A quick guide to social listening
If you haven’t been exercising your right to fast forward through commercials lately, you might have noticed a few IBM ads on TV about social analytics and how it will help ‘create a smarter planet’. Or you might have read Dell’s plans to expand their services offering with social listening for brands.
The adoption of social listening platforms has grown at a tremendous rate in the last three years, even though the technology has been around for a while. Dell didn’t unveil their famed listening command center until 2010. Why? Because it took early adopters like Dell, IBM and others to really understand how to use these platforms effectively and strategically.
When we started beta testing listening platforms back in 2006, our challenge was to cull out actionable information from a bunch of disparate data points. Key word mentions, share of voice and sentiment didn’t provide the level of granularity we needed to make actionable decisions. We knew that the human side could offer more insights than pure automation. Through trial and error, we developed a replicable process and approach to social listening that bridged technology and thought.
Today, brands have become much more sophisticated with social listening to drive engagement. A plethora of platforms are available to help with any number of the following programs:
If you are thinking about beginning a social listening program or recalibrating your current one, I offer a few tips to keep in mind.
Have a program goal in mind before you evaluate or adopt a platform.
Platforms have greatly improved their functionality and usability. However, they all have strengths, weaknesses and a breadth of offerings. Based on your goal(s), create a simple assessment tracker that allows you to look across and compare multiple platforms and evaluate them against your specific needs. I have included a sample below. Get your key questions answered along the way. Remember everything looks flashy and exciting in that first demo.
Don’t rely on data alone.
The output of social listening should be more qualitative than quantitative. Numbers give you a baseline, a cluster to investigate and a way to gauge if you are moving the proverbial needle. However, metrics in and of themselves are often interesting, but not always useful.
The real value lies in the interpretation of the results. Therefore assign a SME or partner to the project. Someone with deep knowledge and expertise on your products, services, target industries and audience personas will help make the leap from general observation à insight à opportunity.
Map out your approach.
I don’t know how many times I have heard, “Can I get a listening report?” Well, that could mean many things. Take the time upfront to figure out exactly what insights you’re looking for. Start by listing out your objectives for the program. It could be a simple list of questions you want answered so that you can:
Here is an example. Let’s say you want insights to drive your content marketing strategy for a particular product. Below are some key questions to ask:
Go beyond what is #trending now.
Mine content as far back as a year old. It may seem a little counterintuitive, but it is important to understand the development (or maturity level) of your topic areas so that your actions are relevant based on what your audience cares about. How has the social content on a particular topic or theme evolved over the course of the last year, compared to six months ago and compared to today? Have the conversations increased, stayed flat or dropped? This is where some of your metrics come in handy. Let’s look at an example below.
The goal of this particular project was to inform a content marketing roadmap in a specific industry. We wanted to create an effective content creation strategy relevant to specific points on the decision journey. We compared core topics by quarter over a year’s time. The numbers indicated greater traction for topics A and D, while B and C were emerging. By overlaying the context of the social conversation sample, we determined how they were talking in addition to how much. With aligned data points and context, we recommended that the content direction for A and D should be geared towards consideration and preference, while B and C would focus on promoting adoption and awareness. Below is a peek into what we found.
[Note: Some tools are limited in the amount of historical data they store so add this criteria to your evaluation checklist.]
Without question, social listening platforms are becoming business as usual. If you are currently struggling with your listening program ask yourself some key questions on your strategy and approach. If you are not currently listening, but know that you should have a plan in mind before you just dive in.
Have a question? I’m listening!
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It’s good to be popular. Once the forgotten bunch, social media managers are becoming increasingly popular as their brand and marketing colleagues clamor to get their baby some social media love.
Before you post, keep in mind we’re publishers now. And, with that comes great responsibility. It’s not just about keeping our internal clients happy, but our followers as well. It requires a careful balancing act.
Sure, there are conversation opportunities that are serendipitous and often random that can’t be planned in advance – after all, you want content in the mix that is disruptive and fun. But, that needs to be supplemented with an organizational framework that ensures that social engagement efforts are tightly integrated with an organization’s marketing, PR and communications plans. To do this effectively, you need to create, consult and maintain a content calendar (weekly, monthly) that serves as a roadmap for all social media efforts. What’s more, you need to share the calendar across the organization to get everyone onboard and to improve and extend your social reach and results.
