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Interview With An Expert: Rolf Olsen on Social Media Listening

Social conversation may offer marketers a constant stream of real-time data on trends, unmet customer needs, and campaign and new product performance, but there’s a whole host of questions that marketers still have to answer when it comes to using and applying information gathered via social listening to marketing decisions.

  • How do you separate the truly valuable information from the rest of the chatter? 
  • How do you integrate the data gathered from social media sources with traditional marketing research? 
  • How do you figure out the best ways to apply the insights? 

To get some answers, we sat down with Rolf Olsen, Marketing Sciences Director at our sister firm Carat North America, a market-leader in digital solutions. As a follow-up to the webcast he gave for us a few weeks ago,"Key Questions to Ask and Answer About Social Media Listening,", we asked him for more of his front-line experiences and observations of how companies approach social listening.

Marketing Fray: What are the right questions to ask when you are doing an audit to determine if you should be doing more social listening?

 It’s a really good question. First and foremost, I think it’s understanding three things:

1. The volume of conversation that’s going on
2. The make-up of the sites where the conversation is happening
3. What is the general tonality of that information 

I think that once you really get through those things, you’ll have more of a sense of how important it [social listening] is to your business. 

Typically, what you find is you have some sort of PR incident and that will pop up, but it [high conversation volume] might not be an on-going thing. So volume is a big determinant.

Also thinking about whether you should into the area of social media. Is it an area that might really compliment what you do as a business and how can social then be integrated with other communications? 

I really think using social for customer service is an area that most companies should have a look at. I think it does offer an opportunity to deal with greeting consumers in a publicly positive way.


Marketing Fray: Social listening seems like it would offer much more in the way of insight to consumer companies. How could a B2B firm use or benefit from social listening?

Rolf: Social for B2B is clearly a different beast, mainly because most companies are not really willing to talk openly to each other in the same way as consumers and probably don’t air complaints or praise in open forums.

That being said, I think there are some instances where social activity in this sector can be beneficial. 

Social media offers a way of creating a dialogue with potential and existing clients that’s less pressurized than traditional communications channels. It gives B2B companies an opportunity carry on conversation and gather insights in an environment which is not driven by a sales team.


Marketing Fray: Have you come across some good example of how companies are integrating data coming from social media with more traditional sources? Are there some trends you seem emerging the way the integration seems to be happening?

Rolf: It’s quite rare in fairness. You often see the development of standard stand-alone social teams who just live and breathe social for that business and only report as such. 

Some companies have integrated it as part of their PR team and there will be some level of integration with the traditional PR metrics.

Beyond that I still see companies struggling to integrate digital with traditional media, with social data just adding an additional layer of metrics--or as I like to call it, confusion.

Ultimately, they are all different metrics with different key performance indicators associated with them. Companies could really win this battle by just applying relevant metrics to each channel instead of trying to unify metrics for ease of interpretation.


Marketing Fray: How are you finding companies are integrating information from social listening into the “bigger picture” in general.

 My favorite example of a company firmly putting social insights into the heart of their business is Starbucks and their “my Starbucks” rewards initiative. 

As a business, Starbucks spent millions of dollars every year on new product development and customer relationship management initiatives. 

Some bright spark who works in or on their business came up with a brilliant strategy to use their most valued assets--customers--to help decide what they should do in terms of new product development and customer relationship management. As a result, Starbucks was able to slash millions from their new product development budget and grew a more loyal customer base as consumers came up with, and voted for the best ideas. 

Involving customers in your business like this is just brilliant and the value spans across multiple areas.


Marketing Fray: Do you find its mostly bigger companies and brands doing social media listening?

Rolf: It probably is but I don’t believe it should be solely for the “big boys”. Smaller companies are often more agile and can react better to consumer feedback across all social tracking spectrums. Small companies who adopt a more socially focused development strategy are essentially tapping directly into the consumer. As Charlie Sheen would say = winning.

Marketing Fray: What would your definition of a “productive social listening” program be? 

Rolf: Accept that it could influence all part of your business and embrace it. Seeing the results of an integrated social strategy will create advocates who sing your praises. Think of it as an unpaid work force, driven by passion for your product.

AND, one that does not just cost you money by just drinking the kool-aid sold by listening companies…


Marketing Fray: If you had the ear of every CMO in the world for five minutes, what would you say to them about developing a social listening program?

 Think about what your company stands for and then see what people actually say… it can be eye-opening. 

Remember, the social “channel” is not an extension of your traditional marketing machine, this is your opportunity to make a personal connection and hear what your consumers actually want, beyond what your normal market research tells you.

This content was provided by Copernicus Marketing Consulting and Research. Visit their website at

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Isobar Marketing Intelligence Practice

Isobar Marketing Intelligence Practice

Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
About Isobar Marketing Intelligence Practice:
A Practice area of Isobar operating as a full-service consulting and research firm recognized for our segmentation and emotion measurement approaches.

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