October 25, 2016
/ by Jim Dougherty
Most communications or marketing professionals realize that social media management is difficult to scale without some automated solution.
Keeping track of platforms, direct and indirect messages, social care opportunities, and the competition is difficult for nearly any business, and size makes managing these more daunting. Inevitably many companies choose a platform that offers monitoring (such as Cision’s new Communications Cloud™) to handle their social media. But there are ways of social monitoring that many businesses don’t incorporate into their marketing and communications.
This is a lost opportunity, particularly if a business already has paid for a third-party solution.
What I want to do in this piece is share how companies use social media monitoring. Often businesses deploy this class of tool for a narrow purpose; hopefully, you’ll see that they offer broader utility than you realize.
Social media has been a disruptive force to a lot of different aspects of our lives, perhaps no more so than for customer service (often referred to as “social care”).
You don’t necessarily have the option to provide social care to your customers; they increasingly expect it. You can be obstinate to provide traditional customer service, but people will still reach out on Twitter and Facebook (primarily) to ask for assistance. If you’re slow to respond or don’t respond at all, you disappoint customers whose expectation is for a social response in less than 60 minutes. Not only that, but complaints received via social media may be up as much as 5%, demonstrating that social media is an increasingly utilized platform for customer service.
Many businesses understand that customer service is perhaps their #1 priority on social media, and it follows that many companies use social monitoring to identify social inquiries quickly and to address them expeditiously. Cision has a very good best practice piece that delves into many of the specific tasks of social care and is definitely worth a read.
Takeaway: Many customers expect fast social care; it is one of the primary uses for social media monitoring.
Customer service on social media is easy because it comes to you in a neat, virtual package with a handy return address. Social feedback is hardly so neat or easily resolved.
Customers rave and complain about you, your products and services, without explicitly bringing you in on the conversation. The difference between “Cision is great” and “@cision is great” is that the intent for #1 is word-of-mouth feedback to friends and followers, and #2 is easier to hear (and probably is a play for some acknowledgement from Cision).
This is the basis for sentiment analysis: find a way to monitor unseen feedback and contextualize the language to understand how people perceive you.
To do this, some tools check for a set of business-related keywords (such as company name, product name, et cetera), and then gauge the sentiment of the words around the keyword.
For example, “Cision Communications Cloud is really helpful” is an example of a positive sentiment, “Jim Dougherty is a bad writer” is an example of a negative sentiment, and “cheese is a food” is a case of a neutral sentiment.
Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger says that most word-of-mouth happens person-to-person instead of online, so you can see how gauging online sentiment might be a means to better understand the totality of word-of-mouth feedback about you and your company. If this seems crazy to you, it’s not: the sophistication of sentiment analysis is so well-developed that sentiment analysis is now being used to inform stock market decisions.
Takeaway: Unlike social care, customers provide social feedback without explicitly putting the company in the feedback loop. Sentiment analysis finds this “word-of-mouth” data and gauges the language around the feedback to understand how people feel about you.
Let’s start with two assumptions for this section:
If we can agree on these assumptions, then we can conclude that most of what your competition is doing on social is available for you to see. How do they handle social care? How quickly do they respond to inquiries? Where do they do social care? How do their customers feel about them and their products?
The transparency of social media allows you to see everything your competition does in public, and thus compare your presence to theirs (minus their ad spend). When you have social monitoring tools, it makes a lot of sense not only to use them explicitly for your business but also to monitor promotion, social care, and sentiment analysis for your competitors as well.
Takeaway: You can use social media monitoring tools to monitor your competition in the same way that you use them for your own business.
Cision’s Media Database is its most well-known feature, but social monitoring can augment the information about journalists, influencers and their areas of focus (in fact, that’s a feature built into Cision’s products). As an example of why this is important, I got two pitch emails in my inbox this morning from publicists offering interviews with their clients about topics (generously stated) a bit removed from what I write about.
Not only is it a bit annoying to get this kind of pitch, but I have no use for the resources they’re offering. A social monitoring tool might give a publicist a better idea of what I’m writing and what resources I might use in the future.
And this is how social monitoring can make your communications and marketing more efficient: better resource utilization and more effective placements. At best, I might make a brief mention of an author in an article (and their book) where another writer might use an interview more extensively and to better effect.
Let’s consider a broader application: prospecting for potential customers. Perhaps even more tellingly than micro-targeting with social ads, finding the opportunity to offer a solution to a prospect’s stated problem in (near) real-time may offer low-cost conversion opportunities.
If I mention on Twitter that I’m looking for suggestions about a good podcasting microphone, for example, monitoring specific keywords might give a microphone seller opportunity an opportunity to influence me into a sale when I’m close to a buying decision.
Takeaway: Social media monitoring can help to match keywords and phrases to known influencers and potential customers.
If the other four categories didn’t capture what you want to do, this is my catch-all for everything else. Contextual research might involve deeper insights into how a subset of customers, prospects, or people communicate on social or around a class of products.
It may not be competitive in nature or segmented into your customer groups. It may be academic or personal. The mechanics of social media monitoring are pretty simple (although concepts like sentiment require some additional sophistication and subjectivity). Perhaps you want to understand the overlap between social ads and social outreach or understand the sentiment around a particular phrase or word.
The point of mentioning research in the abstract is just to say that the mechanics of social monitoring are mostly straightforward, so the scope of the questions that you want to answer aren’t limited to the easily compartmentalized.
Takeaway: You can use social media monitoring for much broader applications than social care, prospecting, competitive research and sentiment analysis. It can offer you a way to think outside of the box and to get data-driven insights to support new ideas.
Shrewd businesses are using social monitoring for sophisticated purposes. It’s disappointing that businesses pay for social media monitoring tools and don’t use them as effectively as they could. A business that uses social monitoring exclusively for social care could use the same tool to optimize customer outreach and to gauge their digital outreach relative to their competition.
Get more tips that will help you build a strong, relatable presence on social media by downloading Engage in Social Conversations Around Your Brand. This free guide outlines how to participate on key networks without wasting resources or missing opportunities.
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