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The business of social media: Online reputation management

Highlights
  • Online monitoring and listening generates actionable insights which gives brands a competitive advantage
  • There is no one size fits all social media listening tool available
  • Intelligence data helps understand the current social media engagement level of your brand
  • It is always advisable to fetch data from multiple sources

We have discussed in the previous part of this series that technology changes rapidly but humans don’t. Social media and social media networking science is an interdisciplinary field where the social part is intertwined with technological. Today’s customers are becoming more technology savvy with the evolution of social media.

Markets are being shaped by the customers’ demands and not by marketers and their products. With emerging new demands marketers need to stay ahead of customers to accommodate their needs or take lead in designing their future behaviour. On the contrary, most organisations are product oriented which is becoming a big concern for marketers to know the need.

Understanding the customer and obsessing over them becomes the most important marketing trait in order to recognise the new logic and make sure the brand and businesses have a stake in future economic climate. Social media listening plays a very crucial role in helping the marketers in this endeavour.

Importance of social media listening
The concept of online listening / social media listening states that at approximately every decade/regular intervals, customers develop new demand patterns (likings) that existing organisation find difficult to meet. Decades ago customers wanted access and material wealth and this fostered the era of mass production and mass consumption.

Today we are in the midst of a new migration between mass consumption era and new media where customers want personalisation (individualisation) and increased control. Social media listening or online reputation management (ORM) tools offers marketers a set of technologies enabling them to perform a certain set of action to measure the behaviours and preferences with a desired outcome. Brands need to invest in these technologies and take advantage of understanding the customers better by having one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many interactions across social media platforms and on world-wide-web.

Social media has transformed customer demand and exponential technological change is developing new habits and behaviours. Online monitoring and listening generates loads of data that needs to be analysed to get actionable insights, which gives competitive advantage.

Traditionally organisations are passive listeners – interacting with customers only when they reach out and buy the product. But marketers and organisations need to rethink their value creation – how can they help their customers capture more value through collaborating with them everyday? Online listening and monitoring will help marketers in this in a big way.

In the fast paced digital and social media world, measurement is the key to success. If we can measure our key business relationships, we surely can improve them. Though relationships are always fuzzy and intangible, but they can be measured and managed with powerful results.

With the maturing of the social network landscape, organisations are becoming more professionally active on social media, which leads to the need of developing tools to measure customers, social media reputation, influence, authority, the media and the other key constituencies and stake holders.

The foundation of any online effort is listening. Until unless you listen properly with right set of ears to understand what people are talking and why are they doing so, you cannot plan your next course of action in terms of deciding your online strategy. Social media is the medium to communicate through listening and engaging in conversation, which is online.

To consolidate the social media presence and control social media communication, one must have a strong and right foundation of listening. How one can select the right tool is the key to the online listening program. Every digital marketing company, social media agencies, market research companies is on the lookout for developing their own listening tool.

As the market is still developing, new refined tools appear and the existing ones disappear or get bought by larger companies (example Sales Force’s acquisition of Radian6). There are so many tools available in the marketplace that one gets confused, which is the right tool to decide. But as per my experience goes as a new age marketer, there is not one complete tool available that can meet your entire objective and need.

Choosing the right tool
There is no one size fits all tool available. A tool, which is suitable for an FMCG organisation, will not necessarily be the tool that is suitable for a BFSI leader or a pharmaceutical major. It depends on the specific need and expectations of the brand or organisation. Though there are many free tools available with demo versions followed with options for paid subscriptions, one needs to keep in mind the following factors while going for a listening tool:

Requirement – What does the tool need to do?
Define the need – Why is it important? What is the budget?
Long list – List out all your options and do the reference check with all the possible sources for their authenticity and deliverables
Sort your long list – After going through the reference for performance and customisation the top three can be short listed
The top three – You can start the dialogue with the final three which matches your price and speak to the vendor or directly with the provider of the tool
Trials are a must – It is better to ask for a free trial with your customisation in place before investing in the tool. You can compare the three tools, their advantages as well as limitations
Get one – Evaluate their performance and finalise the best one

While comparing the tools factors common or specific factors such as indexation, frequency, speed, sentiment, engagement, openness, reporting structure and style, alert and cost should be kept in mind:

