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Five components of an actionable social listening strategy by Gary Topiol

13th Aug 2015
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Gary Topiol

Customers of all stripes are increasingly sharing their experiences via social media, and the feedback they provide has massive value to organisations – if handled correctly. All customer feedback, regardless of the source, should be treated as the infinitely valuable resource it is. And because of its public and immediate nature, taking a strategic approach to listening and responding to social feedback is particularly important.

The strategy

There are five components that should be part of every social listening strategy, regardless of the forum.

How: There’s a big difference between social analytics and social listening. Social analytics tools track the digital “footprints” customers leave online and product metrics that can help you target your online advertising. Social listening enables you to tap into the places customers are talking about their experiences with your brand. Capabilities vary, and can include the ability to monitor unstructured comments and reviews, applying sophisticated analytics tools to surface relevant information. Some technologies include real-time alerting capabilities that identify and route messages that need to be addressed immediately. And there are some that enable a company to manage their social interactions with customers, and help them close the loop.

Where: Depending on your brand and customers, you’ll need to tune your social listening to specific social channels. Listen on the major channels like Facebook and Twitter, but don’t forget to tailor your listening to the places where your particular customer base is talking.

What: It is overwhelming to think of having to listen to the entire social universe – and it’s not really necessary. Do tune your listening to the places where customers are talking about their experiences with your brands, especially review sites. Don’t bother tracking every cat video – unless, of course, you sell feline accessories.

Who: Don’t assume that all of your customers use or don’t use social media the same way. I’ve seen many brands target their listening efforts only to younger demographics. In fact, older “Silver Surfers” are spending as much time online as some younger groups. In the latest Ofcom survey, 42% of over 65s are accessing the web.

What Next: Brands might be able get away with listening and not immediately doing in the analogue world, but not in social forums. When you set up social sites – and even when you don’t – customers have an expectation that when they post something about their experience, you’ll respond. Quickly. And in a way that is consistent with your brand values and voice. Ensure that your social listening strategy is closely linked with your social engagement strategy. How and when will your company respond to negative feedback? Who has the authority to do so? How do particularly sensitive issues get escalated appropriately within your organisation? How do you respond to and recognise positive comments? How do you route feedback to the places within your companies that can derive value? Having a plan on what to do with what you hear in the social sphere is critical to the success of your listening strategy.

There are many places that a social listening program can add value – churn, increased spend and decreased acquisition costs (above), to more qualitative benefits such as improved brand reputation and enhanced awareness. But don’t limit your definition of “return” to traditional metrics only. Good social listening programs can glean intelligence that can improve just about every area of your business, from new product ideas, to identifying quickly emerging crises and trends, to spotting new competition and shifts in customer attitudes. And those kinds of insights are priceless.

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