All hail the Internet: Information that used to take months or weeks to disseminate can now be retrieved in real time, with minimal effort. Everything from layoffs or personnel changes to sales results and product information can be broadcast via Twitter–and received–almost instantaneously.
How things change. When I first started out as a sales guy, amassing information on prospects used to require phoning companies’ headquarters and requesting a copy of their annual report. At some point, said report would arrive and you’d comb through it, hoping for details of upper-level managers and business trends, any of which might give you an opening for a cold call.
Today, of course, such information is instantly retrievable via corporate websites, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and their like, and it’s led to huge increases in sales productivity. But still, how can you know if the information that you retrieve online–especially via social networks–is accurate, or even believable?
Beware Judging Books By Covers
Here’s a case in point: For April Fool’s Day this year, we ran a post about Innoveer’s acquisition of a fictitious Italian software development shop named Onagio. But the post led to at least one actual business development offer from a consulting firm that wanted to help us manage the acquisition.
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I’d suspected that an April Fool’s post involving a company selling software to enable Twitter from 3270 terminals and Facebook for Palm Pilots might garner a bit more skepticism. Then again, information disseminated online–including via social media–can lose its nuance, especially when it jumps between mediums or cultures.
For example, a classic Onion piece recounted how Neil Armstrong had been convinced by a conspiracy theorist that the moon landing was faked. Then the story, after being translated into Bengali, was run as fact by two Bangladeshi newspapers. They later apologized for not fact-checking the story, as well as not clocking that the Onion only serves up satirical news.
Get Social Media Monitoring Smarts
The bigger point: Listening to and monitoring online information, especially gleaned from social networks, takes a well-tuned ear. Per the classic New Yorker cartoon, on the Internet, still nobody knows you’re a dog. Of course, don’t tell that to the fake Onagio CEO Aristotele Onagio, or CFO Valeria Onagio, who’ve already amassed healthy followings on Twitter.
That distinction is useful, because too often, marketing and “influence relations” professionals forget the keep the “social” in social media, says Vanessa DiMauro at Leader Networks. But freeing your social media professionals to actually have discussions–even if it potentially means deviating from carefully scripted messages–is essential, not least because customers have well-tuned ears for whether they’re engaging in real conservations, or simply getting hit with canned marketing-speak. (Hint: they prefer the former.)
“When professional communicators know how to ask questions, solicit feedback, offer answers and build relationships based on discovering what is on each person’s mind during their discovery and decision process, the organization can have far more influence, can clarify the firm’s position, overcome objections, dispel myths and respond to hidden agendas,” says DiMauro in a recent blog post.
Automating Sentiment Analysis, If Not Sarcasm
Of course, social networks offer up many, many opportunities for engaging in conversations, and companies often need some help when it comes to the process of listening, monitoring social networks, and identifying where and when to initiate those types of discussions.
To help, many of our customers have begun tapping Radian6, which allows you to listen to customers on social networks, analyze what they’re saying, and then engage them using Salesforce CRM software. Radian6 even provides sentiment analysis for tweets and posts, to help companies quickly corral which communications are negative, neutral, or positive.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any built-in sarcasm analysis capabilities. But we’re pleased to announce that we’re working closely with Radian6 to debut that capability next year. Stay tuned for the official launch on April 1, 2013.
How can companies master social networks to not just boost their brand appeal, but enhance marketing, increase returns, and improve service? Start by mastering CRM best practices. To help, we’ve assembled a list of the top 10 questions that any executive should be asking about their organization’s marketing, sales, or service program.