Stop, Collaborate and Listen: How Social Listening Can Help You Achieve Online Success

Big data – the buzzword everyone loves to hate because it conveys so much yet most of us just skim over the surface of the data available, despite this offering key insights into our customers that’s invaluable to effective customer relationships.

Then there’s the whole new kettle of digital fish that is social data.

Social Media Today has kicked off the month saying that even if you’re constantly active on social media, or your brand is consistently engaged in social media marketing, it can be difficult to stay on top of the latest trends and consumers’ usage shifts – which you really need to know in order to align your strategy accordingly.

Making better business decisions based on Social Data

More than that, with customer experience top of everyone’s mind, a particular focus on your audience’s user habits and changes, as well as of trends and broader marketing shifts, mean that your brand’s social media marketing approach is more responsive and effective overall, reaching your consumers in a way that’s the least distracting, which means you’re deriving the best possible value from your investment of time and ad spend.

But, as with anything, that means putting people in place with the skills and knowhow to do so effectively, as well as the ability to learn as times change and new ways of work emerge.

Social media’s only been a core focus for the past decade or so, yet for savvy businesses it can’t be ignored, as that’s where your audience spends the bulk of its downtime – often second-screening; scrolling through feeds while also watching TV, commuting or working.

What do Social Listening and Social Selling Have in Common?

This social media second life (sorry, Second Life) is the reason social selling and social listening are two of the top social media marketing trends for the year.

Social listening is of huge importance here, as you can tap into what your current and potential consumers are saying about not just your brand but also your competitors and category overall – it’s like a secret spy hole, right into their hopes and dreams.

Even better? 90% of consumers already reach out to brands and retailers directly on social media, taking out some of the guess work, but on the flipside, 78% of people complaining to brands via Twitter expect a response within the hour. Heaven forbid something goes wrong at the other wide of the world or over the weekend if your social media accounts are only monitored during “business hours!”

Source: Social Media Today

That’s why Melissa Attree, creative director of Ogilvy Cape Town and one of the country’s top content marketing minds, mentioned that great tactical work relies on a switched-on community manager, using social listening tools.

Many companies have access to extensive databases that they just don’t use effectively. Don’t fall into that trap. Think of creative ways to share your brand information with consumers. There’s a plethora of fancy tech out there, but email is still one of the most powerful digital tools in the marketer’s arsenal, to share information both ways.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, there’s expected to be a 31% growth in social listening tools this year, and using social media listening for lead generation as well as social selling is expected to snowball as a result.

How closely are you listening?

Teen Tag Team: Hollister, AwesomenessTV and Social Data in Action

We’re already seeing case studies of the success of implementing a social data strategy in your overall marketing umbrella, with MediaPost reporting that Viacom is putting social data to good use in adjusting content for branded series on its AwesomenessTV platform for teen apparel brand, Hollister.

Just three years ago, the brand owned by Abercrombie & Fitch was struggling not just with raining awareness among those slippery millennial consumers but also in zipping up affinity with them.

Cue AwesomenessTV pushing mobile-first branded entertainment on its YouTube channels, closely monitoring comments from viewers and making adjustments to the content.

What followed was the success story of any marketer’s dream, with Hollister launching two fast-paced, reality TV-like competitions: Carpe Challenge: Miami presented by Hollister and The Carpe Life, presented by Hollister. Each featured real teens in 12-episode series, each 12-minutes max – that’s considered long-form today, and while everyone on screen is dressed in the brand, that’s where the product push ends.

Chief Marketer comments that the short-form docu-series, “follows junior and senior high school students as they wend through the school year and spend the summer traveling and playing music.” Songs and music videos inspired by the episodes were also available to stream on Spotify.

This approach perfectly matches the GenZ content concept of zooming in on real people, in real-time, with the brand rolling back real reactions into the content cycle.

The Proof is in the Pedal Pushers

They’re not just watching the show, they’re relating to it, reacting to it, and thus giving a hint of the direction they’d like to see it go.

Think with Google adds that seven in 10 teens spend more than three hours a day watching mobile video, with two in three teens make purchases online – more than half of those on their phones.

