There are 2 ways to cut through the noise on Social Media. Only one works.


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The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” What he didn’t account for was the digital revolution. The danger isn’t so much the mouth, but the fact that humans also have ten fingers, and those fingers do a lot of talking! Nowhere is this more prevalent than the world of social media. In 2013 Facebook surpassed one billion users, which translates to about 3.7 billion likes and comments per day. There are an estimated 400 million tweets sent each day on Twitter; that’s 146 billion tweets a year. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what percentage of those posts were customers or brand mentions?

According Gleanster research, 95% of marketers report social media channels are a regular part of the marketing mix. The problem is, these channels are also overwhelming to manage. That’s partly because of the nature of the data that’s collected in social media; it’s a massive volume of unstructured data. It’s a mishmash of text, numbers, symbols, and hyperlinks. On top of this, a great deal of the information is repetitive (re-tweets on Twitter), some of it is fake or automated (anonymous accounts and SPAM), and it resides on an ever-expanding landscape of new and emerging social media sites. The problem is, your customers are talking on social media channels and you can’t ignore them. Social media is an avenue your customers use to influence friends, voice concerns, give reviews, make recommendations, and more. Are you listening? Scratch that; how do you listen?

Gleanster Research State of Social Listening

Social media is full of data that has no bearing on the decisions you will make in your organization, but hidden in all this data are insights that can have a very material impact on your marketing, product development, and customer satisfaction. Therefore, the value of social media is largely contingent on the quality of the information your organization can extract in a timely manner. There are two approaches to social media listening, and both have merit depending on the nature of the target audience: social media management & social listening. According to research, Top Performers actually deploy a combination of these two to maximize the value of the voice of the customer on social media channels.

The Layman’s Approach to Social Media Monitoring

Some companies approach social media listening from an engagement perspective and call it social “monitoring,” meaning that they value a way to quickly respond to relevant social communications. The most common way this is accomplished is through an ongoing (and sometimes resource intensive) process whereby one or more marketers engage customers via a social media management platform (such as HootSuite or TweetDeck). Social media management platforms offer marketers a vehicle for outbound and inbound social communications across multiple social accounts. Historically they also represent one of the more affordable avenues for social media engagement, making them easy to justify internally. However, they have limitations. These platforms deliver a narrow view of the voice of the customer because marketers can only monitor a handful of very targeted feeds based on a single keyword, hashtag, or the nature of the communication (RT, mention, etc.). Furthermore, these tools monitor and aggregate information in real time and deliver these insights to the dashboards like a stock ticker, so it’s largely up to marketers to ensure that they actively monitor and respond in a timely manner or risk overlooking a critical opportunity to engage. According to Gleanster, 74% of organizations in the “2013 Social Listening Gleansight Survey” deployed social media management tools. But what traditionally differentiated the Top Performing organizations from Everyone Else was taking social media monitoring a step further with a more robust social listening platform. In fact, 53% of Top Performers reported that they used both types of tools to listen to and engage with customers.

The Methodical Approach to Social Media Monitoring

Social listening platforms allow marketers to narrowly define listening rules and conduct analysis across the entire realm of social media. This could include criteria such as industry-specific keywords, sentiment, brand mentions, and engagement. What differentiates these platforms from social media management tools is the ability to aggregate insights over time across multiple social media channels and centralize this data for analysis in a single location. The point is to focus on a small subset of highly relevant data, tuning out the noise prevalent in social media. Dashboards in these tools help chart trends in volume, tone and topics, and many also have sophisticated categorization capabilities that allow users to drill down to read posts relevant to specific criteria.

What Can You Learn from Social Listening Tools?

Let’s take a look at the type of insights that can be extracted from a listening platform. These insights are obtained by configuring the tool to collectively evaluate multiple criteria at one time and deliver these insights in an aggregated dashboard view that can drill down to individual contributions on social media.

  • Product Development: Learn about features customers value or desire.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Isolate negative comments and resolve them quickly. Collect and aggregate positive customer comments.
  • Product Launch: Determine which demographic regions are actively discussing problems a specific product or service can solve. Target these regions in the product launch.
  • Brand Sentiment or Customer Advocacy: That’s an obvious one. Based on the number of times people mention the brand and the nature of their sentiment (positive or negative) you can determine whether there are issues you may need to address or ways to engage influencers.
  • Customer Communities: Isolate influential brand advocates and engage them for access to their network.
  • Marketing: Learn which words customers use to reference problems. This could be valuable in future communications and messaging.
  • Media and PR: Find out which media outlets are covering topics relevant to your brand.
  • Employee Training: Identify example customer interactions for new employees in sales, service, and support.

Final Thoughts

According to Gleanster, 72% of Top Performers indicate that the need to disseminate insights from social media to the right individuals is a strategic imperative in 2014. Of these same companies, 97% indicate the number one reason to invest in social listening is to improve customer service and satisfaction. At the end of the day, it’s really not just about listening; it’s about learning. It’s about isolating the insights that really matter to engage customers in meaningful ways. Done correctly, social listening allows marketers to systematically weed through the noise in social channels to listen to the voice of the customer efficiently and effectively.

Blog Post Compliments of: Clarabridge

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Michiels
Ian Michiels is a Principal & CEO at Gleanster Research, a globally known IT Market Research firm covering marketing, sales, voice of the customer, and BI. Michiels is a seasoned analyst, consultant, and speaker responsible for over 350 published analyst reports. He maintains ongoing relationships with hundreds of software executives each year and surveys tens of thousands of industry professionals to keep a finger on the pulse of the market. Michiels has also worked with some of the world's biggest brands including Nike, Sears Holdings, Wells Fargo, Franklin Templeton, and Ceasars.


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