Social Media Monitoring: A Glimpse At the Future

crystalballWarren Sukernek shared this presentation recently and it hit home on a variety of fronts. As we spend time with clients working through social media monitoring, we find more and more examples of how it’s not a precise science.  Sitting side by side with folks who work every day in detailed web analytics who continually look for ways to optimize PPC spend, our social media team has experienced first hand many challenges outlined in Marshall Sponder’s presentation.  Some points that resonated strongly:

  • Sentiment analysis today is too much like Quantum Physics
  • There is a lot of manual work to determine influencer lists
  • Social media monitoring tools are not capable of advanced meme clustering or semantic analysis
  • Clients ask all the time around geo-location – the science to identify local influencers and posts is crucial to many businesses and these tools aren’t anywhere near perfect
  • Great to see Ken Burbary‘s Wiki of Social Media Monitoring Solutions getting some props

As for predicting the future? Integration to CRM and web analytics, factoring in new technologies like Google Sidewiki, and evolution to standard business intelligence practices.  Keyword tools will help down the road too – curious if the same that help with PPC and SEO optimization will apply here.  This is a practical, thoughtful guide on where social media monitoring has room to mature.  For now, my experience is showing that labor (smart, social media savvy, analytical folks) is making up the difference, but it’s challenging to “read the tea leaves.”  What is your experience?

Photo credit: seanmcgrath via Flickr

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The Intersection of Social Media and CRM

prioritiesAt first glance, it seems obvious.  Customer Relationship Management and leveraging social media to connect and build relationships with customers are related concepts in marketing and business.  The attached slideshare is a great way to simply tie the concepts together.  I especially like the concept of customer Moments of Truth – where they have meaningful interactions with companies.  This presentation also does a good job at bringing together various digital concepts in marketing – paid search for acquisition up through leveraging social media channels for support and education.

My favorite slide that popped out at me is 27 – showing conversation mining for actionable insight.  Quite simply, that’s the single best reason for a brand to leverage monitoring in social media in the first place.  Spotted via Amnesiablog.com.

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People

The New Marketing Funnel

(Jointly authored with Rosetta‘s Director of Social Media, Gargi Patel)

The world has changed. We are in the midst of an unprecedented shift of power to the consumer fueled by the virtual megaphone handed to them through social media outlets. When a customer is angry or has a bad experience with a product or service, the old rule of thumb was that they told an average of 10 people about it. In today’s world some could easily be telling 10,000 (or more!). On the flip side, happy customers can be telling many more than the old average of 3 people about their good experience. Marketing executives just need to design initiatives that enable and activate them to do so. That shift can be represented through adapting one of every marketer’s favorite marketing conceptual frameworks, the funnel.

Infusing Engagement into the Marketing Funnel

With the expansion of the marketer’s toolbox to include social media, marketing is no longer about pushing out one way communications. The marketing world is no longer defined solely by impressions; it’s now a world of interactions. Today’s marketing includes the customer’s voice throughout the process, whether it’s intentional or not. Customers will talk online and comment on a brand’s marketing campaigns, products, services, and even how a company treats employees. It’s not enough to think about how companies communicate outwards; it’s just as important to think about how customers can communicate back, with each other, and arguably most importantly, with new prospects.

Rethinking The Funnel

A few years ago, Forrester Research published a report on “engagement” and suggested that the marketing funnel has become much more complex in today’s environment.  (See image.  Former Forrester analyst Brian Haven wrote about the complexities impacting the funnel in 2007).  While the influencing factors are more complicated, the same simple, visual framework as the traditional marketing funnel can be leveraged to show this complexity. The design needs to account for engagement throughout the process rather than looking at it through a lens of static messages we push out.

For example, traditionally, marketers look to create awareness by placing carefully planned messages across appropriate media outlets. Today, customers can create and spread their own messages about a brand through user-generated content and social networks. Traditionally, marketers would hope to influence customers in the “consideration” phase through strategic promotions and sales tactics. Today, user-generated ratings and reviews are frequently enough to convince a customer to make the purchase. Building loyalty is no longer just about loyalty points programs for repeat purchase or sending regular emails to customers. Building loyalty now means entering into a dialogue with them and letting customers participate in more meaningful ways than static customer feedback surveys or a constant barrage of emails announcing special promotions.

Extending the Marketing Funnel

The old marketing funnel generally followed some version of this pattern:

  • Awareness > Research/Consideration > Purchase / Conversion

With the widespread adoption of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in the 1990’s, marketers began focusing more on loyalty or customer retention and brought the funnel one level deeper. The customer’s voice was considered important, but only in the context of customer service and a closed feedback loop. The old thinking was that sending customers regular emails would keep the brand top of mind and that special offers would keep customers from switching to competitors.

