and departments in the organisation. This is crucial, direct-from-customer data, and must be given due importance at the top levels of the company,” opines Mehta.

Don’t be intrusive
This is a thin line to walk. Hegde points to a survey done a few years  back which postulated that over 40 per cent of the 18-24 year-olds felt that brands listening to their conversations online was intrusive. But on the other hand almost 57 per cent felt that it was alright for brands to listen to what is being said about the brand. “This points to a scenario (tying it back to the last question) – If a conversation isn’t about a brand perhaps it should be very selective about responding,” he said. Earn the trust of your consumers. Like one eminent marketer pointed out, “Today’s scenario is not a brand speaking to a customer but two customers talking to each other and the brand trying to nudge its way in. But this right to take part in the conversation needs to be earned and this will only happen if the brand messaging and communications are interesting, relevant and non-intrusive.”

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