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How can social listening support marketing programmes and promotions?

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2nd Jul 2015
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Social media is rapidly becoming the main barometer by which to measure marketing success. More than this, marketers are not only using social to establish whether activity is resonating with target audiences, but also as a testbed before campaigns are even launched.

The attraction is simple. social media monitoring is much less expensive than traditional media channels for testing your marketing strategies; plus the real-time element means that feedback can be almost instantaneous, enabling organisations to be nimble and flag up any issues early.

The audience data that social listening tools provide, and the light they shine on your customers, is invaluable, says Laura Careless, research and insight strategist at marketing agency iCrossing.

“They allow you to easily measure engagement, advocacy and sentiment, while also giving thematic and linguistic analysis so that you really get under the skin of your audience.”

“Many of the popular tools also pick up on the tone of the communication, such as a positive review or negative comment,” adds Daniel Flounders, digital marketing executive at ramarketing. “As well as this, these services can identify and chart the frequency of specific keywords or mentions – a great way to measure how much discussion and/or sharing is taking place around a particular product or promotion.”

Impact assessment

Measuring campaign ROI can often be fraught with complexities, and nowhere more so than in the world of social media. However, maturing technology has meant that ROI measurement is becoming more transparent.

In particular, the emergence of built-in dynamic analytics and insight tools found in many of the main social networks, has provided marketers with an effective way to measure the success of campaigns, says Flounders.

“Many of these tools now give brands the chance to assess the impact of their campaigns through a number of metrics such as reach (how many people have seen the content), engagement (how many people have actively clicked on or shared the content) and insight into how many people are now following or ‘liking’ the brand’s various profiles,” he says.

One of the other benefits of social listening is that it enables brands to test their marketing programmes and promotions before they launch, by using the data gathered to either verify the approach or make adjustments.

“It allows you to get into the hearts and minds of your consumers and potential consumers in a non-intrusive way,” says Cathy Crawley, head of social media at Ingenuity.

“You can segment your target customers very specifically by demographic. You can then analyse the nature, content and volume of conversations about your products/services and your competition. From this, you can build a strong picture of what your target customers like and dislike. Similarly, you can build a very clear picture of the tone and style and language they use and respond to. You can reach out and ask the opinion of those who emerge as strong advocates or detractors.”

Social listening tips

Social media monitoring can be used to quantify and qualify the success of your marketing programmes, but it’s essential you do your research first, to make the most of the tools at your fingertips.

“Use consistent vocabulary and phrasing, including hashtags, to make it easier to find your brand’s marketing message,” suggests Careless. “Know your audience, know your market, get to grips with the vocabulary they use about you, and don’t end up competing with One Direction for a hashtag.”

Lisa Barnett, social media services director at Emoderation, says that interpretation is key, as the tools are only as good as the people using them.

“A tool is reliant on the data that comes into it so it’s essential to have an experienced social listening team to filter this data and interpret it into meaningful analysis,” she comments.

“It’s also important to take a targeted approach. By using the power of social listening tools, brands can pinpoint trends to know when and where to spend their marketing budget. Instead of adopting a ‘throw money at the wall and see what sticks’ approach, you can have targeted spend to ensure the right customers see your promotion.”

One mistake to avoid is purely focusing on your own organisation’s campaigns. Social listening also enables brands to monitor competitor’s campaigns, so that enterprises can monitor reactions relating to their efforts, and how response differs in terms of volume, demographics and sentiment.

“One thing you should be aware of is when and where they are praised and how you can use this to reflect on your own campaigns, including where/how you could improve, with real insight to back it up within your own business,” remarks Crawley.

“Equally, you should be looking at negative sentiment and how you can use that to talk directly or indirectly to dissatisfied consumers to gain the market advantage. Other things to bear in mind include how engaged is your competition on their social channels? Do they respond to negative and positive comments, or do they ignore them or ask them to call or email customer service? This knowledge can then be used to engage with your customers in a way that is more timely, caring and genuine.”

According to Flounders, social media monitoring opens up a whole new window of competitor analysis.

“Relevant campaigns can be tracked to see whether they are engaging with their, and your, target audience, how many people they are reaching and how people are reacting. Customer feedback can also be monitored, allowing brands to see what consumers are saying about competitors’ products/services, and if there are any opportunities to reach out to disgruntled customers.”

Integrating information

However, it’s important to remember, that social feedback shouldn’t be used in isolation when testing campaign - and there are risks involved for those that do.

“Social feedback only takes into account the population who regularly use social networks – traditionally a younger crowd – who proactively engage in discussions around marketing campaigns and promotions,” warns Flounders. “Depending on your product or service, this may be ideal, however care should be taken to ensure social feedback isn’t your only source of opinion when testing out new campaigns. Feedback derived from this source can also differ in reliability than that of traditionally-sourced information.”

Crawley adds: “It is critical to never use social feedback in isolation – it should always be used in conjunction with other more traditional methods of testing and monitoring results, such as research or web/email analytics.”

But those that heed these warnings have a powerful tool at their fingertips. In fact, social listening has become such an important part of the marketing toolkit that those neglecting to employ it are putting themselves at a distinct disadvantage.

“It scares me in this day and age that some brands and marketers are not using social listening tools,” notes Crawley. “You don't even need to spend money to be listening; you can simply search each social channel directly. As a marketer or brand manager if that is not already part of your daily practice you need to train and get with it fast. I don't think you can sustain a career in this industry now without those skills.”

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