Are you listening to online conversations?

Not so long ago, if you had found out that the hotel in Paris you had booked for your holiday was more like a filthy hole than a romantic retreat seen in the travel agency brochure, you might have written a letter of complaint to the hotel manager. Maybe you would have also told some of your friends and relatives not to go there.

A friend of mine found himself in a similar situation a few weeks ago. Instead of making a formal complaint, he posted a picture of the ‘not-so-nice’ room on Facebook, minutes after checking in. Then he submitted a review to, rating the hotel with one star and saying that it was horrendous, dirty and that he would never book another holiday with the travel agency. When I told him I was going to Paris, he immediately sent me the link to his review, to make sure I didn’t stay there.

Social Media and the Internet have changed the way we communicate, providing us with a platform to voice our opinions and experiences in real time. We can share our views with the world, reaching an audience unimaginable years ago. Take my friend’s hotel review as an example. He is potentially influencing hundreds of friends, casual acquaintances and complete strangers’ hotel selection by sharing his experience on two websites.

Listening to consumers is one of the key pillars of market research. Understanding what they value, their motivations and needs, product usage and experiences and their perception of and attitudes towards brands is critical. Social Media presents consumers with new ways of voicing their opinions, conversing about brands and sharing their enthusiasm or disappointment on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, forums and blogs. Words can sometimes be a bunch of hot air, but online posts can remain indefinitely.  Listening to these online conversations thus becomes essential for both brands and researchers.

There is little doubt that the Digital Age has changed the way consumers express their opinions, but we should not forget that the fundamentals for listening to consumers are still valid. Brands and market researchers need to know the target audience, where to find them and understand their language. Just like offline conversions, online conversations are an on-going process. Therefore, listening should be continuous as well. What we need to adapt are our “listening” methods to make sure we are using the appropriate tools.

Buzz tracking is a tool for social media monitoring that enables us to listen to what is being said about a specific topic online. We can look at who is talking, what they are discussing, their level of influence in the community and the sentiment of the conversation. Through continuously monitoring, we can see how a conversation evolves over time, trend it and measure the reaction to different actions, such as events or ad campaigns.

We have developed a five step process for capturing this data and turning them into actionable insights. After all, what good is a mountain of information if you cannot do anything with it? Here’s a preview of Synovate’s five steps to Social Media Monitoring:

  1. Listen
  2. Monitor & Understand
  3. Identify
  4. Predict
  5. Take Action

I will explore each step in greater detail in my next post, so stay tuned! Until then, please tell us, how are you listening?

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