Insights that are Bigger than 140 Characters.

A fundamental part of the strategies that we implement for clients include a listening analysis or audit that takes a baseline of all the social media conversations that are taking place across over half a billion sources of user generated content. While many of our clients agree that Facebook and Twitter are not the de-facto social media outlets, there is a tendency to consider these two channels as the ones that drive social media strategy.

From a consumer engagement perspective, this is probably not a bad idea. We typically see about 10% of all conversations for social media monitoring come through Facebook and Twitter. Outside of some outliers, the conversations tend to focus on two things: complaints and broadcasting.

A complaint typically sounds like the following: “Been waiting on the phone with Company X for over 40 minutes. Arggghh!!!”. No question that this can help customer service improve and understand perceptions in their consumer base. In addition, a community manager could also reach out to this individual to ask if they can help out. Based on experience, individuals who are just complaining typically are not looking for help, and just venting steam. But it is unquestionably a good reflection on the company to respond to individuals on Twitter and Facebook in real time. As an aside, the usual suspects for monitoring tools are not always the best way to engage on Twitter and Facebook.

A broadcast is typically a retweet or statement of something that your company has done well or poorly: “Company X is helping to make the world a better place by supplying products to poor countries in Africa – http://bit.ly/234″. People who message about your brand probably send similar micro-messages about other companies. Again, these are great individuals to look to as influencers or evangelists, and we recommend following and reaching out to them to help with future messages. But besides knowing what resonates with customers, it is unlikely that any innovative new ideas are going to come through micro-media.

User engagement is a part of governance, and micro-media messages like those on Facebook and Twitter should fall into such a governance strategy. On the other hand, overall strategy on how to utilize social media for insights should be aligned with the conversations that are coming from the other 90% of conversations. These are the blogs, forums and message boards that talk in more detail about your company, your competitors and your industry. They may not necessarily be the place for direct engagement, but they can tell you a lot more about strategic direction than a complaint or a broadcast message.

Listen to the entire conversation about a certain topic area, and see if there’s anything that your company can do to improve the way things are done. This is not a day-to-day process, but rather a dedicated effort to analyze and set the path for business strategy that is driven through social media technologies. The insights that you will gain from these channels have a tendency to be lot more valuable than anything that 140 characters can offer.

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Filed under Corporate Social Media