Social media monitoring - or social media listening as it’s also sometimes called - is a way to collect real-time mentions of predefined keywords from the online sources.
The best social media monitoring tools gather data from a range of online sources: social media platforms, blogs, forums, news sites, and websites, etc. The user chooses which keywords exactly they’d like to monitor, with the usual list including the brand's name (e.g., Ryanair or the Bank of Scotland), product or service name, industry, the name of the CEO, and competitors’ brands. The user is then alerted to any mention of their chosen terms across the digital sphere.
The main point of social media monitoring is to ensure you know about all the conversations online that surround your company - be it complaints, questions, praise, reviews or stolen ideas - but there's a range of ways you can use social monitoring to benefit.
In this post, I'm going to provide some key ways you can use social media monitoring to enhance your eCommerce efforts.
1. Customer service
It’s hard to believe, but people these days prefer to communicate with brands via social media more than via any other channel.
They won’t call you, they won’t come to your store and look you in the eyes, and what’s absolutely baffling is that they won’t necessarily email you either. Instead, they’ll say everything they have to publicly on Twitter.
Often they don’t even use a Twitter handle, because they forget to do so, or just prefer complaining to their followers instead of to the brand directly. This means that there’s no way for you to know about the problem unless you’ve got a social media monitoring tool configured to the right breadth of potential key terms.
Not only that, but people are also much more impatient when communicating via social media. 50% of customers expect a response to their complaint or query posted on social media within as little as two hours.
This may seem demanding, but brands should take note of rising expectations - Sprout Social reports that 36% of people will publicly shame a business, and 1 in 3 will switch to a competitor if it takes too long for a company to respond on social media.
A social media monitoring tool will show you all these messages in real-time, from all social media channels, on one dashboard.
Some tools also let you reply within the app. It’s handy, and it pretty much guarantees you won’t miss the opportunity to show your customer - and all his/her followers - that your responsiveness is top notch.
2. Brand reputation
It’s very likely that people are already talking about your brand online.
There are hundreds of review sites, forums and social media groups where all kinds of products are discussed. It's in your interests, as a business, to ensure that you know what’s being said about your brand online, and to know how to react to maximize profit, and minimize potential harm.
Again, a social media monitoring tool will highlight all reviews, opinions and other mentions of your brand. With this information, you can enhance your eCommerce efforts - though you do need to react to such mentions correctly.
The first rule of responding is to never reply a negative review with more negativity. If the user is right to be angry (and in most cases when she’s wrong), you have to apologize, explain the situation, and maybe even offer something as a compensation, like a discount.
In some cases you can respond with a humorous reply - the upset user might not be happy, but the audience that sees the response will be. That’s how, for example O2 handled a network breakdown that turned from a social media crisis to a case study of a social media success.
3. Lead generation
Lead generation through social media, or social selling, is another great way to enhance your eCommerce efforts.
As noted above, these days, most people look up a product online before buying, and also more likely to buy products because they’ve seen one somewhere on social media. If your products are not being mentioned online often enough to get noticed, it’s time to introduce social selling into your marketing strategy.
The workflow for this is simple - use a social media monitoring tool to find mentions of your product or service and reply to the general requests for opinions and requests for information.
There's a number of ways you can reply in a way that’ll bring in new customers. You can act as a company representative: explain why your product is better or offer a discount. Or you can act as a user sharing their opinion (so long as you’re honest in telling the audience about the product and your connection to the company).
The presence of such mentions depends heavily on your industry, so you should also keep in mind the second key point, which may be more applicable - whatever niche you’re in, you probably have powerful competitors.
These are the ones that get mentioned a lot online, and unless they’re absolutely perfect, I guarantee you that they have loads of complaints and negative reviews online.
This can be a source of infinite opportunities. Comment on these mentions explaining why your product is better, offer it as an alternative for people asking for one, and/or offer a free trial or a discount, or any other benefit that will make them switch.
Remember, you’re talking to your target audience, you’ve hopefully researched their needs and preferences and have ensured you have something to offer to these unsatisfied users.
4. Influencer marketing
An influencer is usually someone who knows a lot about your niche, who has followers that make up your target audience, and who talks with them about your similar topics to those you're targeting. Influencers don’t have to be stars known by million (although they, of course, can be), they can be popular among just a thousand people, but if those people are the ones most likely to be truly interested in your product, they could provide significant benefit.
The question is, how to find these influencers?
There are various methods in which you can find the right influencers - from conducting a search on your target platforms of your focus keywords, to using an influencer identification tool. Remember, what you're looking for is engagement, the influencers' ability to drive response - and ideally, action - not just the size of their follower count.
5. Customer Insights
Finally, social media monitoring can improve your knowledge of your customers.
Through effective listening, you can learn customer feedback without you have to ask for it - it can provide valuable insights into which social media platforms they use, what they think of your product or service, how it compares to your competitors', what features it lacks, and loads of other things.
Gaining consumer insight is a valuable strategy, in any context, and social media provides a whole new world of potential value, right there waiting for you to see.
These are some of the main reasons why, and how, you should be using social media monitoring to boost your eCommerce efforts. Experiment with these tips and tactics and see how they can improve your sales and outreach.