Listening Equality is for SUCKERS

In our previous blog post, Social Conversations: Don’t be a Blowhard, we proposed that to succeed in today’s interconnected world, you need to listen to what the marketplace is saying. A spray-and-pray strategy whereby you blast an email or news release and hope that a few people come to your website never was a good tactic and is just bad marketing at this point. We’re numb and bored.

Today, marketing success demands uncovering opportunities in a complex network of social conversations beyond your control, but not outside of your influence.

But what exactly are these "conversations"? And what are the business opportunities one can obtain from these conversations?

Many Conversations, Meaningful Opportunity
The conversations are multiple. You must listen to conversations on social channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well as on blogs and online news stories and the comments posted on these sites.  As for the opportunities, well that depends. Is your goal to track the "mentions" of your company, your brand, or relevant keywords? The "sentiment" of these mentions?  Or, is it to discover what topics are trending and the people or media outlets participating in these discussions so you can share your own news, curate other peoples’ news, comment on appropriate blogs and news stories, and connect with appropriate influencers?

All are important and each can make or break the reputation and impact of your brand online. There are a variety of technologies available to marketers to accomplish these goals, but unfortunately no single technology does it all.  Here are some social technology categories you want to be aware of and the differences between them. 

Sentiment Analysis
Sentiment analysis allows you to track attitudes towards your brand or product. The goal of sentiment analysis is to assign a given social media comment with a degree of association to three basic categories: positive, negative or neutral. Sentiment measuring software is still in its infancy yet is a critical requirement for any consumer brand and software like Radian6 is an early leader in this field.  But for most B2B companies there are not enough discussions about your brand to merit a large investment in sentiment measuring software. Setting up alerts for your company or brand on free software like Tweetdeck, Twilert, Hootsuite or Google News alerts is sufficient.

Social Monitoring
Don't confuse monitoring with metrics. Monitoring typically refers to tracking the conversations people are having about you, or the topics important to you, while metrics refers to measuring the impact you’re having by analyzing things like visits, tweets, registrations, and so on. The primary goal of social monitoring or listening software is to monitor the mentions of your company or the keyword topics important to your business. With this information you can identify your champions, your critics, prospecting opportunities, etc. And respond accordingly.

If all you want to do is track "mentions" of your company or brand you do not need to spend a lot of money. The same free services described above are sufficient. Some others we like include Social Mention and Addict-o-matic. And if all you care about is Twitter just use Twitter's Advanced Search.   Some paid software as a service platforms like Hubspot and Radian6 (and way too many others to list here) can also help you automate your responses to these mentions using various 'triggers".

However, depending on your marketing and PR goals, social monitoring software (paid or free) may not be enough. For example, most of these technologies limit their monitoring to the 140 or so characters in a Tweet (or other social update) and this 'update' may not mention your brand or keywords but may link to content that does. But you'd miss it with basic monitoring applications. How often do you see tweets whose entirety is something like, “You have to read this!” followed by a link (shortened and without any inherent context to your brand). If that link is to your company or related to your topic or news, you want to know about it and the person tweeting about it, who may be a great target.

Another limitation of social monitoring technologies is noise. Let’s face it, most of what is being shared socially is, well, useless. It’s noise. Unfortunately even the most sophisticated social monitoring tools force you to wade through this noise to discover the few mentions or links that are important. This is especially the case with news alert services. A third limitation is that many social monitoring software technologies only monitor social. This may not satisfy the needs of marketing or PR departments that must monitor the broader and deeper conversations taking place online beyond the social networks, the context of these discussions, the types of people participating in these conversations and their level of engagement for a specific topic.

SocialEars uses the concept of a signature to identify
important information against a background of noise.

Consider military stealth technology where listening software is used to look for “signatures”. A signature is the echo of something identifiable or interesting. Often the object of interest itself is hidden in the noise of the environment. But the signature, if you can identify it, gives away its presence and also identifies the object. Social listening software that provides this level of “signature analysis” helps marketing and PR professionals identify meaningful business opportunities hidden in the background noise of social networks.  The point is that information leaves clues about its origin. SocialEars is an example of social 'conversation' listening technology that uses the concept of a signature to identify important information against a background of noise.

This deeper level of analysis affords numerous opportunities for marketing and PR professionals, from being able to spot trending topics, the people who are most influencing these topics, the most popular or shared content on these topics, who is doing the sharing, and getting insights into the topics most discussed by individual influencers or groups of influencers relevant to your product category. Knowing this information gives you a competitive advantage by allowing you to be smarter, faster and more effective in all aspects of you marketing and media relations. 

A new article by HRmarketer titled “Want People To Hear You? Then Listen” goes into more detail about Social Listening And Engagement Software and how these technologies can help marketing and PR pros. Get it here.

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