If you’re a traditional marketer working for an established brand, social media may seem like uncharted territory. It is a field that has developed in a compressed time frame and which continues to change at breakneck speed, so it can be hard even for specialists to keep up with the latest trends.
Against this backdrop, your first move when you construct a social media strategy should be to take a step back, to watch and listen before you act. Social listening is the beginning point of any successful social media strategy – so here are a few ideas about putting a social listening plan in place.
Find out what people are saying about you
Before you can listen, you need to know where the conversations are taking place. Some might seem obvious – like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – while others may not. For example, depending on your industry, your most passionate advocates and detractors may be talking about you on blogs, specialist forums and messaging boards, and comment sections on industry and trade publication websites.
Listen out for more than your brand and product names
Social media users might talk about you and subjects relevant to your interests without mentioning your brand name. You should tune your listening tools to keep an ear open for common misspellings, abbreviations and nicknames for your brand and products. You should also be listening for keywords such as the names of your competitors as well as products and services related to your industry to gather some valuable intelligence.
Make listening a company-wide endeavour
It’s good to have a specialist team tracking social mentions of your brand, but the more ears and ears you have open the better. Make it easy for everyone in your organisation to report social mentions of your brand to the team managing your social strategy.
Find out who the influencers in your industry are
In every industry, there are those people who have established themselves as influential contributors. They often have large followings on Facebook and Twitter, publish regularly to blogs and speak at conferences. Spend some time learning who they are and keep tabs on what they’re saying since they are regularly talking to your customers and potential customers.
Create categories to organise mentions
When people discuss your brand on the social web, they’ll discuss any number of topics. Assign categories and label content into categories to make it easier to understand and report on the things people are saying about you.
Draft reports to shape future marketing
On the subject of reports, pull information such as sentiment analysis, total mentions, most active networks and pain points into concise reports at a time interval that makes sense for you, be it weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. By presenting and distributing these reports to the marketing team and management, you can keep them posted about how consumers see your brand as well as build support for your social media strategy.
Create a crisis management plan before it’s too late
You may pick up the beginning of a crisis while listening to social channels, and you should be ready to act. So get legal, PR, marketing, and customer support into a room to brainstorm potential crisis situations as well as how to react to them.
Automate what you can, but don’t remove the human element
Social listening tools can automate a lot of the tedious work such as tagging certain keywords and assigning mentions to users based on subject matter. But don’t leave everything to the computers. Be aware, for example, of the fact that sarcasm and irony might trip up your social listening tool.
Nothing can replace the insight of a human when analysing a trend that emerges from social listening information or the empathy of one of your people in interacting with a customer.
Gordon Geldenhuys heads up the Online Reputation Management division of Acceleration Media – www.accelerationmedia.co.za