Companies and marketers are increasingly turning to social media, or “new media,” to promote their brands and communicate with their customers. And in light of undeniable trends, how could they not? A successful Social Media Strategy incorporates both outgoing messages and social media monitoring.
Adult Internet users in the U.S. spend more time visiting social networking sites
and blogs than anywhere else online, according to a recent report by Nielsen. Research
highlighted by NM Incite and Nielsen in their Q3 2011 Social Media Report indicates
that four out of five adult Internet users now visit social networking sites and
blogs, spending nearly a quarter (22.5%) of all Internet time there. This exceeds
the time users spend on gaming (9.8%), email (7.6%) and search (4%) combined and
is more than double the amount of time spent on the number-two category, gaming.
Many companies that previously took a “wait and see” attitude toward social media
are beginning to realize it is not a fad and is not going away. As Mark Zuckerberg,
the founder of Facebook, famously said at the Web 2.0 Summit in 2010, “Social is
here to stay; get on the bus!” As it turns out, he knew what he was talking about.
According to Nielsen, Americans now spend more time on Facebook than any other website,
totaling more than 50 billion minutes on the site in May 2011 alone.
A Blessing and a Curse
New technology inevitably brings with it new situations, new challenges and new
opportunities. For online retailers specifically, social media represents an unaccustomed
way to reach and attract those consumers who purchase products and services online.
Nielsen’s Social Media Report shows that 70 percent of active adult social networkers
also shop online – 12 percent more than the average adult Internet user.
Social networks are also home to what marketers might consider the holy grail of
online shoppers: the “influencers.” Influencers are social media users with extensive
reach (large social networks with huge numbers of friends, followers, etc.) and
an ability to influence consumer behavior. The brand-friendly ones are sometimes
called “brand advocates,” “brand evangelists,” or “super fans.” These are individuals
who actively promote brands online, taking actions such as becoming a fan of brands’
Facebook pages, following them on Twitter and writing about them or their products
in posts or blog entries.
The flip side of the brand-advocate category includes “detractors,” “naysayers,”
and “trolls.” You are probably familiar with detractors and naysayers, who differ
little online and offline, but unaware of trolls, who are specific to the online
world. Trolls are individuals who post controversial and/or inflammatory messages
or content online, with the primary intent of provoking users or brands and disrupting
conversations. Basically, they make trouble for the sake of creating chaos as opposed
to expressing genuinely strong feelings.
Companies are quickly learning that they ignore online chatter – whether positive
promotion from brand advocates or nasty comments from detractors – at their own
peril. You may not be able to control what people say on the Internet, but you can
listen and respond. As such, “listening” via Social Media Monitoring is becoming
a key component in social media strategies.
Social Media Monitoring, sometimes referred to as social media CRM or online reputation
management, includes the real-time monitoring of company name, brands, relevant
keywords, competitors, etc., across popular social media websites. Social media
monitoring services run the gamut in cost and capabilities, from free and minimal
to costly and extensive.
Regardless of cost or capabilities, the crucial element of Social Media Monitoring
is employing some kind of method and technology to keep yourself educated on the
“ground truth,” or the word on the street – what your customers are actually saying
about you and others in your industry. This then provides the opportunity to understand
consumer wants and behaviors, refute negative claims, learn of competitor activities
and support positive buzz.
Social Media Monitoring also gives you access to comments and stories you might
otherwise not hear. Just as people are more likely to complain to a friend about
a problem they encountered at a store than to actually file a complaint at that
store, so too are they more likely to post a comment on Twitter, Facebook or a blog.
Ultimately, the Internet and new media are very much like the Wild Wild West: while
dangers lurk, there are still tremendous opportunities for those with foresight
and willingness to work hard to harness the possibilities. Not all the rules have
been determined, and not all the metrics have been created, but finding a solution
to “hear” what is being said online can be a great first step to understanding the
environment and laying the groundwork for success in the world of new media.