This post is a collaboration between Ken Burbary and myself. It is being cross posted here and on Ken’s blog.
Social Media Monitoring can be an overwhelming endeavor, requiring you to sift through potentially large amounts of data to separate signal from noise, all in the hope of finding key consumer/customer insights that a company can act on. The thought of getting started can be overwhelming for big brands with a broad reach. If you’ve made the decision to listen to what the market is saying about you (an easy one) and are ready to take the next step and put it into practice, then consult this guide on the 5 Ws of Listening and create a strategic listening plan first (more on this to come in a future post). Then, and only then, move on to tool selection. There are hundreds of monitoring tools in the marketplace today (In fact, Microsoft launched their own social media monitoring tool today, dubbed Looking Glass). Use the community resources available to decide which tool(s) are best for you, then move forward with the tool that has the best coverage for the media types you’re interested in, and meets the rest of your specific needs.
To make listening easier, try narrowing the focus on a subset of your business. This will make it easier to get started, and require less time and resources (typically, your mileage may vary), than trying to listen for every individual mention of your brand terms. Here are 4 specific areas that companies can focus their listening activities to do this:
- Campaign Specific – focus on the conversation driven by a specific campaign. Not only the volume but more importantly the qualitative components of the conversation. Target keywords, phrases and important details contained in the messaging of your campaign, go beyond generic terms and brand mentions. This can reveal a useful dimension of consumer opinion, passion. Tropicana recently learned this when launching a new packaging design for its pure premium orange juice. By listening around this specific campaign, they learned about the uproar from passionate customers, and ultimately reversed course and reinstated the old packaging design.
- Event Specific – companies invest significant time, energy and financial resources for all types of offline events. Use social media monitoring to measure and track the online conversation about an event. Integrate these the relevant conversation points with data from other channels to get a holistic view of an event’s reach, sentiment and popularity. MTV recently did this at the Video Music Awards with their Twitter Tracker.
- Business Unit Specific – for large organizations, with many businesses spread across the globe, narrowing down which business units you want to monitor is an essential part in trying to lessen the resources burden of social media monitoring. How do you begin to do this if you’re tapped with listening for your company (especially if you’re “housed” in the corporate communications or marketing department)? Start thinking about the process by using these steps:
- Identify your company’s strategic business units – the companies with several different business unuts surely have some idea which of those are the real revenue drivers now, and in the future. If your organization has five business units, for example, but there are two that are the real revenue engines for the company, those would likely be suspects for your listening efforts.
- Identify business unit leaders that can help share the burden – one of the central points of this post that we hope you takeaway is that monitoring isn’t an effort that can be left up to just one person. There has to be a decent amount of burden shared across the organization. Business unit leaders know their individual businesses better than anyone else. Tap them not only for their expertise of the business, but for the insights they’ll be able to lend in making sure the data you provide is at its most valuable.
- Determine which terms you’re going to use – anyone that’s developed a listening program before will tell you that there can be a tremendous time investment in building the keyword/phrase monitoring strategy. That includes terms, which sources to track (if you’re using less sophisticated free tools), and even which topics associated with the business unit you’d like to include. Crunching the data is important, but this stage is often overlooked to the peril of the whole project.
It goes without saying, but after you’ve done these three things, it’s time to start collecting and analyzing data. If you’re interested in seeing how other companies have narrowed listening to a specific business unit, check out this presentation from United Parcel Service (UPS) at last year’s BlogWell.
- Product Specific – if you aren’t planning to monitor around a campaign, event or business unit, you can always monitor specific product and/or service sub-brand(s). The process is very similar to how you would monitor business unit conversations – identify the appropriate sub-brand expert (developer, leader, marketer, etc..), identify those at the product level that can help you share in the burden, develop your list of terms (a time-consuming process as you may already know), and ultimately gather and analyze the data. The folks at Verisign (PDF) have been doing this exact same thing (with the help of agency partners) with good success.