Too many people are still asking the question "What is social media monitoring?" for my liking. As a follow up to our Social CRM discussion last week, I'm making it the mission of this post to get small business owners seeing the value in keeping tabs on what's being said - across social media and online forums - about them, their company, their industry, their products and services, and even their competitors. The technology has been around for approaching 6 years now, to allow social conversations to be queried in retrospect - allowing business owners to really get under the skin of their target market. Never before has valuable customer insight been so accessible, yet not enough people know about it, let alone use it as part of their daily business operations.
There's a burgeoning and growing array of tools available, ranging in price, but with all too much emphasis on the larger corporations and brands, with their big budgets, and even bigger, more vocal audience online. Whilst it may seem more important to them, to keep tabs on their online reputation, as well as new marketing insights and opportunities, it's the SME that really needs the boost, and the access to such "big data". So what should you be looking out for, in terms of social media data and metrics, and how might small businesses get a foot on the social insights ladder?
Monitor your Volume
An important metric to any business and/or marketer is "share of voice". No matter how many competitors you have, it's the ones who generate the largest and most positive conversation that get the business. We all know the value of word-of-mouth marketing, so how do you stack up against your competitors, when it comes to generating mentions of your brand on social networks, blogs, new sites and forums?
Social monitoring allows you to identify the location of the conversations in your industry, and within your target market - be it geographically or digitally. You may identify completely new markets for your existing products, or prove demand for new products entirely. At least in knowing where the industry mentions are happening, you can decide to be where your market is, and "fish where the fish are".
Big data allows you to extract recurring keywords an topics from conversations, so you can match your product marketing materials and content to match the need. There's no excuse for guessing what your customers want, anymore. Go out and prove the demand for what you offer, and use the customer's own terminology and tone of voice, to get a better result from your marketing efforts.
Some tools allow for monitoring the sentiment expressed in conversations about your brand, arming you with the knowledge required to pen a response, or to mend your wicked ways! The tools offer varying degrees of accuracy in determining what is negative and positive, so be sure to take it all with a pinch of salt, and prepare yourself to get down and dirty in manually checking mentions, for the ones that really require a response.
Making social monitoring an inbound experience, for small businesses anyway, comes down to 2 options. Are you an inbox person, or a dashboard person? Google Alerts allows you to create searches for your brand and industry terms, and alerts you via email or RSS, to the latest mentions. It's not big, it's not fancy (the coverage is a fraction of that offered by paid, enterprise tools), but it's a start in the right direction, and shows the most visible mentions, according to Google. If you prefer to be interrupted via email, just pass it your address, and set a daily report. RSS dashboard your preference (requires some discipline in checking on a regular basis) - select the feed option, and pass it to Google Reader or your RSS reader of choice. The videos below may help.