Thursday, August 2, 2012

Your customers are talking...are you listening?

Every tweet, blog, post about your company or product is available at this moment on the world wide web. Not only are these discussions happening, they are being monitored by your competition. Right now you could be aggregating this information into useful insights in which could help you improve performance and capitalize on the wants and needs of your customers. As a graduate student in the Medill IMC program, I have had the opportunity to become exposed to social monitoring methods and business applications such as Radian6, NetBase and Social Mention that play an integral role in facilitating an effective social presence.

According to the 2011 Nielson Social Media Report, 53% of adults follow a brand on social media. It is apparent that social media is currently impacting your brand whether you want it to or not. Social media is not going away and now is the time to embrace it and get involved in the communities your customers live in. With the help of smart phones and quick access to social platforms, the people advocating your brand are now setting the tone. Read more about the impacts of social influencers.

With social monitoring and analytical tools you can lead the next wave of marketing by communicating to your customers in their environment. If you're not ready to join the conversation just yet, start with listening to customer conversations and you will be surprised at the valuable insights you may find from key influencers, popular discussion topics and overall sentiment of your brand. Compiling the conversations and dissecting the discussions for insights can positively impact your knowledge on the customer perspective and invigorate you to develop a more customer centric product. Listening to the chatter and taking the high profile topics to appropriate teams (ex. product development, sales, marketing) in your company can reverse loses and allow you to better allocate your budget to a suitable facet of the business.

How Do I Start Getting Insights?

1. Research to find the right social monitoring tools.  

There are dozens of tools available to corporations that will gather data and help your team interpret the findings. To get started check out some simple and free applications such as Social Mention, Listorious and Alltop. If you have the bandwidth for more strategic research go straight to the advance tools: Radian6, NetBase, HootSuite, or Sprout Social

2. Hire and train your team.

After you've found the right tool, set up a training session with your team to become fluent with it's capabilities. If you do not have available resources to tackle social media monitoring, consider hiring a social media expert to manage the analysis. Learn more about staffing a social media team.

3. Build a Social Marketing Program with ROI.  

It is important to distinguish social marketing from social media. At Northwestern, we effectively apply social monitoring to enhance social marketing efforts. Get started with sharing insights across departments in your company. You too can start conversing with your customers and you may discover a boost in brand sentiment once customers are aware there is a real person listening and responding to what they have to say. Develop recommendations that can take insights to business resolutions and product growth. Now watch for results.

Kim Schick is a graduate student of Northwestern's Medill IMC program. She specializes in digital and email marketing with a passion for social marketing strategies. Follow her on Twitter @KimSchickIMC and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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