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Listening to Customers Online

This paper dives into the top 5 social media networks and how to navigate them as a marketer. Recent surveys have found that a large number of companies do not have programs or systems in place to track online word-of-mouth. This starter kit is a must-have for any company venturing into social media.

Of course you are listening to your customers, but are you listening everywhere they’re talking?

  • A recent survey* of over 400 marketing executives found that 56% said their companies have no programs to track or spread positive word-of-mouth.
  • Only 30% rated their companies highly in their ability to handle or resolve customer complaints.
  • Despite all the hype about social media, only 16% of respondents reported that their companies have any routine system in place for monitoring what people are saying about them or their brands online.

Why is Social Media an increasingly important word of mouth resource?
Social Media has caused a revolution in word-ofmouth because it replicates the credibility of offline recommendation, while extending that conversation to exponentially more people.

In addition to asking a friend to recommend a product for teeth whitening, a social media user might seek the advice of @LPT, a mom on Twitter who has 1,312 people following her (i.e., listening to her) household hints and recommendations. That user might also check in at Real Simple’s Simply Stated blogs, or perhaps do a short search on Facebook.

In any case, a quick check of these resources may be both faster and more verifiable than asking a friend or colleague face-to-face. As a result, social media has made more people more influential to a substantially larger network of people than could typically be assembled in the offline world.

As a marketer, you still have to know where to find people like @LPT and, also, how to maximize the utility of the information they create. So, how do you source and use the credible, authentic, authoritative, or influential right now? Let’s take a closer look…

Facebook
Facebook is a free social networking website where users interact with one another, join networks, and chat. It started among university students, but was opened to anyone over the age of 13 in 2006, and has quickly expanded to over 150 million active users worldwide.

Why It Matters
It’s not just kids anymore; 45% of Facebook’s US audience is 26 years of age and older . As a matter of fact, the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is women over 55. For marketers, Facebook is less an advertising platform and more an opinion-sample tool for consumer insights.

How Marketers Are Using This Resource
Perhaps not surprisingly, there are over 500 group results for a search of ‘iPhone’ (and, in addition, over 500 more group results for ‘iPhone 3G’). Many of these groups have at least 1,000 members. The page with the largest membership has 383,044 fans. The folks at Apple derive incredible value from these conversations.

But, it’s not just big brands being talked about. What about a company like TOMS Shoes? Or Toms Skildpadde (a chocolate bar company from Denmark)? Or Tom’s of Maine?

A group for TOMS Shoes has over 4,000 members. These are people so excited about a pair of shoes that they’ll highlight a company fan page on their Facebook profiles for their networks to see. So, if those 4,000 TOMS fans each have around 200 friends, the brand is potentially being seen by 800,000 people. That’s a lot of shoes…

“I am addicted to TOMS! Can't get enough of them. Wear them every day to work. Love my Tahoe Blue cord TOMS!”
“I LOVE toms shoes! They are the most comfortable shoes you can’t find a better pair! And I love how y’all help people in need when we buy your stuff!”
“I got some TOMS for Christmas...I love them. My daughter wants a pair but they don't come in her size.”

What about Tom’s of Maine?

“I dig Tom's deodorant.”
“I just found out the Tom's of Maine is owned by Colgate, which is a tester on animals. I will no longer buy Tom's of Maine's until its parent company ends cruelty to animals.”

How to Leverage This Resource Now
Create a profile. Search not only for your brand, but for topics of interest related to your brand. Facebook is a powerful lens into the habits and attitudes of your customers. Even without mentioning your brand directly, there is much to learn about your customers’ unmet needs and spontaneous thoughts. If you see something intriguing, determine how representative the attitude or behavior is using the complete array of resources profiled in this document.

Carefully start a group or fan page. Consider becoming a sponsor of a group or interest that reaches your brand fans. Or, host a contest for them. Offer something of value that people can give to their friends or post to their profiles.

Google Whopper Sacrifice or Claus for interesting, appropriate, and outside-of-the-box benchmarking.

Twitter
Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (known as ‘tweets’), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters. In 140 characters, a user is asked “What are you doing?” but many people use it to post links, events, and other items of interest to them and their followers.

Why It Matters
For brands, Twitter can be a much more powerful tool than Google search for finding relevant, actionable information. Twitter also provides an unvarnished look at your company, product, or brand.

