Brands have realized that social networks offer an opportunity to interact directly with consumers. They create pockets of communities where like-minded people share information and seek advice. But many marketers are too quick to create a Twitter or Facebook account and proclaim "Mission Accomplished." Beyond just trying to interact a tweet at a time, often a more direct road to social succes is to engage with customers more comprehensively in other locations - and social listening shows you the way.
There are a number of tools that can assist with identifying these opportunities, but the challenge isn't collecting the data, it's aggregating the results and knowing what to do about them. For example, the benefit of using a professional tool such as Alterian SM2 is that it shows the distribution of conversations across all channels. Each can be drilled into and examined in detail.
Using a professional listening tool will make your social engagement efficient and effective because it's much easier to pinpoint results and gain insight on:
• Content ideas
• Locations of communities online & offline
• Influencer identification
Uncover Content Ideas
Before jumping into creating accounts on every social network possible, brands need to stop and consider their big picture marketing messages. Marketers need to create content that provides value to consumers across all points of the buying cycle: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Repeat Purchase, Advocacy. A social media listening tool can help uncover those questions.
Many brands are quick to jump into creating accounts without considering what they have to give to that community. They just want to know how social media can help THEM, and that's the exact opposite way they should be looking at the equation.
It's important to create content that people will embrace and share. Content creation and curation is how helpfulness is often defined now. The focus is not on the company's message, but on the needs of the customer and their community. There's a fine line between helping and selling.
Atomizing content is also important. Create content in a variety of formats and place it on shareable sites so that it's easy to find. Utilize sites such as YouTube, Slideshare and Flickr to create channels for your content.
Locate Communities Online & Offline
It's impossible to join every social network and maintain an active presence. So why bother? Instead, identify online communities where people have a need for your products and services. Joining those networks will provide the greatest impact for your efforts. Don't forget to search for your competitors, and your industry at-large. If you know what differentiates your products then you'll be able to interact in a socially acceptable way, even if the dialog started out being about a competitor. You'll be pleasantly surprised that people are often asking for multiple vendor options.
True brand advocates are your most valuable assets. A social media monitoring tool can quickly identify them. The quickest way to do so is to consider the data around each community. The tool will show the influencers along with the contact information. It's also possible to do so for the various social channels such as Twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
Once you know who is already in love with your product, you can activate this group by asking them to help you in specific, shareable ways. Ideally, your advocates then help you propagate your message and answer questions, functioning as volunteer marketers.
Social media is too difficult to focus your efforts only on random interactions on Twitter. In addition, use a professional social media listening tool to find the content ideas, communities, and advocates that can matter to your company even more.
Guest post by Connie Bensen, the Director of Community Strategy and Social Media at Alterian, which provides leading marketing products for the enterprise. She also blogs at http://communitystrategist.com.