With the New Year just around the corner, here are seven resolutions to make before you publish:
· Target accordingly. For each social channel and shared content, ask yourself: What am I trying to accomplish? Who are we talking to? What brand messages do we want to convey? Then, align and craft posts accordingly to ensure they are relevant and engaging to your various audiences.
· Take inventory. Audit the timely and compelling content that you have currently or that’s in the works. Create a worksheet to organize them into content buckets (topics) and types (news links, blog posts, poll questions, videos, infographics, e-books, events, etc.).
· Create themes. Pick topics or themes in broad categories that can be broken down into sub-categories. Align your theme accordingly based on the demographics/interests of each social network. The key to success is to decide upon a manageable number of categories, product areas or marketing promotions to focus on each month. Consider developing standing, recurring features (e.g. “Fun Fridays”). And, don’t forget the freebies: holidays, national observances, events and cultural happenings all provide opportunities to make connections and spark conversations. Authenticity is key: don’t make brand connections that feel forced. This approach provides a powerful framework to guide your efforts, spark ideas for compelling messages and identify potential content gaps.
· Sell softly. Shake things up, it shouldn’t be all about you. Social expert Paul Chaney recommends the 70/20/10 rule. 70 percent of content should focus on your customers’ interest and needs, 20 percent should be other people’s content and 10 percent should be promotional.
· Think visually. Countless studies demonstrate that visually compelling posts win – they are more engaging than links and typically get more conversations and shares than other types of content. What’s the picture that conveys the story you want to tell?
· Give them a reason to follow or like you. Compelling content remains king and can be enhanced by providing exclusive content, products, events and offers. Don’t forget to ask for feedback and recognize your followers.
· Continuously measure. Track and record results within the calendar to determine what works and what doesn’t, and adjust your strategies accordingly.
Keeping these approaches in mind will make the social content and engagement planning process less daunting, more efficient and effective. What resolutions would you add to our list?
Considering that South by Southwest® (SXSW®) is the “premier destination for discovery,” why wouldn’t ComBlu be first in line to participate in this cultivating event? That’s why we have sprung into action and developed three intriguing proposals for this year’s event. From content supply chain methodology to ROI and decision journey considerations, ComBlu (we hope) is focusing on the right topics that will interest today’s content marketers. But, we can’t do it alone. This year the competition for speakers is fierce with more than 3,200 proposals submitted. Here’s where you come in: whether you are heading to Austin or not this March, we need you to vote for the session that would be most of interest.
Act fast – the voting process ends on August 31! Simply visit the highlighted link below and give your thumbs up for the session of your choice (don’t forget to register – it only takes a moment).
Today content is a critical component of enterprise value. It’s a key differentiator for brands that know how to source, create and distribute it effectively. Yet, few organizations apply the rigor of the supply chain discipline to the sourcing, creation, logistics, management, distribution and measurement of its content value. Companies that source raw materials for the manufacturing process apply granular discipline at every point in the supply chain and constantly seek ways to improve logistics and workflow, cut costs, find new competitive advantage, and get to market more effectively. This same approach applies to the content supply chain, which McKinsey estimates has a sunk cost of tens of millions of dollars in CPC, OEMs and technology companies. Panelists will discuss real world issues in putting a content supply chain methodology in place and give practical tips for each of the five basic steps of content supply chain:
For years, the major baking brands all optimized their content to rank high for the most frequently searched term: “Chocolate cake.” But the real opportunity lay in optimizing for a term that was “own-able”…like princess cake. Building the right content measurement system can help brands find their “princess cake.” This is what happens when brands move beyond “activity metrics” and develop “value metrics” that show how to calibrate and optimize their content marketing strategy.
