Social Media Monitoring evolved out of the explosion of non-traditional media channels developed in the last decade combined with the increased velocity of information flow as a consequence of viral information sharing. Born of crisis, social media monitoring was initially focused on containing negative news that could quickly envelope a company as a result of a blog post or Youtube video that “went viral”.
Relatively quickly the market became saturated with over 100 products and services claiming a unique capability for tracking and reporting on social media mentions and brand activity in social channels. Most of these projects stayed just that, projects, but a handful emerged as legitimate companies offering not just the ability to monitor and respond to crisis but an entirely new capability that blended the traditional world of brand management with the new world of hyperactive social sharing and niche-marketing aimed at exploited highly distinct segments of a larger market.
The foundation technology combines listening/responding with an analytics capability aimed at measuring the influence of an individual user and using that information to target small segments of highly desirable individuals who influenced broader segments of the market.
In its most pure form social media monitoring is both listening and responding to social channels.
Listening platforms capture in near real time relevant discrete post level items in social networks, social media, and mixed media (e.g. video) sites along with attendant comment threads concerning specific brands, products, competitors, and keywords of interest. These post level items are aggregated into a dashboard view and measurements of sentiment, trending, and relative status are calculated.
Social media monitoring also contains an active component for responding to what is being monitored and comprehensive products now exist in the market which process post level items and comment threads into a queue which organizes according to product, priority, or chronology and provides workflow mechanism for efficiently responding and routing publicly and in the company workgroup. It’s not uncommon for companies to have multiple social media monitoring solutions.
The market is still crowded but consolidating as social CRM vendors have been acquiring and integrating social media monitoring solutions into the offerings, examples include Lithium acquiring Scout Labs, JD Power/Umbria, Nielsen/Buzzmetrics, Jive/Filtrbox and Attensity/Buzz360.
The Social Inbox
Social CRM is built on the notion of adding real-time engagement and interaction with existing and prospective customers. For brand marketers, merchandisers, and social media marketing managers social media monitoring is top of the funnel for social interactions and is essentially a social inbox that feeds their work processes.
Brands of all sizes across every industry operate in a media environment best described as Paid, Earned, and Owned. Paid media is advertising while Earned is how brands affect their public equity through the independent news cycle (e.g. branded media mentions). Owned are those sites and points of contact which are directly controlled by the brand and rely on distribution through Paid and Earned but also from viral.
The ability to capture and prioritize content across media types that concerns a brand and/or company products and services is very powerful in the distributed media world that these companies operate in. Brands are concerned about two primary objectives in this environment, building brand equity and targeting increasingly fine grained customer segments. Social media monitoring facilitates both objectives.
The distinction between Paid, Earned, and Owned media is not insignificant because Earned and Owned are increasingly important for companies and community certainly falls into the latter but the notion of a social inbox spans Earned and Owned.
Fine Grained Marketing and Promotion
For many years we have witnessed the increasingly fine grained segmentation of markets that cut across every product and service category. No longer is it enough to target according to a matrix of geography and demographics, increasingly companies are expected to meet the needs of sub-sectors of the broader market that respond to queues from influencer groups within each micro market. This is the scaling of what Malcolm Gladwell first wrote about in his book The Tipping Point.
Interacting with micr0-markets for customer acquisition is most possible in social media channels where influencers publish and promote through viral channels on Facebook, Twitter, and through sharing of videos and links.
At the core, influencing customer acquisition is a function of building and sustaining brand awareness for attributes that lead to purchasing decisions, and a path to purchase that represents that purchasing determiners customers go through. Influencing strategies also attempt to exploit brand loyalist behaviors for retention and promotion within the market.
Determining who is influential in any category remains challenging because influence itself is illusive. The brute force approach to influence is to measure popularity as a proxy for influence even though we intuitively know that being popular (i.e. Hollywood celebrities) is not always a measure of influence. Second generation approaches have concentrated on identifying individuals most likely to “be shared” or be referenced in an actual purchasing decision. With the technology we have today it is most probable that a combination of popularity measurement and virality will continue to represent the state of the art for influence measurement.
Social Support Queues
Social media also plays an important part in the service and support phase of a customer lifecycle. The days of a customer calling you or visiting your website when there was a problem or question are long gone. Today a customer is more likely to Tweet or post something to their Facebook profile when they are experiencing a problem or question concerning your brand and products.
A new generation of service and support tools is emerging that rely on social media monitoring to fill the queue for support issues that must be addressed. The goal with this is not containment but deflection; issues surfaced in social channels that can be redirected to existing help resources (peer-to-peer support, FAQs, KBs) will result in strong customer satisfaction and lower support costs overall as issues are resolved before becoming a ticket in a help desk system.
Another aspect of the social support model is the crowdsourcing of knowledge and expertise on products and services that then allows intelligent routing of social media sourced issues. The basic premise for this is the observation that brand loyalist behaviors create irrational incentives for providing strong customer support in peer-to-peer support communities. In other words, individuals who have specific expertise often provide high quality support to the community not because they are getting compensated for it but because they seek reputation rewards that are not financially motivated.