How to make sense of online chatter

Billions of conversations are taking place on social media every day and we all know this is due to the explosive growth of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter in the last decade. The sheer volume of conversations means that we all have social data – lots of it – but the question we need to ask is “are we using this data effectively?”

A brand’s social data capabilities extend well beyond social programs. Converting a flood of social media information into meaningful answers is how progressive marketing leaders are winning and retaining customers. Many intelligence tools have the function to listen to online conversations but the challenge is turning these conversations from noise into intelligence from which we can extract insights.

Extracting market insights for the business

Marketers today know that research and analytics are integral in developing campaigns that effectively reach and influence their audiences. But we should be creative and go beyond traditional research methods, because traditional research such as traditional media monitoring or surveillance of influencer landscape alone may not give marketers the edge anymore, in the ever-increasing competition for customer attention across digital platforms.

The key is for companies to make sense of all the online chatter and engage their audience better. A list of Twitter or Facebook conversations mentioning the brand does not mean anything unless that information can provide valuable and actionable insights; insights that can help businesses to identify the right target audiences, create cut-through messages that resonate with them, and develop relevant marketing strategy and tactics to engage stakeholders meaningfully.

Building a social intelligence toolbox

With the right social intelligence tool, marketers can follow trends and pick out opportunities to join online dialogues about their brand. If marketers can do that, they can position themselves as an authoritative voice for their industry. We have left behind the method of blasting audiences with a “mono message.”

Today, each conversation needs to be treated as a unique and authentic interaction. The flood of data may appear overwhelming for marketers to manage on their own but a powerful social intelligence tool can help to seek out the right stakeholders and influencers to engage with and cultivate as brand advocates.

On the flip side, active social media listening also enables companies to immediately flag negative comments that can impact brand reputation if not promptly addressed. By putting in place the right team, systems and tools, issues surveillance can be conducted effectively and prevent an issue from escalating into a crisis.

With this in mind, a social media team that knows how to utilise intelligence tools is no longer a good-to-have but a critical part of promoting and protecting a brand. The team becomes a core asset to the organisation, as the first line of defence in sounding alarms to call attention to a potential issue and perhaps more importantly, mine insights that help make the company’s messages relevant.

Making intelligence part of the business DNA

The beauty of intelligence in today’s digital world is how easily these can be shared within the organisation be it across departments or across geographies. All facets of the organisation should be taking advantage of data beyond the “four walls”. In fact, intelligence sharing should become part of the business DNA for all employees. By doing so, organisations are not only able to streamline efforts to achieve maximum marketing impact, the sharing of insights across project teams can also inspire new ideas and thinking.

We are already seeing how the future of corporate communications is blurring the line between social and marketing functions. Coupled with the proliferation of social media platforms and conversations, businesses will be pushed to look at creative ways to communicate, harvest data and infuse that intelligence to make decisions that bring success.

The fact that billions of conversations are happening on social media every day presents a great opportunity for marketers and corporations to take advantage of this huge influx of data. Marketers and corporations can enhance understanding of their businesses and customers from an outside-in point of view. With the right intelligence tool and a robust social team in place, businesses can create and sustain an evidence-based competitive edge that is going to put them ahead of the pack.
The writer  is John Box, executive director of Meltwater’s Asia Pacific (APAC) division.