With 4.6 million YouTube subscribers and 21 million views of the two series so far, resulting in 85 million minutes of content and purchase intent rising by double digit percentages, that’s social data in action.

youtube and millennials - the power of social media listening

That’s just when the going’s good and consumers are loving your brand. Imagine if the tides turned – same figures, but with digital venom behind them. Just follow a trending hashtag when a brand faces a PR crisis and you’ll see why Hoorah Digital says, “Whether you’re a startup or a multinational, it’s vital that you conduct regular digital audits. This will enable you to answer questions such as:

  • Are you getting the most out of your paid and organic search efforts?
  • Is your website performing as well as it could be? (Google rewards websites that load faster and perform well on mobile)
  • Do you have a social listening strategy in place?
  • Are you analysing the competition and their tactics?”

The Beauty of Social Data: Automated Analysis

You won’t need to spend your weekends analysing the data, as Research Live reports a whopping 68% of respondents spend their every waking moment focused on data analysis, as “social media analysis remains siloed within organisations.”

That un-coordinated approach to social intelligence or social data means lack of cohesion of activities, duplication of tasks, and poor understanding of just what insights to take forward and act on, fast. Or any action being taken at all. Imagine those reams of data flooding by, only to be put into lengthy presentations that are updated quarterly. “Our consumers don’t seem to like this aspect of our product” will be the only insight that’s followed through in each report, when instead that specific touchpoint could be honed as and when it’s flagged as an issue, using real consumers’ insights.

Just think of what your brand could do with those insights, if you had the time to analyse them as they rolled in.

If you need help with any aspect of understanding, analysis or supercharging your company’s social data, you’re at the right place. This free, handy online guide explains why you’re missing out if social data isn’t part of your current marketing strategy (sorry dinosaur brands), as well as the social media 101 of where and how your target market chooses to engage with your content.

Click here to download the free eBook, spend some time exploring how to use social data to address these challenges and better yet, how to use social insights to create a killer content marketing strategy, year after year. Content marketing strategy, sorted!

Meltwater Africa eBook - How to Use Social Data to Create a Killer Content Marketing Strategy

The Modern CEO’s Guide to Winning on Social Media

They’re influential, they have a high-profile, and may hold  the destinies of hundreds of thousands of employees and investors in their hands. Yet, a remarkable 61% of Fortune 500 CEOs are unwilling – or unable – to engage in social media activities that could promote their organisations to a global audience of billions.

This is according to Entrepreneur magazine, which also says that this reluctance may stem from a different time – when social media was regarded as frivolous and unimportant as a business tool.

Millennials are shifting the way that CEOs engage with the public

But the world has moved on since then. Millennials (aged 23-38, in 2019) have become a major force in terms of influence and buying power. These consumers want immediate two-way communicate with the organisations they engage with. They also want to hold organisations accountable, and to understand their standpoints on key social issues. Who better than the CEO to facilitate this interaction, credibly?

It sounds logical. Yet new research – published in June 2019 by global communications group Brunswick – surveyed several thousand corporate employees and readers of the financial press. In the UK and US social media usage by CEOs is not only lacking, but may be even worse than that indicated by Entrepreneur magazine. It’s basically non-existent.

“A majority of CEOs at S&P 500 and FTSE 350 companies are effectively offline at a time when their customers, employees, and investors are very much online. These executives have an opportunity to update their leadership habits in an increasingly connected world… yet, only half (48%) have a social media presence,” says Brunswick in a media statement.

The public wants to see CEOs getting involved

Brunswick notes that, while CEOs are expected to focus on financial and strategic issues, there is now an increasing expectation for direct communication. A majority of US and UK employees surveyed believe that communication on social media, from a CEO, has a positive impact on the company’s overall effectiveness (66% US and UK) and reputation (71% US, 72% UK).

“The Connected Leadership Survey confirms CEOs are missing a major opportunity by ignoring social media,” says Noah Kristula-Green, Associate with Brunswick Insight and director of the research project. “The data shows that employees see value in their leaders communicating more transparently and that readers of the financial press will turn to social media to see how a CEO responds to a crisis or an emergency.”

But some CEOs are breaking the mould…

Of course, there are CEOs who use social media to great effect. In the UK, Virgin chief Richard Branson is a notable exponent. High-profile and outspoken, he has a remarkable 16-million followers on LinkedIn, 12,6-million Twitter followers, 3,9-million followers on Instagram and 3,2-million likes on his Facebook page.

