Although many pundits believe that social business is all grown up (I am not one of them), I continue to be surprised by how many companies still deploy social media listening platforms without really understanding why they are doing so. How can you listen, if you don’t know what you are listening for? Most folks will tell you that they want to listen to what the market place is saying about them (a.k.a. brand listening), but once pushed, they will admit they are trying to gain executive mind share by producing eye-candy PowerPoint decks and sharing them with their managers. How many of you have found any insights in the results that you did not already know (e.g., our share-of-voice spiked during our earnings release, our positive sentiment dropped by 2 points when our largest customer sued us)? Do you really need to deploy a tank (e.g., Radian6, Visible Technologies, Alterian, Sysomos), when all you need a sling-shot (e.g., GoogleAlerts)?
For the record, I am not trying to put down these vendors, their solutions can be quite powerful if used properly, although for many of them user experience still remains a challenge. So what should you be doing instead?
Start with the business goals in mind
- Think use cases: There a myriad of analysts and consultants that are continuing to help us make sense of the emerging social business. The Altimeter Group published its second version of social business use cases earlier this year, Constellation Research has one, as do Forrester and now McKinsey & Company. Although I am not going to try and re-produce my own version, I want to highlight a few that are fairly easy to set up in most social media listening platforms and can help make this data actionable:
- Innovation: Can you get any interesting insights for what your customers might be looking for? Are there any big themes emerging for your industry?
- Marketing / PR: Are you using the social media listening platforms to monitor the effectiveness of your campaigns? Are you monitoring your competition looking beyond share-of-voice at the brand level? Are you monitoring real-time spikes in key metrics such as volume or sentiment to avert potential crises? Are you looking for potential influencers and communities to engage with?
- Sales: Are you monitoring the social media channels for potential leads? I think even if you are in B2B, you might be pleasantly surprised with what you find if you, for example, search for keywords such as your name next to that of one of your competitors, or with words such as ‘buy’, ‘compare’, etc.
Run some of these analyses and share the results with the right people in your company…which brings me to the following point:
- Think business, not social business (i.e., what the business cares about): I have long argued that social business will only succeed if we can produce measurable business benefits. While the consolidation in the pure-play enterprise social media vendors started a few years ago, enterprise software vendors outside the core social media space have also started to invest more aggressively (Adobe, Salesforce, SAP, Tibco and now Marketo, based on last week’s acquisition of CrowdFactory). This is encouraging for me as a consumer, since I hope it signifies the beginning of a shift as customers start to demand closer alignment of social media with their core business processes.
So here is my challenge to all of you: Don’t publish your brand listening report next month and see if you get an executive breathing down your neck as a result; you might be surprised. As always, I am very interested in your reactions and look forward to your thoughts…