There’s no getting away from the fact that all organisations need to embrace social media. Too often I meet business leaders who are daunted by this or see the activity as very risky - the fact is, people are talking about your brand on the various channels anyway, so you might as well be part of the conversation and influence this. In terms of a practical way of getting started, I often suggest creating profiles on the social media platforms relevant to the individual company and monitoring these. In this way it’s possible to familiarise yourself with the channels, see how others use each one and start to research what is being said about your product and service, not to mention your industry.
There are lots of good reasons for doing this as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) latest guidance on social media monitoring sets out. Published at the end of July and available to all CIPR members, it’s worth asking your PR practitioner about this because the report profiles all the latest social media monitoring tools, as well as how companies can establish workflows to help implement and manage insights.
[By the way if your PR person isn’t a CIPR member, have a conversation with them about that too. The CIPR sets out professional standards, trains and qualifies PR professionals and provides a code of conduct so you can see what to expect from people who work in public relations. If you work with CIPR members, you get a higher standard and they are accountable if you ever have cause for complaint.]
The CIPR guidance defines social media monitoring as the ‘detection of when and where your brand has been mentioned on the web’. It contrasts this with analytics, which is the ability to ‘understand what is being said about your brand, including the frequency of mentions, the reach of mentions, the influence of those sources and the sentiment felt towards the brand.’ Of course the latter only comes into play when you’ve become active on social media and are not just watching, which is why we’re not talking about that further here.
You may well be asking what the purpose of monitoring is and thinking it’s all a bit pointless or a drain on resources. In fact, the type of information that can be gained can be invaluable. For example by monitoring Twitter you might see a series of complaints about a particular aspect of your customer service that you weren’t aware was an issue. Cascading that back and rectifying the situation – and telling customers the problem has been addressed - could quickly strengthen your client relationships, create loyalty, generate further sales and have a positive impact on your bottom line. Research has shown that responsiveness is a key part of building trust among customers.
Some of the additional ways in which the CIPR states monitoring can be beneficial include: - Identifying risks and issues at any early stage - Measuring sentiment (how people feel about your brand, including against competitors) - Testing new campaign concepts - Identifying industry trends - Identifying gaps in the market - Identifying potential candidates for recruitment.
The list is a lot longer than that and takes into consideration how the information can help different departments within an organisation but this gives you a feel for the type of information that can be gathered.
So, social media monitoring is not to be sneezed at and as a bare minimum should definitely form part of the annual SWOT analysis that your business does (it does do that, right?!).
Making sure you use the information that you’ve gained is critical which is why the workflow element to the CIPR’s report is so important. After all, if you don’t respond to customers and enhance your product and service in light of their feedback, the activity becomes completely worthless. The key is – as ever – to seek professional advice if you need support in this area and there are plenty CIPR members around who will be more than happy to help.