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UMKC Innovation Center
UMKC Innovation Center
By Sarah Mote
March 03, 2013

4 Steps to Social Listening for Business

Meet Eric Melin, marketing manager for web monitoring platform/service Spiral16. Eric presents at social media conferences nationwide—including this year’s U.S.SourceLink Take 5 for Entrepreneurship conference in April. Besides being an award-winning business communicator, Eric is a four-time U.S. Air Guitar national finalist. No kidding.

Eric Melin, Spiral 16Social media and mobile technologies are changing the current business landscape and many companies are struggling to keep up.

Certain industries (newspapers, music, television, films, etc.) are completely re-thinking how they generate revenue. But not every industry is faced with this problem. Most businesses just need to think about how they can use social technologies to improve their business.

But some CEOs remain skeptical about the ultimate value of social media. A recent report says that a shocking 43% of B2B companies admit that their CEOs “never consider” their social media reputation. This can be dangerous. If there’s an online crisis, it could be too late to repair the damage if you’re not paying attention.

If you think about the wealth of public information available on the Internet that can be used for business intelligence, not taking advantage of it is a huge missed opportunity.

Unless your competitors are already actively searching the web using a web and social media monitoring tool/service, the chances are good that you’ll be ahead of the curve on mining Internet data for unique business intelligence.

Here are four steps to guide you through the process:

1. Know what questions you need answered. Your monitoring tool can discover the who, what, where, when, and how of online behavior. Social listening can tell you who is posting what, where they are posting it, and how that fits in to the overall conversation, but first you need to supply the tool with a set of targeted keywords that will narrow down your search to find only the most relevant material. Think about the questions that you want answered in a broad sense and then translate that to search terms and exclusions that will do the trick.

2. Tie social media monitoring to your business goals. You’ve identified your business goals already. Now think about how social and web research can help you achieve them. How will the answers help grow your business?  This will also help you focus your questions. Remember: Web analytics and social media metrics are not business metrics, so you will have to draw a connection between the non-financial and the financial. If you bake these connections into your online strategy, measuring the success later will be a hundred times easier.

3. Decide what departments will use web and social media intelligence. Lots of people assume that marketing is the only department that can use social media insight. Not true. There are many more applications. Brand management is the most common, but you can also use social research to generate leads, learn competitive intelligence, do market/industry research, create a more efficient customer service model, discover a crisis and manage it, and run product/service research development. As more insight is gained and used in real-world situations, social media and online listening will become a core part of each department.

4. Examine reports for insight, analyze the data for details. There’s no need to obsess over every measurement that’s out there. Look only at the metrics that matter. There will be some platform-specific metrics: likes, shares, followers, retweets, views, re-pins, +1s, etc. There’s backend measurements from your company website: page views, time spent on site, popular posts, keyword searches, conversion rates, etc. There’s the more advanced web monitoring measurements that a listening tool offers: volume of mentions, sentiment activity, site types, top domains, top authors, most-used words, link spread, and influence measurement, etc. Then there are business metrics: total sales, new customers acquired, cost per transaction, number of qualified leads, number of customer service problems resolved, etc.

Make sure your reports focus on the stats that relate directly to your business goals. Bring in and correlate outside data if you need to (sales reports, response times, etc.). Compare date ranges and other measurements to gain practical, actionable insight.

There is a ton of actionable intelligence out there on the web, but it’s up to companies to start looking for it. Once you put together a program for strategic online listening, every facet of the business can benefit from it. Online monitoring shouldn’t be relegated to the marketing department, but rather something that informs business decisions at every level.

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