In this world of tweets, posts, blogs, and hashtags, it can often be daunting to the average person, much less a company, to determine how they want to engage with the world around them. Some throw up their hands at the mention of social media and resolve to “keep it simple.” After all, they have been successfully doing business for the last 20 years, right? Then there are others who dive right in; creating accounts on Facebook and Twitter; they start blogging and hashtagging up a storm. What if there is a middle ground? What if applying old principles to new technology is the key? The secret to any great relationship starts with the ability to listen. Could social listening be the strategic approach to interacting with this new social world that is always on and always present?
Social media listening, also known as social media monitoring or social listening, is the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product or brand on the internet. Organizations looking for a competitive edge can use social listening and analytics tools to find, sort and analyze that data. Among other potential benefits, social media analytics offers businesses the ability to identify patterns in customer sentiments, gauge your marketing effectiveness, and help you identify your advocates and competitors. Microsoft is staying a step ahead of the trend and has announced that social listening will be a capability to be leveraged from Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
But companies need to understand the limitations and risks that come with investing in social listening tools – including the risk of getting buried in a landslide of data. Social listening can have a powerful, positive impact on the world around you if you have the ability to listen. For example, during the earthquake in Haiti, the Red Cross received text messages from displaced Haitian members about family members, said Laura Howe, the Red Cross' vice president of public relations. "They were sending SMS texts: where people needed food, where people needed help -- in some cases, actual addresses of where people were trapped under rubble," Howe said. This enabled help to be sent in a more effective manner.
While this is a major technological advancement, with many positive social implications, it can also create potentially unrealistic expectations in the general populous. According to research from a three year survey by the Red Cross, 76% of Americans expect help to arrive within three hours after posing a need or cry for help on a social platform. While your company’s everyday tasks may not be in the business of saving lives, this example has powerful implications to where the American public is heading and what they are comfortable with, even expecting, in regards to you listening to their conversations.
Whether you are new to the whole idea of social listening or you are starting to navigate the sea of data, here are some helpful tips to consider as you assess what to do with social media data.
- Trust, but verify – Don’t believe everything that is posted. Acknowledge the information, then consider the source.
- Develop standards for proper use of private data – Not everything you will come in contact with on the Internet should be used. Establish guidelines on how to handle private data.
- Address the digital divide – An estimated 60% of the world's population isn't connected to the Internet -- an issue that panelists refer to as the digital divide. Investment in the future is about ensuring that underserved populations have meaningful access to technology.
- Listening must have an outcome – What is the point in investing time and resources into social listening, if you do nothing with the data findings? Consider potential response costs when you are budgeting for this valuable information.
I have only touched the tip of the iceberg with this subject. If you are interested in the topic, please consider these additional resources to continue your investigation of the topic.