Social media monitoring is eavesdropping on public conversations to understand what’s hot, what’s not, what people are concerned about, what they’re talking about. In some ways, monitoring online buzz is like reverse market research. Instead of asking people what they think in a survey or focus group, there are tools and services that allow you to read and view what they’re saying online in blogs, comments to articles, posts made to forums and places like Twitter.
In the “old days” there were clipping services. Now there are amazing tools that gather and capture the relevant information you want about what’s being said about your company, your brands, your competitors and even individual people.
Why monitoring social media is important
1. Lead generation. More marketers are recognizing that effective lead generation isn’t about firing out the most messages. It’s about getting the right message to the right prospect at the right time – which may be after that person has already engaged in some type of social media encounter with your brand and your customers.
2. Reputation management by getting a fast pulse about customer issues, frustrations, complaints so you can get those issues resolved.
3. Identifying brand fans and vocal customer advocates who spread positive word of mouth so you can nurture these free “sales reps”.
How to monitor social media
Some companies specialize in offering tools and services to make it easy to monitor what people online are saying about your brand and your competitors. Some of these tools are free, others are tools and services that you pay a fee to use. What’s helpful about the tools/services is they will save you a great deal of time and your email inbox won’t be clogged with all sorts of alerts. Instead, you’ll have a dashboard to monitor what people are saying about what matters to you most. That may be your company, your own name, your executives, your competitors, your industry or specific brand names for products or services.
You especially want to identify and monitor people who are “Brand Advocates” (also called brand fans or people with Brand Love).
People with Brand Love are people who love a brand so much they spread positive word-of-mouth. You can create brand fans for your small business, product or service.
Cautions about Social Media Monitoring
This shouldn’t replace market research. Why? You are essentially only hearing from “extremes” on social media: the people who love something and the people who are complaining. It’s helpful to monitor brand popularity (or not) but social media monitoring tools/services are not very helpful for understanding customer satisfaction, new product acceptance, and test marketing. They should compliment, not replace market research.
The 90:9:1 rule. 90% of people on social media sites and forums observe and listen. They don’t share anything. Of the 10% that do contribute something, 9% seldom contribute (make a comment or post something). That means if you are monitoring social media you are hearing from just 10% of participants and the vocal minority has the microphone most of the time. Are they representative of all your customers? Doubtful.
TIP: A good complement to social media monitoring tools/services is a type of exploratory research that combines the benefits of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Use Market Research techniques and tools to gather and analyze customer and prospect feedback.