Monitoring your brand is not just about paying attention to the online conversations (that would be so simple), but also about actively seeking out instances in which your brand is mentioned.
It involves listening and trying to make sense of what you hear, both on an individual basis and as an aggregate perception.
The benefits to reap are considerable: you get feedback on your ideas (maybe some of them are plain bad), you get the chance to have a voice (even in writing), it gives you a head start when managing crisis situations, spot new trends, find out more about the competition, discover influencers, etc.
But even though we can all agree on the reasons why this is important, it often seems like a daunting task that few seem to do right and even when brands try to be active listeners, they can still fail miserably. So why is it so hard to have an accurate picture of what others think about you online?
1. In Order to Hear Everything, You Have to Be Everywhere
Sure, there’s a feeling of over-saturation when it comes to social networking sites and not just the big ones. In fact, even agreeing on what are “the big ones” can get tricky. If Facebook and Twitter are the first examples that come to mind, then you are probably not with it. You were with it, but not “it” has changed, so you are no longer with what is it.
Sure, globally Facebook and Twitter still pull in their share, but whenever you’re looking at a particular market, results may vary. For U.S. teens, for instance (arguably one of the biggest demographics out there for companies in the U.S.), Snapchat and Instagram have taken the lead, according to a 2016 statistic.
Of course, that’s just one example of how things can get complicated. Another example would be non-English-speaking markets. Ever heard of QQ? It’s fine if you didn’t, but only if you never want to set foot in the Chinese markets, because over there it’s the biggest thing there is, bigger than Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Viber. The bottom line is, there are lots and lots and lots of places where your brand can get a mention and it’s important to pick and choose your battles. There’s simply too much information to be aware of everything, all the time (even when using very powerful tools).
2. People Talking About You Rarely Talk to You
Take Twitter, for instance, which brings in over two-thirds of all public brand mentions on social media. That might sound a bit unexpected, with so many other social platforms around, but when you think about it, this probably makes sense. Twitter is the social phenomenon most resembling news titles, due to character number limitations. Facebook, by contrast, is much more a platform which encourages longer-form posts, making it more suitable for expressing a more in-depth thought or creating longer conversations, which rarely center on specific brands.
Yet, despite Twitter’s grasp on brand mentions, close to a third of those mentions do not include the brand’s Twitter handle, meaning if you’re not looking closely, you might never find out about it (until it’s too late, in the case of a negative mention). You can choose to closely keep an eye on them by using monitoring tools, yet might still need your 100 percent attention. Moreover, 90 percent of all brand mentions do not start with “@”, meaning they’re not addressing your brand directly, but merely talking about it. They’re not interested in your input and a lot of them probably don’t want to hear what you have to say.
3. Expect That as They Notice Brands, Brands Start Noticing Them Back
Even though people don’t usually talk to brands, it doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate an intervention from the brand. In fact, the reason people might not talk directly to a brand could be that they don’t expect the brand to reply. It’s estimated that of the messages posted about a brand, four out of 10 would need a response from the brand (this figure is on the rise).
And yet, seven out of eight messages for brands go unanswered. With the increase of users’ expectations to be able to engage in dialogue with the brand over social networks, comes an increasingly difficult task for companies to meet those expectations. Even when they do get to answer, the reply can come way too late in an age where people are quicker to reply to Facebook or WhatsApp conversations that to mobile texts.
Moreover, most brands seem to still be locked in an anachronic paradigm based on unidirectional conversation rather than dialogue, as shown by the average ratio of posts to replies. There are more than four times the amount of posts compared to replies to customers, which is simply not how regular users think social networks should be used. Of course, this being an average means that while some industries fare better, others fare much worse (the entertainment industry, for instance, sends 11 times more posts than replies to engagements from users).
4. In the Age of Crowdsourcing, Perception Is More Complicated Than Ever
It’s not just that users expect more dialogue from companies - the power dynamic shift can also be seen in how the approach messages from companies. One recent Nielsen statistic suggests that 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations, while only 33 percent trust ads. Moreover, 74 percent of consumers rely on social media to inform their purchasing decisions.
We’re getting closer and closer to a world where gate-keeping has been democratized and everyone can act as an influencer for anyone else. Of course, that’s not entirely true (yet) and some people still have more sway than others (film and music critics, professional reviewers, experts), but one thing that’s clear is that decision making is more about sociology than marketing right now.
Just look at the rating system on Amazon everything is built around aggregates, crowdsourcing and self-regulation. There’s not only ratings and reviews, but reviews themselves are rated, based on how useful other people have found them, to keep people in check from manipulating the system. Tomorrow’s buyers are likely going to be even more adept at navigating this web of perception, which means brands have to start becoming adept at it now.
So How Do You Build a Better Brand Reputation?
The answer is simple (but not necessarily easy to implement): by becoming a better listener. It’s certainly going to be difficult at first since most of us have been raised in the business by being told about the importance of self-presentation. And how else can we introduce ourselves but by talking about us over and over and over again?
We need to do that because the public is not listening, so repetition is key. But the landscape we’re performing in is about to change drastically. The most important thing to understand is that maybe - just maybe - the public hasn’t been listening because the companies didn’t seem interested in a dialogue.