In the Guardian newspaper a few years back, Head of Marketing Communications for law firm Gowling WLG, Rebecca Scully, notes: “He [Branson] clearly understands the opportunity that social media presents for him to represent the Virgin brand to a wider group of people and make them feel part of its story.”

Image result for richard branson on linkedin

Branson sums it up

In Branson’s 2017 book Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography, he highlights how important social networks have become for customer service, something that has always set Virgin apart. “Those companies who haven’t reacted to the expectations of swift, useful online service will see their customers move to their rivals quicker than you can type 140 [now 280] characters,” he writes.

Andy Barrat – Ford, UK

Another UK-based top exec, with good social media credentials, is Andy Barratt – Chairman and MD of Ford, UK. Although his 20 500 LinkedIn followers are a small percentage of Branson’s, it is still a decent figure. Tomas Bay, a business consultant and business coach with the UK-based Swire conglomerate, says: “(He) makes Ford look great. He makes his people look great. He makes his customers look great. Barratt puts a face on Ford UK. He makes Ford UK human.”

So what does it take to level up to social CEO status?

Remember that it’s not about you. Although you’re the leader of the organisation, your conversation should be about the work the organisation does, its ideals, its triumphs, the people it serves and those it employs. Kate Collins, CEO of the Teenage Cancer Trust and the overall winner of the 2018 Social CEO Awards in the UK, advises: “People can clock a self-promoting CEO in a lot less than 280 characters and they switch off.”

Being social is not a daytime job. You can’t schedule 30 minutes of your working day to “be social” and expect to be successful. Often the best social opportunities happen when most people are enjoying downtime at night or on weekends. Industry crises don’t happen during office hours, and if your company hits the headlines in the Sunday tabloids it’s best not to wait until 9 am on a Monday morning to begin crafting your social media response.

Be responsive. Following on from the point above, try to react personally to as many queries, concerns and complaints as you can. A response from the top obviously carries far more weight than something from a customer-service representative or PR professional. Where you do have to pass the matter on to someone else within the organisation, say “we’ll get back to you as soon as possible” and then make sure that it happens.

Solve problems. Most companies on social media seem incapable of actually resolving issues. They’re great at platitudes and making promises, but months down the line it’s common to see the same customer complaint still going around in circles. Nothing will kill your social media credibility faster than promising to resolve an issue and then failing to do so. You’re the person at the top; make it happen.

Use the information that you glean. Social media is about having conversations – not simply talking to an audience while they hang on your every word. Use the feedback and the comments, even the insults, to gather insights from the marketplace that can benefit your business.

Be wary of knee-jerk reactions. While you need to react promptly to social media issues, take a breath or two before you respond to highly emotive situations. Better still, consult a colleague or a communications professional and see if they can give you a calming perspective before you say something you’ll later regret. What’s said on social media tends to stay on social media – although you may think that you’ve hit the ‘delete’ button. Even if your impulsive statement doesn’t get you into trouble now, it could well come back to haunt you later.

Be a leader. Being too malleable won’t make you a successful social CEO… just ask Richard Branson. Keep point 4 in mind, but don’t shy away from having an opinion and being outspoken. Meaningless corporate double-speak may ingratiate you with your lawyers, but it won’t endear you to your social media audience. Important issues, particularly where morals and ethics are involved, require people in leadership roles to take a stand. Be that person. And remember that being legally correct doesn’t necessarily make you morally right; the two can be mutually exclusive.

Don’t worry, be happy. Just as in any other walk of life, on social media it’s difficult to like someone who is always moaning. Even if times are tough, be sure to lighten up and put a positive spin on things where you can. Instead of just focusing on problems, try to outline solutions too.

Be humorous. A little humour goes a long way towards creating personality and being easy to relate to. Poke fun at yourself sometimes. But don’t try too hard, as your audience will pick up on this. Being the perpetual clown prince can also damage your credibility.

Choose your platforms. Richard Branson has mastered the art of being popular across a wide range of social media channels – but that doesn’t hold true for everyone. Each platform is different and appeals to a slightly different audience. What works best for your business and your message? What works best for your natural talents and inclinations? LinkedIn isn’t ideal if you’re targeting a younger, less well-read audience, for example. The visual nature of Instagram won’t work if your audience thrives on long thought-leadership discussions.

