Years ago, it used to be that a dissatisfied customer would share their experience with five to ten others; now, with the presence of social media, that same person can share their negative experience with thousands of people in just a few moments.
As social media takes off and becomes more prominent, it will be vital for businesses to tap into this form of customer feedback and watch for potential issues that can damage their reputation. Social media monitoring serves as a solution to this challenge.
Simply put, social media monitoring involves scanning the web for information about your company or brand. Data is compiled and then shared with the company so they are aware of negative information, truthful or not, and can respond in a timely fashion. If rumors or false information are spread, quick response time will alleviate any potential fallout. If disconcerting information is being shared online about your business, you will be able to see these issues as they happen rather than waiting for sales to drop and customer traffic to drop off before you realize there may be a problem.
Watch and monitor what is being said about your company on a regular basis to gain information to strengthen customer service and increase revenue.
Become familiar with social mediaThe first step is to become familiar with social media in all its forms, including blogs, message boards, social networking, and consumer feedback sites.
You can start getting an idea of what information is out there regarding your company while becoming familiar with social media. Some good places to start:
1. Start with a basic search - by entering your company name into a search engine such as Google, MSN, or Yahoo, you may be surprised to find that your website is not the first entry listed. I recently searched for the phone number for a dentist, and there were feedback sites about the dental group listed before the comany's website.
2. Google Alerts - you can create a free Google account to set up alerts using various keywords (you can use your company name, brand, etc). This service will update you daily or as new information is posted with your keywords depending on the options you choose. Yahoo also has a similar service. It would be of value to try both alert systems to see what information you find.
3. Consumer driven feedback sites - one of the most popular sites is Yelp. You can enter your company name and general location to see if there is anything written about your company or brand. Consumers like to share their experiences, both positive and negative, on these sites.
4. Consumer based informational sites - sites such as Yahoo answers or Wiki answers can help you find out if people are asking questions about your company.
5. Find blog posts that refer to your company or brand. Two good sites are Google Blog Search and Blogpulse.
6. Message boards and forums are important too. You can perform searches for your company or brand name at BoardReader or ForumFind. Both sites will search the forums across the web and provide you with the forums discussing your company or brand.
7. Are consumers "tweeting" about you? Twitter is quickly gaining momentum in the business world. In addition to signging up for a Twitter account, you will also want to take a look at Tweet Scan - this service is similar to Google Alerts - you can enter your company name or brand information and the service will scan Twitter to find out what information is availale. You can also set up alerts to receive information as it becomes available.
Monitor sources to evaluate and measure informationOnce you've found blogs, feedback sites, or forums that are discussing your company or brand, you can monitor these sites for a while to better understand social media.
Subscribing to blogs and other media sites is simple. Setting up a RSS feed reader will allow you to view information of interest in one easy to read place. Google Reader is a free service that allows you to receive updates to blogs and other sources you have subscribed to. NewsGator also offers a suite of free RSS readers to choose from.
Monitor these sites to determine what action steps might be needed. Reviewing social media for a period of time will give you a good feel for the data you can collect and will help you determine a plan of action.
Create a Social Media Monitoring PlanNow that you've done the initial leg work and have a good understanding of what's out there, it is time to decide what level of social media monitoring is needed.
Based on the information you've found, you will have a better sense of your company's perception and how you need to proceed.
Some things to consider:
1. Will your goal be to simply monitor and measure the information gathered, or are you more interested in engaging in social media by responding to blogs, tweets, and the like?
2. How important will analysis of the data collected be? Are you interested in finding trends and patterns, or are you most interested in seeing what is said about your company or brand?
3. Who would be responsible for monitoring the social media outlets? Depending on how much information is out there, you may need to designate one or more people for this task. Hiring a Community Manager may be something to consider. This position is typically resopnsible for managing and monitoring social media for a company. They serve as a company represenative when interacting with the social media world.
4. Will you need to outsource your social media monitoring to a third party? If there is not a lot of information posted on the Web, you can certainly handle this task in-house. However, if you're finding quite a bit of information, it may be overwhelming. A third-party source may be more effective in managing and assisting you in handling the information.
- Designate a staff member (or group of staff members) to do some initial research online with regard to your company. Depending on the size of your company, this may take some time. However, this will give you a good starting point to analyze the need for continued social media monitoring and start to develop an actionable plan.
- Don't sit quietly and watch - participate in discussions regarding your company. People will appreciate the fact that you are in tune to social media and want to fix any issues that people are dissatisfied with. Respond to postings and blogs to increase positive consumer perception.
- Consider social media marketing. With the boom of social media comes opportunity. Once you've become familiar with social media and how to monitor it, your company can benefit from this low-cost, highly effective marketing tool. Social media marketing can increase traffic to your website, increase your search engine rankings, and build a company presence online.