How Marketers Are Using This Resource
Motrin recently ran some ads that centered on new moms who carry their babies in slings (and might therefore need Motrin). The ads likened the sling to a fashion accessory and said that while toting a baby can be tough, it "totally makes me look like an official mom." Some moms saw the ads as snarky pokes at motherhood and there was an outpouring of negative comments on Twitter. 5 days later, the ads were pulled and the makers of Motrin issued a formal apology. Twitter helped the brand realize sooner rather than later that they were spending a lot of money to alienate their target.

Recent Tweets About Southwest Airlines

“Hahaha Southwest Airlines' new promotion is the "Yes You Can" Sale...they're even rocking the Obama font”
“Chinese New Year Parade in SF, is now "Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade." Maybe a little Southwest logo on the Dragon? Terrible.”
“flew southwest airlines from LA to Albuquerque on a business trip yesterday-they lost my luggage-they have not been helpful AT ALL”

How to Leverage This Resource Now
Twitter is best understood by experiencing it. Create a profile. Look for some followers. Monitor the buzz. And most importantly, talk back. If you want to see what people are saying about your product, service, or brand right now, point your browser to twitter's search page.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a B2B word-of-mouth tool mainly used for professional networking. It can serve as an individual’s online resume´ as well as a place to maintain contact details of ‘connections.’

Why It Matters
Unlike Facebook or MySpace, LinkedIn is not a social environment; it is strictly business networking. But the result is that LinkedIn is the word-of-mouth engine of the B2B world. When it comes to business-related services such as SEO, design, outsourcing, technology purchase and lead generation, people turn to LinkedIn. LinkedIn currently hosts over 35 million profiles and each member can be a source of knowledge, advice, referrals and testimonials for your business or you personally.

For example, an individual LinkedIn member with only several dozen immediate contacts may have an extended network that totals into tens of thousands and, potentially, millions of other members. Any announcements or “status updates” that one member posts on their profile would be available to at least their immediate set of contacts and could potentially be passed along to additional members through the extended network.

How Marketers Are Using This Resource
The three best resources on LinkedIn are:

  • Recommendations
    • Recommendations are 3rd party endorsements and having them on your profile is a valuable way to strengthen your relationships and substantiate your skills and talents.
  • Groups
    • LinkedIn Groups are established organizations that are part of the networking structure of LinkedIn. The main value of joining a group is that it gives you access to people you might not normally have contact with in your offline network. This extends the reach of your network without investing extra hours in cocktail parties and industry events.
  • Answers
    • Answers allows you to post a question and invite your network to respond. The questions can address virtually any issue, and often serve to test receptivity to a new idea or expose unmet needs.

How to Leverage This Resource Now
In the unlikely event you have not setup a profile, do so, and connect to other friends, colleagues and business partners. Then, search your company and see what folks are saying about it. Or, use LinkedIn as a competitive intelligence tool. Find out what your business customers want by reading the problems posed in questions. You be the judge of the person’s authority by simply pulling up their LinkedIn resume´ which indicates job experience, professional affiliations, education, expertise, third party recommendations, and, of course, their network.

Technorati
Think of Technorati as Google for blogs. There is a blog for just about any imaginable topic; wine, exercise balls, origami, breakfast foods, New England B&B’s… Technorati lets you search the blogosphere in the same way you would conduct a typical internet search.

Why It Matters
Most blogs are written by everyday people with a passion. The key is that there are an unlimited number of things people are passionate about.

Technorati’s outstanding value is its ability to estimate the authority of the blogs it searches. Technorati Authority is derived from the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. The higher the number, the more Technorati Authority a blog has. What does this mean to you? If a large number of websites link to a blog, you can infer that when the author talks, people listen. In turn, the author’s audience tends to pass relevant information and links on to their networks. Watching influencers with high authority is thus a useful beacon of your target’s attitudes and expectations in general.

Because the blogosphere is, by definition, interactive, authors with high authority can also serve as a source of impromptu advice and insight for your brand. Properly managed, they can be even more, including the nucleus of a virtual customer advisory panel.

How Marketers Are Using This Resource
The utility of Technorati can be illustrated through a theoretical example: Perhaps you are a marketer of backpacks. In the world of parents, backpacks are only an occasionally hot topic, specifically, around August and September of each year. Questions such as ‘Which ones are ‘cool’?, ‘Which one will provide the most support?’, and ‘Will my kid be made fun of if his/her backpack is on wheels?’ abound.

