Businesses live and breathe for ROI (return on investment), yet running a modern customer-facing business is a complex mixture of day-to-day business operations (accounting and admin sadly never go away) and managing a brand identity that is somewhat out of control, with conversations between brand advocates and detractors ongoing on multiple communication platforms. How can these realities be brought closer together? How can companies listen to what customers (and prospects) are saying and apply the knowledge gained to maximize growth?
Social Media Monitoring
With conversations about customer experience able to travel faster and further than ever before, successful businesses are starting to increase the priority of measuring Customer Referral Value – how much new business an advocate brings in – placing it at least equal to Customer Lifetime Value – how much business one customer provides over their lifetime.
To start measuring CRV, companies need to get a grip on social media monitoring, which means overcoming the three challenges of:
- Determining Scale. How widespread an experience, opinion or mood is
- Measurement. How conversations can be turned into hard data for ROI purposes, and
- Tracking. How brand conversations over multiple platforms can be quickly located
New Tools for a New Age
As might be expected, the need to meet the challenges above has led to the growth of technology designed specifically for Social Media Monitoring (aka listening). These tools can often monitor billions of conversations across forums, blogs, chat-rooms, Twitter, social media sites and more; identify the key influencers in an industry; gauge a general mood based on the tone of discussions and provide in-depth demographic and geographic information. These tools are rapidly replacing traditional market research methods which can be expensive and unreliable.
In addition to the number-crunching that can be done with the aggregated statistics, actually reading the conversations can provide raw qualitative data – sometimes quite eye-opening – which can lead to quickly identifying customer expectations, areas of concern and, just as importantly, areas where you out perform your competitors. Rather than remaining on the outside, it is good practice to join conversations with both advocates and detractors to extract as much information as possible. This must be done in a positive manner, regardless of the content of the conversation.
Listen, Hear, Act
We all know how frustrating it is when we explain an issue to a friend or family member and they listen, nod and continue to act in the same way. It’s the same for a business (in fact it’s worse since you can easily choose a new brand to spend money with). No matter how sophisticated the tools, listening is a waste of resource unless a clear, cost-effective strategy is created on the back of it. Fortunately, many of the conversations a brand will read will contain suggestions for how you could do things better. You don’t have to follow every recommendation, but the best ideas can be used to stimulate positive discussion.
Another action step that should be considered is building rapport with any industry influencers you have identified (note, these are not necessarily industry leaders). You are searching for the ultimate combination: a powerful industry influencer who is also a brand advocate.