Panelists, Kathy Baughman (ComBlu), George Palatine (Allstate), Ekaterina Walter (Intel) and Rishi Dave (Dell) will share the innovative ways they are approaching content ROI. They will share tips for:
• Developing content KPIs
• Determining which content contributes to sales and which is a drag on performance
• Building a meaningful content dashboard
Customers and prospects want different kinds of information at different points of the decision journey. The right mix of created, curated and social content differs at each point along the way. And, where consumers look for information and conversation differs at each point in the decision process. It all needs to be calibrated for different segments of decision makers and influencers.
Moderator Chris Silva (Altimeter Group) and panelists Ekaterina Walter (Intel), Joe Chernov (Eloqua) and Kathy Baughman (ComBlu), will help the audience understand how to deliver the right content at the right place at the right time. They will:
• Show how to map content along the decision journey
• Demonstrate the authority of different types of content along the decision journey
• Share how to gauge quality content for different points in the decision process
• Show how the content of three brands align along the decision journey
Thanks in advance for your support. Fingers crossed!!!
Logging in. Linking In. Checking in. Pinning. Posting. For a social media marketer, it can be oh-so-exhausting. But, like a good social media doobie, you do it every day: Leverage your social media toolbox to bring to life compelling brand stories and perspective.
At times, the experience can seem daunting and disjointed for both the content marketer and the brand ambassador. Sure, we all have stories to tell, but how do we find the most relevant content and ensure that you are telling a cohesive story?
Fortunately, we’ve found a few nifty new tools that aggregate your content from multiple networks, creating portals in the cloud that help you curate the best content and potentially cut through the never-ending stream of status updates. While these platforms will certainly evolve as they mature, picking a favorite requires a bit of trial and error to determine the interface and approach that’s most appropriate for your brand. Our three favorites (in order of preference) are:
1. Storify puts the social web into context by curating the best story elements and content to create an embeddable, dynamic and shareable story highlighting the best tweets, photos, RSS feeds and videos about a particular subject. Say bye-bye to the time-consuming chore of cutting and pasting text and links and downloading and re-uploading photos. Instead, simply drag and drop the content that best brings your story to life. Storify initially took off with journalists who used the tool to quickly identify social media activity related to their news and then “storify” the most relevant findings. For marketers, storify enables you to engage authentically and in real time with industry news and real-world discussions relating to your product, brand or industry. Case in point: Avis’ customer appreciation campaign.
2. Glossi promises to create beautiful, living magazines about you. Think of it as a web-based version of Flipboard, only instead of creating magazines of your favorite content, it brings together in one place your activity on five social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and Tumblr). Each profile features a profile image, a Facebook-like cover background and immediately below, your shared music, videos, tweets, posts, check-ins and links. It’s easy to reorganize (or even delete) your featured content. Right now, it’s in its infancy (you can request an invite to the beta), but given its ease-of-use, it will likely be embraced by social influencers and brands in the months to come. You heard about it here first! Case in point: Yoko Ono’s Glossi.
3. RebelMouse, like Glossi, is also new to the scene and, for now, by invitation only. Started by Huffington Post’s former CTO, Paul Berry, the RebelMouse platform consists of a personal bulletin board à la Pinterest that is organized by headlines with stories underneath. Right now, you can only aggregate your Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest feeds. Tumblr and Instagram are coming soon. Case in point: FastCompany’s RebelMouse page.
While all of these tools certainly help you aggregate your content across multiple networks, their true power lies in presenting it in creative, compelling new ways that are engaging to your advocates. In a single package, these services bring together the simplicity of Twitter, the visual engagement of Pinterest and the blogging capabilities of Tumblr. The rest is up to you: you’ll want to promote creatively and consistently as you would any of your brand’s social properties. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.” What say you? Will you be test driving any of these new content management tools?
A few years ago, engagement was the holy grail of marketing. Brands delivered interactive campaigns designed to stimulate action and interaction: Take a poll, share or upload a photo, join a “community,” create a video, and so on. Unfortunately, the outcome was a lack of true engagement; brands for the most part pushed “stuff” using a variety of social and digital channels. The latest shiny tools and apps were embedded in the campaigns and for a while people did react, but few actually engaged in a meaningful way.
