Companies monitor their brands in social media, for consumer brands this has become a standard practice. It’s seen as a service channel for resolving customer issues (ING’s webcare team, Vodafone) a sales channel (Dell) and a way to resolve a reputation issue before it escalates to frontpage news (US airforce).
Given the huge amount of content added to the internet every day; 400 million tweets per day and 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, for example there is no way you can read it all. And you don’t need to. Because search tools work so well you can define the search terms you want to use to find content relevant to your brand across the internet. This should be more than just your brand name; consider the names of key personnel, products, taglines and potential misspellings.
Companies use sophisticated tools to monitor social media, giving them data in real time presented in a dashboard. For real people, or small companies getting started, there are some free tools around to get started.
Before you set up brand monitoring think through through a framework for responding. Start with; you don’t have to respond to everything.
The US Army came up with one of the first diagrams for responding on Social Media which still stands as a well thought out process to get you started (click on thumbnail to enlarge). It doesn’t seem to appear on US Army sites anymore, although their new Social Media Handbook is a more comprehensive document. TNT have a similar guideline aimed at individuals in their Social Media Handbook.
Those working on social media in an official capacity should agree on a response plan including;
- how to handle trolls
- what to do with irrelevant questions
- to thank or not to thank – how to respond to positive feedback
- how to identify individuals (using ^ in front of first name or initials at the end of a tweet is common for example)
- what is the tone of voice
- for more expert teams how to tailor responses according to the social media expertise of the customer.
It’s also important to analyse the impact you’re having, to do this you’ll need to measure;
- follower/fan numbers; you can see the change in this over time and vs your competitors using wildfire. You can see a comparison of European airlines on twitter for example. I don’t think increasing these numbers should be your goal, and this data should not be viewed in isolation, but it does indicate your reach, and the trend is useful to follow.
- Mentions; whether or not someone is a fan or a follower they can talk about you. So what are people saying? Who’s doing the talking? You can use Google alerts if the volume is low, or one of the other free tools. If you have a high volume of mentions you will need a high powered tool such as Radian6 (Salesforce).
- Sentiment Analysis; are the comments positive, negative or neutral? is that changing? and what is the context for that? Having worked in a financial services company during a difficult period I can promise you that the social media sentiment will reflect events and opinions outside your company.
- Brand Impact; This is the ultimate measure, showing that social media makes a positive contribution to your brand it proves value of your work. There isn’t really an automatic tool for this, you would need to look at improved perception overall and limitation of reputation damage by social media activities.
It’s important to collect all four forms of data, analyse them and look for ways to improve the service offered, progress made towards brand value goals and trends. Most large companies are now past the stage of asking whether they should “do social media”, they’re no longer satisfied with the simple “fan number” stats, increasingly are looking for real value. With good monitoring, measurement and analytics in place you can prove this value and make it visible to management and across the company.