The Marketing Strategist:

Why Should We Monitor Social Media?

April 7, 2011

In B2B, finding the conversations that interest your buyers is important because by influencing those conversations, we can help steer buyers to our brands and offerings. Monitoring social media is important because social media are like flowing rivers of conversation and content. Companies need to act on the conversations and content that flow by before they disappear around the corner. Twitter is the most extreme example of social media’s temporal nature. A negative tweet about a company that goes unanswered for even a day conveys the impression that the company isn’t listening, doesn’t care, or both. The Corrosive Effects of Failing to Listen Even those channels that are less in the moment, such as LinkedIn, require monitoring. Indeed, the river moves more slowly on LinkedIn than on Twitter, but the effects of ignoring it are perhaps even more corrosive. It may be weeks before an unanswered comment or question is displaced from LinkedIn Group members’ view, for example, underscoring a company’s lack of responsiveness. But aside from the potential to connect with our target audiences, monitoring also helps marketers filter the social media rivers for the gold that is difficult to discover through a generic Google search, such as new trends, competitive intelligence, and even customer sentiment. How to Get Beyond the Generic Keyword For example, what if your brand or offering uses a generic term like service oriented architecture? How do you separate the specific discussions about your offering from the general conversation? The good news is that online conversation is captured forever within the bowels of a server somewhere, just waiting to be analyzed to death. And a horde of software developers is working on deriving useful information from it. What Social Media Monitoring Software Has to Offer Social media monitoring software is a fast-growing category of tools designed to slice up online conversations to try to determine things like where conversations about your brand occur most often and how much you are being talked about compared to your competitors. Since many of the monitoring tools are new, most are available as software as a service (SaaS), which makes it easy for marketers to try them out. Yet this same newness means that few are integrated with the software that marketers already have, such as customer relationship management (CRM). Here are some ways these tools give marketers more insight into online conversations:
  • Determine tone and sentiment. Some developers are using algorithms and analysis to determine whether conversations are positive or negative and whether the individuals within the conversation are supporters or detractors. But the developers acknowledge that using computers to determine the tone of human conversation is still a work in progress at this point. For example, the tools can’t distinguish between tongue-in-cheek comments and criticism. So while the tools can do the heavy lifting of finding the conversations and assigning them a tone, they still require a human to verify that the conclusions are accurate.
  • Assign a response. Some tools let you define the types of comments or conversations that deserve a response, flag them, and route them to a designated person for action.
  • See the distribution of conversation. Most tools let you segment the different types of social media to determine where conversations are happening, such as on blogs or Facebook.
  • Trend the conversation. Some tools let you analyze conversations’ direction and popularity over time. This is helpful during important periods, like new offering launches or in the aftermath of a crisis.
  • Determine share of attention. You can track the amount of conversation about you compared to the amount about your competitors.
  • Identify influential sources. The tools can determine the popularity of conversations and the sources of those conversations. This helps you decide which blogs you’d like to use for outreach, for example.
  • Locate the conversations. Some tools let you see the geographic locations of people involved in the conversation.
  • Track propagation. Some tools allow you to track a comment from a blog post all the way through to mainstream media.
Of course, though the tools allow you to narrow the social media rivers to streams, there still may be an overwhelming amount of data to deal with, especially if you’re a large company. Here, companies need to develop processes for determining what to do with all the information and how to act on it. Companies must integrate social media intelligence into their other streams of intelligence and adapt those analyses and decision-making processes to this new flow of information. This article is excerpted from the ITSMA Special Report, How to Fit Social Media into Your Overall Marketing Strategy and Make It Stick. This 52-page report includes everything B2B companies need to know about creating a successful social media plan. We hope you’ll check it out.

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