Tuesday, May 6, 2014

CMOs Listen Up! Don’t Leave Active Social Listening Out of the Equation

As a CMO or Brand Manager, it is vital to learn as much as you can about your high value markets.  As a graduate student in Northwestern Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications program I have been exposed to many cutting edge thought leaders in the industry, and will share my thoughts about why the combination of quantitative data analysis needs to be paired with qualitative social listening to reveal key insights and strategic inspiration for your company.

Active social listening can yield valuable time sensitive insights leading to strategic inspiration.  According to the article Get More Value Out of Social Media Brand-Chatter by Susan Fournier and Bob Rietveld, it is becoming more common for companies to have their ear to the ground when it comes to social media, but it begs the question: what actually happens from there?  Often times findings may be reviewed, but is ultimately filed away.   Listening social just to say you’re doing it is not going to magically produce any results.  To actively listen is to take in the information, analyze it, and turn it into useful insights.  According to Fournier and Rietveld, “Sometimes the correlations are low between what you think you know and what social listening reveals. But that doesn’t mean you should jettison the listening data; it just means you need to consider both sets of findings simultaneously to decipher the true story.” In addition to being a must-have, social listening is inexpensive, with a high dollar-to-insight ratio.  Now that’s something that should be music to your ears.

Image Source: Sales Force Marketing Cloud

The article The Art of Listening Completely to Social Data by Erick Brethenoux discusses how listening completely to social data is essential to truly understanding your consumers.  According to Brethenoux, “The most crucial step to targeting your marketing efforts is vetting consumer data carefully through marketing analytics technology and a disciplined eye.”  Active social listening can reveal emotional triggers that are the driving force behind consumer behavior, however listening to what makes one single person tick on a given day is not particularly helpful.  Some companies view social listening in this light, and therefore discard it as useless.  However, pairing active social listening with Big Data driven insights to reveal what collectively makes a group tick is huge.  From here, a strategy can be crafted to provide a personalized meaningful experience that really speaks to the consumer. 

After analyzing these two articles and combining this information with insights I have gained from my professional experience and courses at Northwestern, I propose that there are 3 actions you can take to put these strategies to work for you:

  • Listen Broadly - Get to work on actively listening to social 24/7, and be prepared to pair your findings with data analysis.  Don’t slack off, don’t fudge your results, and don’t discard what you hear because it does not align with what you had envisioned hearing. 
  • Analyze Data Put Big Data to work for you, but don’t use those findings alone.  Get ready to combine these findings with your social active listening.      
  • Take Action Combining the qualitative results of active social listening plus the quantitative data analysis is a great jump point for you to strategize.  Make the most of your findings by providing a meaningful, personalized experience for your consumer that engages them and drives them to action.

Big Data analysis can help to transform what was once indistinguishable noise into insights.  This is a great start, but don’t kick your shoes off and put your sweatpants on just yet.   Where there is noise, you have to listen up!  Combine your new found filtered insight with active social listening, and you can paint a vivid picture of not just where you are headed, but where you need to go. 

Nikki Ilchert is a Communications Coordinator for RealSource Association of Realtors, a not-for-profit trade organization.  She is currently a Master of Science candidate in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University with an emphasis on Digital Marketing and Analytics.  Nikki is the proud mother of 2 rescue dogs, Buddy and Goose, and is currently on track to graduate in June of 2015.   Keep the conversation going with Nikki on Twitter @nikkiilchert or LinkedIn.

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