The pandemic, which has now been with us for more than a year, has altered the business landscape. Not only that, it even made the alternate reality of the virtual world more real. With this, new dynamics have evolved, blending the business processes and business-to-consumer relations in the virtual dimension and the physical world. Businesses, however, in contrast to individual-online-users-slash-online-consumers, are fairly new to social media. As just any individual new to the online world might have done, businesses also googled for their own names and hoped for positive results. Thus the evolution of the new buzzword: from awkward searches to “social media monitoring,” to “social media listening.”
Social media listening: is it an obsession, an anxiety, a behavior concern that would lead to a business owner’s depression? Well, let’s find out. The good thing though is that you, as a business, can use it to your advantage.
From social media networking to social media marketing
In its initial stages (2002-2004), WordPress developed as a platform for blogging. LinkedIn started in 2003 as a social network for professionals needing a site to post their resumes so colleagues and mentors can easily include recommendations to be handy for job searches. Facebook began in 2004 as a small website intended for Harvard students to connect among themselves. By the next day of its launch, a thousand already registered. Now, there are billions of active users each month. In 2010, a young start-up company (just a year and a half since they began) introduced Instagram as a photo-sharing app.
Those were the days when one can just share stuff, anything from personal interest to any idea or image one thinks others might find interesting.
A major downside of social networking was that users began worrying about what others may be saying about them. This made them to be constantly on the lookout for negative social mentions, then, further led to anxieties and depression. On the other hand, those social networks turned out to be fertile grounds to grow businesses－from selling pastries to large companies expanding their reach.
From social media monitoring to social media listening
Whether it’s about the downside or the advantages, monitoring mentions in social media provides room for improvement, either as an individual or a company. Regarding the improvements, one can get very creative, really－and the room seems so large, indeed. Now, then, if the goal is to improve, one just has to really pay close attention.
For businesses, for example, one can pay close attention by implementing social media listening as a business strategy. Monitor those that are being shared and being said. Also, listen even to those unsaid, i.e., those that are not shared. Then, anticipate what could be developed or be available next and plan early.
As early as 2009, for example, Luke Wroblewski already introduced the idea of “mobile first” in his book that carried the title,Mobile First. There were early adopters, of course, but it was only recently, as smartphones and wearable devices evolved to become extensions of the human body, that adopting the idea really became a necessity for a majority of businesses.
Voice of the customer and social media listening
Whether traditional or an E-commerce business, companies have dedicated huge budgets for social media marketing when it became a thing. But, as in improving business operations in the traditional way, it is more profitable to revisit the purpose of the business and to pay attention to the voice of the customer (VOC).
Social media listening is, therefore, listening to the voice of the customer in the virtual dimension. Customers’ needs, however, have evolved, and, with more advanced technologies, so too their demands and expectations. They need a faster waiting time, for example. For a business to survive and thrive in the blending of the physical and the virtual dimensions, it has now become necessary to develop strategies for social media listening.
Social media listening as a business strategy: The Essentials
Here’s a thought experiment－have you heard this before? “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Anyway－similarly, if you’re not on social media yet, then how will the noise you make, make a sound? The only alternative, perhaps, is to hope someone is there physically present to record what you’re doing and post it online and you hoping it goes viral. A prerequisite, therefore, is to have a social media presence. Now, on to the essentials.
First, social media management.
When you’re a business with a social media presence, it’s essential to have a good strategy for social media management. Marketing activities through social media platforms are already more cost-effective than traditional means. But, you can further make the most of your marketing budget through well-targeted, well-timed, well-positioned, and well-crafted content you post on social media. In considering your marketing mix for example in introducing a product, keep in mind your customer. The challenge is to make it experiential, immersive, and sensational, as though they are physically there despite being just in a virtual space.
Second, social media demographics.
In contrast to the physical world, in the virtual dimension you can decide where your tree is going to fall. You can even decide to make it splash and be an immersive experience. You can also decide by how wide the reach would be.
Datareportal’s October 2021 global snapshot shows that more than half of the world are now social media users. Their data reveals that within the past 12 months, there have been 400 million new online users. As of the said report, there are already 5.29 billion unique mobile users. This means that more than two-thirds of the world have access to a mobile phone.
Now, if your business is just starting to dip its toes into social media, those figures are already so much to begin with. Not all of those, though, are your target demographics, but they’re there in the mix. Looking at those figures could be overwhelming. However, social media platforms now also have built-in tools to filter your audience according to your defined target market. You can filter all the noise so that you can just selectively hear those coming from your target audience. For example, you can filter through tags, hashtags, mentioned keywords, or topics. You can listen to what customers in your market are saying about your brand, about the industry you’re in, and even about your competitors.
Third, social media analytics.
Once you have your filtered data, you can then begin to analyze them based on clearly defined metrics and criteria. Aside from getting the numbers and summarizing trends, mentions, and hashtags, you can also analyze the things beyond those. Like the non-verbals in the physical world, you can also pay attention to and analyze the unsaid surrounding those that have been said. You can look at, for example, the mood beyond the data, also known as social media sentiment.
Yes, feelings and emotions are still important and they play significant roles in the dynamics of social media conversations. As Sherlock Holmes would do, you can keep an ear close to the ground to get a feel and to understand how customers think about your industry, your brand, and your competitors. It is by actually listening and being attentive to the shifting social sentiment that you can respond and take action immediately. With this, you can even anticipate changes or, even, be there a few steps ahead.
Conclusion: Paying attention as an investment
Gone are days when it was the business owners who direct the market. It has already been the other way around at least since the second half of the 20th century. Businesses have been navigating through the blending of the physical and the virtual dimensions for two decades now. As customers alternate from offline to online modes, businesses need to be able to traverse fluidly through both, keeping an ear close to either side, listening attentively and taking action. All these while maintaining brand constancy.
A brand can’t just no longer aim for consistency. Most likely, there would have to be improvements as said and unsaid by the voice of the customer. It is better, therefore, to aim for constancy: constantly upholding the brand values, constantly listening, and constantly improving.
You may have already thought it’s urgent to implement social media listening as a business strategy. However, you may not have the other essential resources yet. Perhaps you have considered also outsourcing those social media listening skills and services. But, considering brand constancy, how then would you do it? If you need access to BPO services that could match your requirements, we at StratAccess can help you with it.
StratAccess Inc., established in 2012, is committed to find its clients the BPO in the Philippines for successful business solutions. The company is focused on transforming the landscape of call center partnerships to meet the requirements of today’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). StratAccess consultants are attuned to helping clients take a hard look at their business objectives, current organization infrastructure, and operational practices.
We at StratAccess strive to build long-term relationships that extend beyond the typical vendor-client transactions. Our primary focus is to successfully promote and serve each client’s products or services as though they are our own. Combined with the skill and knowledge of the Philippine outsourcing industry, our company has positioned itself as a leader in delivering its clients access to qualified quality and cost-effective BPO referrals.
Ivan Deligero is a contributing author at StratAccess. He likes deep dives into the bottom of things and sharing discoveries and strategies towards desired goals. His years of exposure in different industries have led to a deeper insight into organizational structures and operations, as well as the importance of process improvement. In his free time, he also reads and writes about some recent thoughts in philosophy.