1. Define an Objective
Why are you monitoring? If the answer is “because everyone’s doing it,” you are in trouble. You need to have a clear goal in mind, such as:
- I want to monitor because I want to be alerted immediately when people are saying bad / good things about my brand.
- I want to quickly respond to all customer service queries, and I’m going to set up a way to collaborate and exchange information seamlessly with my support team.
- I’m monitoring so I can quickly see who is talking about [insert industry keyword] and join the conversation to bring more credibility to my brand.
- I’m monitoring so I can keep my finger on the pulse of the market so I can figure out what the market actually needs and then create it.
- I’m monitoring so I can easily identify people in need of my product and help them at the point of need.
- All of the above, and more!
Having an end goal in mind will help you target your resources correctly, select the right tool for the job and be more effective in the end.
2. Decide Where to Monitor
Social media is relationship and conversation media. At its core is the art of building relationships with others, human-to-human. However, you can’t be everywhere conversing with everyone at the same time. You need to pick your battles. Where you “hang out” digitally, just like any outreach and marketing program, should be driven by where your constituency hangs out. The notion of the social customer should reflect not only your current paying customers, but also potential customers and industry thought leaders. Monitoring can help you figure out where these people are, and therefore what channels are best for you to listen to and engage.
3. Decide What to Monitor
Recall that monitoring is keyword-based, and thus selection of the right keywords is important. At the very least, you should be tracking your company name, brand names, product names, names of key execs, competitor names, competitive product names, industry keywords, and your tagline or most recent marketing efforts (e.g. Did you run a special promotion for Mother’s day?).
Social media is voluminous –- conversations are happening across many channels and social networks all over the world. To make matters even more complicated, the signal-to-noise ratio is not in your favor. This is why your monitoring must be intelligent and actionable. You should be triaging all the social media messages that come across your field of vision, so that you can focus on what’s most important. If you work in a large, matrixed organization, you need to separate by product or brand and type of message (service vs. feedback).
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5. Develop a Plan
To expand on the previous tip, you need to develop a crisis management plan. Don’t let Nestle’s Facebook Page issues happen to you. You should also develop a plan for engagement in more routine situations. When a blogger raves about your product, how do you turn this goodwill into collaboration that benefits both parties? How do you create customer advocacy programs? How do you internalize and execute on feedback about your (or competitor’s) product? How do you deal with irate customers? What about irate bloggers? You need to think through all these scenarios and figure out how you will activate the right resources within the organization.
6. Involve Others
Social media information is bigger and faster than any other information channel we’ve had before. Here lies the challenge: With the speed of a tweet, how do you tap the right person in the organization to either answer the query or help you answer it? However you disseminate information, you need to think about the following:
- How does data flow?
- How are people notified that their help is needed? Is this done through e-mail or IM alerts? Push notifications? Dashboards?
- How quickly are the right parties notified?
- How is the information cascaded?
- Are functional experts engaging themselves or funneling the answers through the social media ambassador?
- After the interaction happens, how is the customer record updated and shared? How is it related to the rest of the customer record (e-mails, call center notes)?
7. Listen First
Let’s say you did some monitoring and identified a certain community as the place to be. Should you just jump in and start chatting and plugging your product from the get-go? Absolutely not!
Before you ever open your digital mouth, listen and observe the culture of the community, interactions between members, how influence is expressed, and even if there’s a particular vernacular. The community can be private or open, but regardless of where the community “resides,” you need to get to know its members, stakeholders, and community norms.
8. Inbound vs. Outbound Conversations
“Outbound” does not mean screaming your message at the top of your Twitter lungs. Outbound simply means that you are proactively going out there and participating in discussions around your area of expertise. For example, I actively seek out discussions on social media monitoring and Social CRM, among others.
Conversely, “inbound” in the context of monitoring simply means that people are talking directly to you or about you with specific end goals in mind –- they either need help, want to give you feedback, or leave a compliment.
The reason I bring up inbound vs. outbound is because both have distinct rules of engagement. When you are participating in a larger discussion, it’s not usually appropriate to throw out links to your product demo left and right. Just because someone utters a keyword doesn’t mean they want to go to your homepage.
However, when it’s an inbound communication, the user is probably looking for something specific to your company, which makes it more acceptable to share relevant links. There are no hard and fast rules about what’s appropriate, but get a feeling for what feels right after listening first, and just use common sense.
9. Build Relationships
As you identify the spheres of influence and group dynamics in step #7, make sure you are forming relationships with the thought leaders around you. Take a minute to identify influencers and figure out who is driving the conversation.
But be wary of defining influence as a sheer function of reach. After you find these thought leaders, take the time to read them and understand their viewpoints before you ever pitch anything. Growing and nurturing these relationships is the art of any social business. Comment on their blogs, chat with them digitally, get to know them personally and professionally, and meet them in person at a conference. Never go into a conversation asking yourself how useful someone can be to you. When you develop a voice and become a resource for others, people will listen to you and spread your message on the merits of the message. The true definition of influence is when you don’t even have to ask others to do that.
10. Select Tools that Match your Strategy
If you identified Twitter as the area of focus based on your research in step #2, you should select a monitoring tool that’s strong in Twitter. If you want to track conversations in multiple languages, look for that capability. Your checklist of what you need in a tool is going to be largely driven by your purpose definition in step #1. You need to know where you are heading and why, so that you can decide whether you want historical or archivable data, charting and sharing capabilities, advanced analytics, free or premium model, depth of coverage, sentiment analytics, easy integration with existing systems, or whatever else you may need.
It’s not an easy task, so I encourage you to do your homework, ask vendors the tough questions, and never lose sight of your objective.
How do you monitor and engage? What are some best practices you’ve developed? What are some things that worked or didn’t work? Be sure to share your insights in the comments.
Credit: Maria Ogneva via Mashable
Photo Credit: Forbes.com
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