• Which social media networks are indexed?
• How does it covers the traditional news sites?
• Does it cover videos and pictures?
• Whether it indexes articles or even comments?
• How it deals with aggregating data from other sites?
• How long does it store the original data?
• How fast does the indexation take place?
• What are the rules that the site offers to indexing bots?
• What SLA’s does it apply?
• Does it determine sentiments?
• How far does it determine sentiment and to what extent?
• How sharp a query can be set to prevent spam and noise?
• Can the user immediately respond online from the tool to specific queries?
• Does it offer a piece of workflow management?
• Is it possible to create different authorisation levels?
• How open is the platform?
• Is it possible to export or import business data swiftly?
• Is there an API available?
• Are there any third party applications or features that can be integrated in the tool for additional benefits and maximising the ROI?
• What the reporting formats and frequencies?
• To what extent  can these reports be customised?
• Can an alert be set?
• What type of alerts (SMS or email) can be set?
• What are the limitations in terms of extra volume, specific term, specific users, number of followers etc.?
• What kind of training is required to use the tool and what kind of support will be provided?
• Is there a dedicated support available, if needed?
• What is the cost?

Now let us discuss a couple of tools, which can be considered keeping in India as a diverse market with every region having its own set of dominant factors and limitations. Before considering any tool, set up your Google alerts which will help to have an insider understanding of the visitor demographics which will allow to identify the target demographic.

While global leading tools like Radian6 by Sales Force, Beevolve, Alterian (SM2), Meltwater, Rowfeeder, Sysomos, Crimson Hexagon, Vocus, Unmetric, Topsy, etc. are widely preferred and extensively used across the world. There are certain free tools with advanced paid options such as Hootsuite which is an easy to use tool to monitor Facebook, Twitter and other popular platforms. Social Reports is good for blog monitoring and Social Bakers provides the best insights for Facebook and Twitter. Crowd Booster is ideal for Twitter, Social Base, Blog Level and Tweet level offered by Edelman. Booshaka is good for Facebook insights and 48ers provides current trending across platforms. Social Mention provides real time search and analysis.

Recently I found Oracle SRM from Oracle quite useful, keeping in mind it coming from Oracle and the diversified data collection touchpoints it covers and its exposure to global markets. It delivers a seamless experience across listening, engagement, content creation, community management, paid media and the all-important analysis of a brand’s social media efforts.

Keeping in mind the social media context, for an organisation looking to engage economical social media listening arrangement, the ideal mix would be Topsy pro (paid) for monitoring Twitter and analysis; Hootsuite – free version if there are not many accounts for daily Twitter monitoring; Google Blog search which is free for blog mentions and Google News search with Google alerts free. This applies only for projects where result volume is not expected to high.

One can also use Rowfeeder while monitoring keywords on Twitter which connects with Google docs and feeds all mentions into a word doc for archiving and for in depth analysis. For sentiment monitoring across the web, Beevolve is a great monitoring tool with fairly low cost.

Using the information gathered
Listening and making sense of how our brand is living online is only one part of the equation. How we use that information to interact with our customers, fans, followers and other stakeholders is the next step in formulating the social media intelligence (SMI).

SMI Outcome

Let’s understand how SMI can be useful:

• To understand the current social media engagement level of your brand
• To get a foothold in the current/ongoing understanding
• To gather feedback/consumer insights
• To understand your competition/s social reach and rate of engagement
• To get customised and comprehensive analytics on your brands reach, online buzz, WOM counts
• Based on the analytics, SMI provides actionable insights
• The actionable insights will help you to decide the next level of social media engagement for your brand

It is always advisable to fetch data from multiple sources. As we know free is always limited and its not wise to rely heavily on a singular source. It’s always better to use a minimum of three tools that will give a slightly different perspective on the same metric or similar metrics that tell the same story.

We need to understand that many of these services are giving us free tools to persuade us to get their paid versions. So one needs to read between the lines, about the data that gets fetched through free and paid versions. I personally prefer the paid versions for the flexibility of data and reporting customisation that further helps me in meeting my objectives.

When it comes to looking at the amazing amount of data that can be culminated surrounding a brand online, it becomes really difficult to focus on the meaningful information. To escape from analysis paralysis, one need to define what exactly is expected from the data fetched from the listening exercise. In this regard, excel is always a reliable and a trusted friend.

It’s wise to keep track of the specific metrics we are looking at in a separate document. This will help us to have multiple data points of a longer period of time. This will not only help to get a larger picture of what is going on, but also can help us to see what tools really help us to find out what we are looking for and what tools may not be as dependable as we once thought. As we listen, monitor and get smart about our online/social media properties, as compared to competitors, we will begin to understand how to create and reach our goals.

Aroon Kumar

GM-Global Marketing, CRICHQ
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