Today, engagement has evolved to “brand advocacy,” the art of more continuous engagement through relationship building. Boston Consulting Group describes advocacy marketing as generating knowledge and positive opinion about your brand and products by engaging individuals and small groups in meaningful, direct, two-way communication. The intimate understanding of individual consumers or customers creates both affinity and advocacy; people recommend, share, provide feedback, defend and tell you when you need to do better. Marketers have known this for a while, but few have adopted a systematic or standardized approach.
In order to excel at advocacy, brands need to understand and define their target, and find the six to eight percent who are truly passionate and want to interact, share who they are, and ultimately endorse your brand and products. This is much harder than pushing “engagement” or seeding products and hoping for return on engagement. For years, brands have collected information and data about their customers, but for the most part have failed to truly use it to develop meaningful relationships.
Both the art and science of advocate identification and recruitment has evolved significantly over the past few years. Much work has been done in understanding their motivations, how to appropriately engage, what to ask of them and what to “give” them in return. Additionally, more brands than ever are interested in exploring a path to brand advocacy. Yet as we talk with brands, we’re befuddled by how many neglect this route. Some just don’t know how to get started, while others simply don’t think it’s worth the effort.
Research conducted by McKinsey should persuade those in both camps. It studied what motivates people along the decision journey, and word-of-mouth (WOM) was paramount. The study further found that having a robust “post-purchase” channel as part of the marketing cycle was key to finding and activating loyalists who will drive advocacy or WOM.
Our own work at ComBlu bears this out. We have helped many large, global brands identify, recruit and activate brand advocates, and then engage them over time. These brands got to know their advocates, and recognized the input they gave and the WOM that they spread. Productivity among this group is dependent upon segmenting advocates and understanding how to engage specific types for defined goals and purposes. For example, a very small percentage will actually create a video or write content for you. Yet, many engagement road maps focus almost exclusively on this type of activity. Not only does this waste resources, it restricts return motivation and can lead to stagnation. Yet, many people will curate content or share it, but few brands stimulate this “collector” behavior as part of the engagement strategy. Knowing what to ask, and who to ask to do very specific things is part of knowing them and respecting them.
ComBlu defines brand advocacy as the confluence of conversation, community and content. We sponsor a Content Council for brands and almost all of the members consider content to be a powerful engagement asset. Most brands though have not mapped content to the right point of the decision journey and continue to push vast amounts of content indiscriminately into the cloud. Few have stopped to think how to use advocates to amplify it. Fewer still know how to use their content as a stimulant for conversation. And, many still think of Facebook as their hub for brand advocacy.
Social measurement is starting to get more sophisticated and allows brands to better gauge the impact of their advocacy marketing or engagement campaigns, and use the insights they glean to calibrate programs. The really smart brands use social business intelligence to better know the needs, wants and quirks of their advocates. Without great, deep relationships with them, there is no brand advocacy.
I’ve seen the above headline a few places now and at first I sort of scoffed; after all, content marketing has been an accepted marketing practice for decades. In fact, some believe it’s been around since the cave dwellers.“Modern day” content marketing began in 1895 when the John Deere Company began publication of the first known custom magazine, Furrow. Today, the magazine has over 1.5 million circulation and is distributed in 40 countries.
Still, content today is a very hot topic. The popular content conference ConFab is sold out for the second year in a row and this year WOMMA’s WOMM U conference will feature many sessions about content including three keynotes. Last year, every time I looked at my email inbox, I had at least 20 appeals to look at a new social measurement tool. This year, content is the top topic of unsolicited emails. Recent ones include:The History of Content Marketing, Ad Age’s Content Marketing Best Hope or More Hype, Content: The New Marketing Equation, and B2B Content Marketing. In fact, ComBlu published an e-Book about content supply chain last summer.
Content marketing is not only a much written about topic, but it is one that is on the minds of many brands. As we chat with major brands about content, many seem to understand a few key things:
Content may not really be the new social, but certainly is part of the lexicon of a social business. Deconstructing old content models and operationalizing them to take full advantage of today’s social channels and tools drives customer affinity and impacts business outcomes. It takes storytelling to a whole new level.