Listening To The Right Conversations?

My kids want a pet. So I did what any self-respecting parent would do and went online in search of the mammal/reptile/rodent that would cause the least damage to our current way of life. Within seconds, I came across a thoughtful recommendation from someone about the preferred diaper brand for pets suffering from incontinence.

Good to know. I'm by no means belittling the problem. It's clearly a bigger issue than I expected, and it proved, in the most graphic detail imaginable, what I have always believed: no matter what the issue, no matter what the product, the blogosphere is gold to marketers. The key, however, is to make sure that you're listening to the right conversations.

Whatever the conversation going on right now -- and it's surely going on, small or large, inconsequential or dire -- it's certain that in it there is potentially a germ of an idea, trend or thought that is actionable for a marketer.

Few Clients are Disciplined Listeners

Unfortunately, our clients and prospects are not disciplined about social media listening, and they're not alone. A recent CMO Council survey showed that just 16% of senior marketers surveyed monitor message boards and blogs. This is pretty stunning, since all of my clients generally acknowledge what's happening in the blogosphere.



Still, they tend not to fully understand how social media is impacting their brand, business and bottom line. Again, my clients are not alone; the same CMO Council study found that 60% of marketers believe that social media is having an impact. The number of marketers who believe in the impact grows daily, as more people adopt social media into their communication rituals. In fact, I recently received a friend request from my mom (a clear sign of its ubiquity).

Finding the Conversations

Finding these conversations is invaluable for our clients, so we're increasingly selling ongoing listening programs. We've been successful in explaining the importance of social media listening tools by showing them how such monitoring affects the bottom line. I have great admiration for our clients, which are challenger brands that have succeeded through courage and their ability to seize opportunities, take risks and move fast.

We view social media listening as an essential tool for collecting important business intelligence. Our clients continually find ways to outthink and outrun their larger, better-funded competitors because their success is based upon staying ahead, and not being caught in the shadows, of larger competitors. Part of outthinking is the ability to find different ways to ascertain consumer feedback on brands and insights into their industry, as well as the competition. These companies thrive and prosper through greater business intelligence.

Ongoing Monitoring Required, Especially Competitors

While our client brands tend to garner less chatter than their big competitors, we have developed methodologies that not only monitor what is being said about client brands, but equally important, what is being said about their industry, competitors and relevant consumer trends. Social media monitoring provides challenger companies with the ability to get an upfront examination of their larger competitors like never before.

We can now put ourselves in the underbelly of our larger competitors and ascertain real time perspectives about these companies. We can listen and derive real-time insights into what connects their competitors and their customers. We can eavesdrop into how large competitors handle their customer relationships through how they handle customer service, both positive and negative. And we can develop a deeper understanding of their customer relationship management strategy, positive and negative, including how successful they are at rallying loyal customers.

Whether it's identifying and leveraging trends, tweaking lead generation and CRM strategy or changing customer service protocols, we start and end the day by listening to the conversation.

3 comments about "Listening To The Right Conversations? ".
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  1. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, March 16, 2010 at 5:12 p.m.

    Social Media is not about conversations...yet. People posting and commenting is just that. When a topic has short sentence input like Facebook or Twitter from many people, yet each person only see one or two of the comments, who is conversing?

    Listening is different. Brands can gain lots of insight seeing what people are spouting off about. Problem is too much is drivel vs valuable.

  2. Christine Fife from Idiom Strategies, March 17, 2010 at 12:08 p.m.

    I must disagree with Howie's comment--Social Media is most definitely about conversations. If Scott had not raised this topic, Howie would not have been able to respond with his opposing view and I wouldn't be able to join the discussion with my thoughts. I'm going to share this blog post on twitter with people in my network and use hashtags on social media and marketing that I know people often look for when they're interested in finding out more about these topics. I participate in regularly scheduled Tweetchats each week with professional marketers, sales executives and technology entrepreneurs in the social space so that we can discuss ideas and spread them through other social media platforms (our blogs, tagging the transcripts through Digg and Delicious, etc.) so that others can read them and share them, etc. If all of that isn't conversation, I don't know what is.

    As for Scott's post, I do encounter people daily, on and offline, who still don't understand the importance of listening to audiences. With so many options for listening in the ever-growing world of social media, it's silly not to take advantage of it and put that information back into your product, business as a whole and your marketing efforts.
    Thanks for the post, Scott.

  3. Gregory Yankelovich from Amplified Analytics Inc, March 21, 2010 at 3:21 p.m.

    I support Christine's argument. Just because there is so much "noise", it does not mean that there is no conversation going on. The challenge is to learn how to tune a "signal" and to amplify its "fidelity".

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