A good business listens to its customers and, thanks to social media, it’s easier to do that now than ever before – not just with existing clients, but potential customers and those of your rivals. Follow these simple tips and you’ll have a great chance of using social media monitoring to improve your business and generate new leads.
What is social media monitoring?
First, though, what exactly do we mean by social media monitoring? Many businesses adopt social media as a promotion tool – they use it to publicize new products or services or to announce special promotions. Social monitoring – or listening – is different. It monitors what people say about a product or a service to identify ways in which a business can improve. You could be listening for any one of a number of things – whether it’s how customers view your own products, how they interact with your competitors, what they’re looking for and what new products you could offer. That last point is possibly the most important because, if there is one thing many businesses get wrong, it’s what their customers truly want. The reason for that is simple – they ask them.
What customers want
Henry Ford once said that if he’d asked customers what they were looking for they would have said a faster horse – the idea of a car hadn’t even crossed their minds. Equally, nobody was clamoring for the iPad before it existed, but that didn’t stop it selling like hot cakes. People wanted it – even if they didn’t know it yet.
Asking customers, or potential customers, what they want is flawed because their answers will be limited by their own experiences. They can only picture things that they already know instead of imagining something which does not exist yet. Instead, businesses can listen to what they are saying as a way identifying the products which will sell.
Find out where your competitors are weak
As a business, you might spend time looking at where your competitors are strong. Using social media, you can find out where they are falling down on the job and letting their own customers down. It’s easy to do.
Simply type a competitor’s name into a search engine to see where they are being mentioned. Take note of any negative comments and what the problem is. You can also try adding words such as ‘can’t or ‘won’t’ into the search to see what they are failing to deliver. If you spot a common failing, make sure you can address that problem and ensure people know about it.
I’ve had direct experience of this. I was having a problem with a major payment platform which appeared to have lost a transaction. I wasn’t happy and expressed my discontent on Twitter. Pretty soon I was approached both by the platform itself who wanted to be seen to address the problem and also a competitor. They wanted to make it clear that their processes were much more reliable and I wouldn’t experience this same issue with them.
Locate your potential customers
Think about the kind of people you’re selling to and the kind of people you’d like to sell to. Try to find out where they spend their time online. Are they big users of Twitter or are there any discussion forums they like to hang out on? For example, if you sell to a specific business sector, it might have its own discussion forum. Sign up, listen to what’s being said and, at the appropriate time, join in. Be genuine. If you wade in with an overt plug for your product, it will stand out like a sore thumb and instead of attracting potential customers you’ll put them off for good. Be helpful, be useful and engage with them in a natural way. If you’re useful, they are more likely to become loyal and long term clients.
Get them early
Once you’ve located them, it’s time to get them early in the purchasing process. We are all becoming much smarter as consumers in the way we approach the business. According to data from MineWhat, 81% of consumers conduct research online before they make a buying decision. Sixty percent start on search engines and 61% say they will read product reviews before making a decision. Catch them early in the buying process and you’ve got a great chance of steering them in your direction.
Monitoring and listening plays an important role here. By listening to what they are saying you’ll be able to find out what they are looking for, what they are worried about, and what stops them from making a purchase. This allows you to present them with practical solutions. For example, the same survey found that approximately 60% of people decide not to make a purchase because they are worried about the returns policy. If that’s the case, reassure them that your returns policy is clear, simple, and fast.
Equally, if they decide against one of your competitors because they can’t offer something, make it clear to them that you can. For example, let’s say someone has rejected your biggest competitor because they don’t offer 24-hour phone support. If you can show them that you offer that, they will be much more likely to choose your company.
Every sector has their brand influencers – people who have the power to shape the buying decisions of others. You can find them by seeing who links to – or publishes – your press releases after a major launch. Get in touch and build a relationship with them to ensure they talk about you in a positive light.
Equally, the chances are you’ll have a lot of brand advocates out there – people who love your product and are happy to talk about it. They are a form of free promotion – they are out there plugging your business and you don’t even know about it. Sometimes it’s enough simply to listen to them and find out what they are saying. It will tell you what you’re doing that works and where your strengths lie. You could also engage with them; offer them promotions, special prices and giveaways – anything to keep them onsite and eulogizing about your products.
They can be useful if you have some bad publicity on social media. If someone is complaining about your product, they are the most likely people to come to your defense.
Embrace negative feedback
None of us likes to hear bad things said about us, but it can be useful. If someone is complaining about your product, take it as a form of product research. They are telling you about bugs with your product and service – and where you can make improvements. Iron these issues out and your sales will improve.
In general, good customer care and service are crucial in helping to improve sales. As consumers, we can be cynical at times. We’ve come to expect the worst from service providers – so much so that when someone pleasantly surprises us, we are likely to become customers and recommend that service to others.
Be attentive – listen to what’s going on and if someone is having trouble, help them out. They don’t even have to be customers. They could be asking a general question to which you have the answer. Give them a helping hand and the chances are they will repay you somewhere down the line.
The most important thing about this is that it works. We’ve worked with many clients who are using social media primarily as a promotional tool, but aren’t listening to what it’s telling them. We’ve helped them to see it as a two-way engagement and watched them reap the benefits.
Doing so is not always straightforward. There are millions of conversations taking place every day on social media platforms around the world. You need to sort out the good from the bad and the useless. You can get a long way by using the search features within platforms such as Twitter. Other tools such as Hootsuite can help you find relevant content and engage with the best people for your business. That, though, could be a topic for another blog.
Over to you
Do you use social media monitoring in your business? What was your biggest lesson learned from using it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.