This post is co-authored with Gargi Patel, Rosetta‘s new Director of Social Media. Gargi has spent several years as a community manager for large consumer brands and we’re fortunate to have her join the Rosetta team.
Everywhere in social media it’s clear: Listening is important. It’s probably the most important thing you can do to make the most out of social media, whether it’s for your business or for personal interest. It’s easy to start – Chris Brogan‘s posts on starting with listening channels make up an all-time great reference kit and should be Chapter 1 in the Great Social Media Reference Book. If every spammer read those posts first, they’d realize they have the wrong idea, but that’s another blog post topic. If “start listening” is Chapter 1, Chapter 2 should be all about motivation. Is the motivation for listening different for every brand? You bet.
Listening, qualifying and quantifying to channels in social media is going to yield different information for every company. A key to sifting through this is understanding the company’s brand perception and position in the market. Here are some factors that may influence how to move to the next step before turning listening into action.
1. Brand Development Lifecycle
Does the brand need to build a fan base or just largely maintain its reputation? For brands with a large public presence or existing polarity in the marketplace, robust analytics and tools with real time alerts are probably necessary. For very young brands or small businesses, free DIY tools on the web may suffice. The lifecycle of the development of the brand will influence the reasons for listening. For example, Budweiser is going to have different motivation for listening and perhaps require different tools than Magic Hat, a lesser known (and personal favorite) microbrewery based in Burlington, VT. Don’t forget that all of these tools can be used to listen to non-branded terms and competitors in the same way – the lifecycle of the brand will influence those too.
2. The Customer’s Level of Risk
How much risk does the customer need to take on to buy your product? Is it expensive, does it carry social risk (bad outfit) or have potentially big consequences (insurance)? The extent to which recommendations from an online social source are impactful depends on the degree of involvement in the purchase. Cars, insurance policies, and electronics are examples of categories which are highly researched prior to purchase. Online reviews and chatter in forums can be extremely beneficial or extremely dangerous for these types of items. Many lesser known items such as books or CDs can also be highly dependent on social reviews. On the other hand, a low ticket or lesser known consumer brand will have very different needs from its social media monitoring, and customers may be less concerned with doing research. Building brand awareness may be more important to these brands and subsequently influence what companies are listening for.
3. Brand Differentiation
Are purchase decisions based more on objective product or service features or based on emotional brand affinity? To a large extent, products/brands fall somewhere in the middle of this continuum, but many will lean heavily one way or the other. For example, most people choose a particular airline based on objective service, price and benefits. Some people buy computers based on an objective evaluation of features to price, but then there are brands that have built an emotional connection (Apple). Chocolate milk is a commodity, but a brand name can draw a premium based on brand affinity (Nesquik). Listening to why people differentiate brands will be key in developing an approach to engage those folks down the road.
How we listen, why we listen, and ultimately, how we use this information to engage with consumers will be different depending on the brand proposition. Does your company listen? What is your motivation? What else did we miss?
Photo credit: Okinawa Soba via Flickr