As mentioned before, today’s marketers will need to build a more authentic, deeper relationship with customers by truly engaging them to earn their loyalty—and this is how companies can begin to cultivate advocates.

Figure 2: The New Marketing Funnel

It’s time to extend the marketing funnel one level deeper to account for advocacy. There are two reasons that cultivating and enabling advocacy is critical in today’s world:

  1. People trust other people more than they trust companies. A recommendation from a friend or family member is still the single most important criteria in making a purchase decision and recommendations from strangers online also hold more weight than marketing messages.
  2. With the growing voice of the customer online and the “power” (virtual megaphone) handed to them through social media outlets, it’s important to help make sure the voice of happy customers is louder than that of the few unhappy customers.

Cultivating and enabling advocates will generate authentic word-of-mouth, bringing the best new customer prospects into the marketing funnel. The ROI on that? Priceless.  (Rosetta does in fact have a framework to measure ROI on advocacy programs.)

What do you think?  Is this old news?  Would this help you construct a framework to measure social media initiatives or sell the concept of driving advocacy to executives?  How would you change it?

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Untapped CRM: Social Breadcrumbs

listeningpostMarketers have a lot of data. Online, they know where you live, what you clicked on, and what page layout (among other things) is more likely is going to drive you to make a purchase. They know what you searched for, what ads you saw and how long you spent on their sites. Signs are pointing to an elevated sophistication of using that data – get ready, because with the ability to combine your activities in social media with your online behavior, targeted, personalized approaches to marketing to you could be what’s next.

Exhibit A: CMO’s want to read the tea leaves

Mark Taylor, colleague at Rosetta, recently mentioned a study from the CMO Council that highlighted some key insight as to how CMOs feel they are deficient at understanding and leveraging customer data. Some key findings:

Marketers were asked about their top three areas of focus. Among the responses cited:

* 47% want to leverage existing resources to enhance customer communications.
* 41% would like to explore new customized communications technologies.
* 39% want to move marketing investments to Internet and mobile channels.
* 33% wish to improve behavioral targeting of advertising and online marketing campaigns.
* 32% want to adopt and use CRM and sales automation applications.

Exhibit B: Online activities reveal customer emotions and behaviors

I had a conversation earlier in the week with Evan Schuman, former retail technology editor for eWEEK.com and PCMagazine and author of the retail industry blog StoreFrontBackTalk.com. Evan recently posted a provacative article about how semantic information about a user’s activities could lead to more targeted marketing activities, and I’ve had it on my mind since.

Extensive analysis of a consumer’s Web interactions has been used for years to try and target pitches more effectively. But new research suggests that…every digital comment made by consumers anywhere—in a product comment, an IM, on a social network site, in E-mail and via, exchanges with a live chat tech support person, coupled with Web traffic analysis—can be mined for hints as to emotions and other thoughts.

What it could mean

Imagine what organizations who are savvy enough to tie their CRM data to semantic, social media content left as breadcrumbs out there. Evan rightly suggests that every consumer responds differently to emotion. When you’re sad, so you seek out comfort food or buy some new music? When you’re happy do you surprise your spouse at home with a gift? Could your social media activity be somehow tied, through emotion, prior history, or simply by subject, to your purchasing or brand buying behavior?

Some examples

Consider some possibilities. I’m sure we could come up with better ones together but here’s a stab at some.

  • In Twitter your posts could be mined for relevant information. Say, you have a cold and are under the weather, and you like to post about it as you are down in the dumps. Imagine a coupon for Advil Cold & Sinus showing up in your email shortly after you have a conversation about cold remedies, and a targeted ad on a news site gives you 20% off on a home humidifer.
  • In Friendfeed, you show a pattern of mentions about football in blog posts and comments, and favorited Youtube videos – and your favorite team wins the next playoff game. Knowing that when you are on an emotional high you tend to make an online purchase, retailers start showing specific discounted offers pop up on eBay and Amazon related to your team. Beyond the fact that the team won, taking it to the next level targeted people whose buying behavior changes at these peaks.
  • Imagine if in a Myspace posting you share the loss of a beloved pet. You start seeing ads and receiving offers for “comfort” items.

Evan responds,

What consumers receive is nothing bizarre: A pitch from Amazon or Borders or Walmart for a particular kind of product. But what they won’t likely know is that the pitch was prompted by … a MySpace posting the software thought “sounded sad.”

Technologically? This is quite do-able. Psychologically sound? If the software is done properly, yes, these predictive packages can be frighteningly accurate. But here are the big two questions: What about privacy and morality?

Sure there are many concerns about privacy, morality, and transparency. Is it going above and beyond using this type of data to target customers, or just the next logical evolution? It sure makes me think a little more about what I share on searchable outlets, but I am not so sure connecting me with the right products at the right time would be a bad thing. What do you think?

Photo credit: fenchurch via flickr

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