To a marketer of backpacks, all of these questions are potentially crucial. A quick search shows that the term ‘backpack’ is mentioned on nearly 7,000 blogs. Is it possible to keep track of what people are saying on all those blogs and in specific time periods? And what about the relative influence of the bloggers in the set? How will you know that the insights of a mom in Kentucky are vital, but the musings of dad in Massachusetts are less important?

Through Technorati, you can easily determine that the mom is also a pediatrician and has 200 other blogs linking to her -- and that the dad only mentioned backpacks in context of transporting a cat.

If you go to Technorati and search the blogosphere for ‘backpack’, you will come back with 81,269 blog results. If you filter your search to only those blogs with ‘some authority’, you’re down to 14,149 results. How about ‘a lot of authority’? 1,564; a little more manageable.

Finally, if you adjust your search and add a hyphen to search for ‘back-pack”, you will find an additional 9,828 blog results which then can be further refined to 1,669 results with ‘some authority’ and 165 results with ‘a lot of authority’.

How to Leverage This Resource Now
Start by examining Technorati’s directory of topics. From there, you can do an advanced search, similar to Google, which allows you to filter results. Instead of just searching the term ‘backpack,’ you could also include the words ‘children’ and ‘school’ and only search blogs about ‘parenting’ and ‘education’. In this case, Technorati returns 24 extremely relevant and highly influential insights.

YouTube
YouTube is the ubiquitous video-sharing website that enables users to view, upload, and share video clips. Although most of the content on YouTube is uploaded by individuals, companies also use it for product demos and news releases.

Why It Matters
YouTube has long been a hothouse for spawning cultural phenomena, including the recent David after Dentist, viewed over 10 million times. YouTube follows the maxim of show, don’t tell. When combined with the fact that every YouTube video is sharable, embeddable and designed to be commented on, it is easy to understand how it has become a standard form of internet communication for over 70 million unique visitors a month.*

Notably, this also means that any faux pas, lie, or failure of your product will be documented, indexed, and archived for all time. Nonetheless, it is the ideal place to act as ‘un-marketer’; tell it like it is, show people how to use your product, or rebut negative information.

How Marketers Are Using This Resource

  • Promotion
    • Will It Blend? is a viral marketing campaign consisting of a series of infomercials demonstrating the remarkable power of Blendtec blenders. In the show, Tom Dickson, the Blendtec founder, attempts to “blend” various items in order to show off the power of his gadget. The campaign took off instantly and the company has increased sales. One of the most popular “episodes” of Will It Blend?, features an iPhone being pulverized and has been viewed more than 6 million times.
  • Instruction and Research
    • There are several videos on YouTube teaching you “how to open a can without a can opener”. One video, only 28 seconds in length, shows a person successfully opening a can with a large kitchen knife. Not a word is spoken by the person in the video. All the viewers hear is the sound of the knife cutting into the metal can. The conversation, however begins in the comments section:
      • “Yeah, that’s cool, but no way to treat a knife.”
      • “Thank you! I agree. I was reticent to subject my henckels five star to this, but when you're desperate…”
      The Henckel comment sparked a conversation about how great the knives are; the best, sharpest, easiest to handle, etc. Notably, the video was not produced, sponsored or endorsed by Henckel.

How to Leverage This Resource Now
YouTube is not just about generating a hit, but adding value and observing the needs and desires of your target.

Search for videos in your industry; among your competitors, for similar products, for commercials, demos, or rants. Keep in mind that it’s also not about the quality of the video, but the quality of the content. Begin by looking for relevant topics and those that have been viewed the highest number of times. If you’re contributing content, don’t upload just any old video; quality YouTube content is authentic, original and typically short.

In Summary
Social media replicates personal credibility, which is the key to word-of-mouth recommendation. This has caused more and more people to seek advice and leave comments online as their certainty increases that they will reach the right audience. This process has become self-reinforcing.

Brands and businesses can use social media as a learning system, an early warning device , a product development tool, and an innovation lab.

Just as there are rules to participating in a conversation at a cocktail party, there are rules and etiquette to participating in various social media services. If you don’t follow them, your company or brand will be ostracized.

Because links and relationships can be measured, social media opens up the possibility of connecting with your most influential customers. This has the potential to result in what has, except for very large or exceptional brands, been heretofore impossible: conversational marketing.

*CMO Council, Study: Giving Customer Voice More Volume. http://www.cmocouncil.org.
*Quantcast Audience Profile. http://www.quantcast.com/youtube.com

This paper from 2009 is also available in pdf format.

This content was provided by Goodmind. Visit their website at www.goodmind.net.

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