Beyond listening: 5 steps to effective social media monitoring

Starbucks is often mentioned as one of the best examples of how to use social media to engage with customers, strengthen brand image (Interbrand, Best Global Brands 2010) and ultimately improve sales. So how do they do it? Starbucks not only listen to their customers but they also engage in a digital dialogue and act. The company launched My Starbucks Idea in 2008, to encourage customers to submit their ideas and vote on them. As well as listening to what people are suggesting, they are also reviewing and implementing many of these suggestions, allowing people to see the status of their submissions.

In my last post I talked about the importance of listening to online conversations, but effective social media monitoring goes beyond listening. We have developed a five step process, which enables us to use buzz data to generate insights and to help companies to design and implement relevant strategies.

1. Listen: Not only to what consumers say about your brand, but also to what people say about your competitors and even about themselves. Is there anything you could learn from? Pay attention to any hints about their lifestyles, needs and expectations. Many people tend to post or tweet what they are doing and many times ask for advice or express a need online – maybe something that your brand can help with.

2. Monitor and understand: Establish goals for your social media monitoring strategy and determine what you want to measure. Track these metrics over time to see the impact of your actions. Do you want to measure the success of your new campaign or product launch? Your brand reputation online? Advocacy and recommendations? Include your competitors to have a better view of your industry and see how you’re performing against them

3. Identify: Some people have more online presence and influence than others: number of followers, impact of their opinions, engagement with other users, etc. Discover who your key influencers are, where do they ‘live’ (blogs, forums, twitter) and how they can influence your brand image and purchase decisions. This can help you to connect with them and understand their point of view (whether positive or negative!) on your brand / product. Influencers can play a key role in brand advocacy, NPD, service improvements and more. Take as an example Innocent drinks, which is collaborating with parental forum Mumsnet, to test a number of marketing strategies aimed at families.

4. Predict: By analysing the buzz data we can identify emerging trends, opportunities and threads. Is a specific trend taking off among your customers? Is there any “white space” in your portfolio? Any uncovered demands? For example, chocolate manufacturer Cadbury relaunched the Wispa candy bar after seeing increased activity on Facebook and Bebo asking them to bring it back, with over 90 user groups and 14,000 followers.

5. Take action!: Follow Cadbury’s example and show your customers that you’re actively listening. Engage in conversations, address their concerns and suggestions, tailor marketing communications to connect with them and bring the insights into your product strategy. When taking action, it is important to understand the real impact of social media among your target segment and ensure that it does not become an overruling factor.  Companies need to determine whether online conversations are representative of their target customers and the impact that they have on consumer behaviour

With more and more people using social media and making it part of their daily lives, social media monitoring should be part of every brand’s research. Listening is crucial,  but it is just the beginning of the journey.

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