So get out there and influence the growing online conversation, rather than merely becoming a passive onlooker. It’s going to benefit your business, as well as your personal brand.

The Rise of Virtual Influencers: Will GenZ Stop Them in Their Tracks?

Welcome to the age of influence as a currency. Is it a new concept? No – but is it one we’ve become more aware of in the digital sphere? Well, since the rise of the reality star and the socialite culture of Paris Hilton and the Kardashians, influence has become the core of modern commerce.

If you’ve ever spent a Saturday evening watching The American Meme on Netflix or used a popular influencer to market one of your products, you’ll know the power of the attention economy. Someone cool says it’s cool and suddenly you can sell slime to a generation of kids who didn’t even know they wanted a tactile experience. Someone smart says it’s smart, and pseudo intellectuals and the real deals alike are clambering to get at it.

It doesn’t matter what it is, with the right influencer strategy, there’s a way to punt it more effectively, and ethically – but that’s a discussion for another day.

Influence is all around us

Joe Sugg
YouTuber, Joe Sugg

So, are we sure that influence is power and power is influence? Let’s take a look at the facts to get a better understanding of the current state of things:

  • Popular YouTuber, Joe Sugg (ThatcherJoe) was reportedly worth $2 million in 2018 and had over a million subscribers in just 2 years.
  • Halfords enjoyed a 2.7% sales increase and over 2 million impressions, the first time they ever tried an influencer campaign. You can read more about that in their Influencer case study.
  • The Make a Wish Foundation in the Netherlands partnered with Dutch gaming vlogger, Yarasky, to host a live telethon. They ended up raising over 10 000 euros for the foundation.

But influence extends far beyond the big, notable campaigns that we read about in case studies or recognise from the internet. It’s a subtle play in every part of global culture and decision making. It lives in peer pressure, word of mouth, marketing, advertising, sponsorships, and celebrity culture. It’s born in schoolyards, workplaces and on sports fields. It’s a powerful part of human dynamics, and so it makes sense that how we influence would evolve over time – as everything does.

But that being said, it also comes with its challenges.

The Influencer Nightmare

We all know about the erratic nature of celebrities and influencers micro-influencers are no different. Yes, some of them are perfectly well behaved angels who treat their work professionally, rock up on time and get things done. But realistically, we have very little control over whatever scandal could plague them next or whether or not they are willing to meet some requirements etc. It’s a very delicate balance. So, the idea of a virtual influencer seems like somewhat of a dream, right? Well, we’ll get into that in a moment. Firstly let’s look at the what.

Enter, the virtual influencer

virt

Imagine a digital model, who’s considered cool, hot and on-trend and can be styled in any way imaginable. She has over 1 million followers on Instagram and uses Fenty lipstick to perfectly compliment her glowing complexion. Is she the perfect canvas for a brand? Can she help cosmetics companies garner attention without the downfalls of working with real-life influencers? Yes, she can, and her name is Shudu Gram.

Shudu is just one of the growing list of virtual influencers making her mark in the social space. She’s not sentient, she doesn’t have a heartbeat – but she is aesthetically pleasing, completely malleable and capable of turning heads.

Similarly, Miquela Sousa or “Lil Miquela” as she’s popularly known, has 1.5 million Instagram followers. She’s positioned as more of a real-life girl and serves as a good example to marketers of how everything can be planned before execution. There’s a lot of secrecy about who invented her, which means it was likely a company or someone with a corporate interest – but this is just speculation.

Either way, these are the new group of influencers that you will come to loathe or love if you’re someone who regularly finds themselves online.

So, the kids are going to love this – right?

After all, anything cool and digital is appealing to the younger generations, if we look at how quickly and widely they adopt technologies in comparison to their parents. But if we look at the data, there is some information that contradicts this theory.

We know that GenZ values authenticity – almost to a fault. They’re all about experiencing the real and being yourself. A number of marketers have come out and spoken up against viewing virtual influence marketing as a long-term strategy like Carousel or Business2Consumer.

They argue that:

  • >Reach is different to influence and influence is harder to get if you’re not real.
    Followers are often fake. In fact, according to Carousel, Lil Miquela only has a real follower contingent of 60%, making the other 40% completely redundant in real-wor