KISS: Keep It Simple StupidA now established process within some of the world’s mega brands, social listening is now a highly competitive market in itself. With so many experts and software options it can be difficult to decide what option is best for you. While social listening creates many opportunities I believe it is less obvious for smaller less talked about brands or industries, hopefully sharing my learnings from running this process at First 10 for a number of clients will help you design it into your SME. It all starts with keeping it simple.
ListeningListening to your customers has always been important, social networks have just changed the scope and places in which that feedback can take place. Within this article I focus purely on social listening which I will explain in more detail shortly. Before I do, you should remember that their are other great services for connecting with your customers (whether large or small):
Crowdsourcing insightGetSatisfaction & Uservoice are just two of the larger, fully-featured tools that power crowdsourcing. These communities with purpose are great ways for customers to give ideas, ask questions & provide feedback on your products, service, website etc. Powered by SalesForce, the My Starbucks platform is one great example of this service in action.
Customer feedbackMost serious retail brands online now run a post-sale feedback service, a perfect way to understand how your customers felt about the service they received while transacting with you. Trust Pilot & Feefo are the two online favourites when it comes to running feedback. A great way to learn and make instant improvements to your business!
Talk to customersIt is a pretty crazy idea. All marketers should spend time in both the sales & customer service teams, listening & responding to customers directly is the best way to gain insight and therefore create better products, run more relevant marketing campaigns etc. Nothing else really comes close to doing this!
Social media listening in theoryWe already know social listening tools monitor the web, including communities, forums, social networks, news sites, blogs and portals, they’ll do this for keywords that you configure. The idea been that if you are alert to conversations going on in real time across the web your business can participate and / or respond as necessary. Dell run social media listening on a huge scale for customer support, meaning they can quickly respond to customer issues, en-masse.
The unique challenges for SMEsMy experience with the leading tools for social listening (Radian 6, ScoutLabs etc) is that if you are an active brand (i.e. Dell, Nike, Starbucks) and are likely to be discussed alot then these tools are amazing for workflow. However if you are SME or in a less talked about niche (most of us are!) then such tools are likely overkill and ineffective. That doesn’t mean to say SME’s should not run social listening as part of a marketing process, it does however need a different approach, it starts with the recognition that there is no magic bullet solution, sorry!
5 Tips for SMEs or ‘less talked about’ brands
1. Use a combination of toolsInstead of shelling out £300+ per month on the best software to only utilise about 5% of its functionality I suggest you utilise a number of tools, such as:
- Google Reader, pull in RSS feeds from relevant sites into one place
- Google Alerts, basic monitoring for keywords
- HootSuite / TweetDeck, to monitor your key social networks
- One of the following, UberVu, SproutSocial, RavenTools, SEOmoz, to run basic listening across the web
2. Listen for the right conversationsIt is easy to misconfigure the software or misunderstand their purpose. Social listening should be setup to monitor:
- Your brand
- Product mentions
- Industry related topics and talking point
- Competitors and their products
3. Know your influencersWhen starting to monitor the web for relevant conversations it is important that you have done enough research to identify current key influencers, whether competitors, keen bloggers, active social media customers or industry supporters as you will need to make sure you process is geared toward monitoring them too. Equally when you are creating inspiring, useful or exciting content you have the potential for influential people to be motivated to share it. Dan wrote a great blog on social influence last week, well worth checking out.
4. Be activeTo really get the value out of social listening you have to be active on the various sites conversations are already happening, whether that is Twitter or the leading portal for your industry it is important you are part of the conversation. Both proactively and as part of responding to comments it is key you are active. Be clear on when you want to participate and when you don’t and ensure you don’t leave conversations unanswered. This area can be a time drain and you cannot be all things to all people, decide in advance where and how you can add value to ‘a community;.
5. Be realistic & measure it!Social media listening is not marketing’s next great hope, it is however another key area to master. Given the time intensive nature of having one on one conversations with customers and industry influencers means it can become all consuming if you’ve not planned the appropriate amount of resource. It will in time idevelop your brand and business above the competition, so do ‘enough’ rather than nothing or throwing the kitchen sink at it. The tools mentioned in this post will make the process much easier for you and you should ensure its planned into your day. Measuring this activity is just as important as monitoring other marketing activity, focus on handful of KPIs such as:
- Mentions (brand)
- Inbound Links
- Traffic from specific sources
- Klout Score
- Followers / Fans / Friends
Benefits of social listening for SMEs
- You’ll learn from your customers and the wider market place, more than you may imagine
- You’ll measurably build your digital footprint (you can be found in multiple places in search results, for example)
- Inbound links to your website will flow naturally and in volume (and we all know how Google likes those, you can also stop relying on ineffective and unnatural link-building tactics so often recommended by SEO’s)
- You build your brand credibility as a go-to resource, you show your existing and potential customers that you actually care