Social Conversations: Making Sense Out of Chaos

By now we already understand, through incessant reminders from marketing gurus and trial-and-error reruns, that the customer is and has always been in control, whether it be a brand’s image, its message, or other related aspects.

In fact, there are so many opinions and social conversations occurring online that it can be difficult deciphering what exactly consumers are trying to say about a particular product, service, and/or brand. These conversations are shaping consumer perceptions, and even influencing revenue and investments with brands (whether they’re being naughty or nice about it).

In this consumer-engaged world, especially with the help of social media, the original business model of traditional advertising effecting one-to-one relationships has now transformed into a new social business model: socially-enhanced individuals are now influencing many-to-many relationships. But this is all just a review… right?

The goal is to sift through the information overload. Advertisers and marketers need to use social media in order to identify patterns, trends and themes across this open social graph. Some of you might be asking, “But how on Earth can I measure content? Who will manage? How can you make sense out of chaos?” Well, we can already nail one question down about management: that is, Social Customer Relationship Management, which should consist of a team that can respond to customers comments, questions and complaints around the clock. Responses should be genuine and not seem automated or standardized – trust is a big player in this game here people!

As advertisers, our goal is to analyze and interpret the content of social conversations occurring online, including blog posts, video, music, photographs and other media you can think of. The idea is to collect a series of conversations and examine the content as a whole to understand the big picture. It is about analyzing the sentiment (whether comments have a positive or negative connotation) behind the meanings from the data we are investigating.

So, how can we sift through this information overload and come out on top with a couple of key insights that have the ability to part the seas? With the help of Social CRM, the sequence of responding and delivering to customers is through the following:

1. Listening and understanding their feedback.

2. Acting upon their insight and constructing a response.

3. Developing a game plan.

4. Allowing customers to experience new developments.

5. Listen and understand feedback from their experience.

You see the cyclic pattern here?

A more computational method of analyzing collaborative social media conversations and user-generated content is through Content Management Systems like Radian6HootSuite and Spredfast. Not only can you see how customers are acting and conversing online, but you also have the ability to respond to their comments and/or demands through a controlled system.

And why not shoot for the stars? You can actually manually create your own quantitative content analysis (if you really, really wanted to). One way is to create a table of two columns that list both positive and negative words. As each word is added to a column, you can add both columns up and come up with a number for each and determine the tone of a customer’s message.

These methods of turning chaos into some sort of organized mess are made easier if you seek the ambitions of an Account Planner. My Customer Insights professor at Texas (props to Dr. Gerri Henderson!) told us that advertisers seeking a position in Account Planning should have the following qualities: inductiveness, ambiguity, sense-making skills, understanding of pattern recognition and social web “listening” skills.

Moreover, they should have an intuitive ability to prove and understand consumer motivations, blend results of secondary research for telling a good story, a knack for understanding why people tick, provide great explanations to make points relevant, and are fuelled by an innate curiosity that inspires them to blaze new trails (I personally like the last one).

Once you’ve mastered these skills and traits (which I’m sure all you brilliant people have), AND if you’re one of those over-acheivers (I’m also to blame…), you might even want to do a test run on this very post – that is, if you’re really feeling your inner nerd today. And if you have any comments, questions, or complaints, I’d be happy to get back to you promptly with the appropriate response to cater to all of your needs and more… (yeah, that sounded about right).

Photo credit: http://elife.com.br/

Further reading on Account Planning:

[Video] Skills of the Rockstar Planner: Intuitive Problem Solving

If you liked this post, you may also like:

The Hidden Truth: Information Accuracy in Social Networking Sites

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8 thoughts on “Social Conversations: Making Sense Out of Chaos

  1. Dreamrage says:

    Engaging with your clients is the most important part of marketing, I think. This post is refreshing because it shows me that some actually still value customer relationships over making a fast buck. To be completely honest, I have also been put off with social media now days. People seem to constantly use it to sell, which makes actual conversation even harder because everything you say is lost in a sea of links and hard selling. When you take the time to follow someone back, you get a private message thanking you (which is awesome), but then they add a little reminder about a certain product (link included) and that just puts a person off.

    If I was faced with a choice between the two methods, I can guarantee that I would do business with someone that took the time to get to know me, and listened to what I have to say. In the end, building a lasting client relationship can be the one boost a marketing campaign needs, because your clients would gladly spread the word because of how well they were treated.

    • lbyers01 says:

      Thanks for your comment Dreamrage… I couldn’t have said it better myself!

      Just right off the bat about the whole Twitter direct message thing: at the beginning I got excited because I thought people were taking their time to send a more personal message… until I noticed it was only a strategic way of planting a link, so I felt just like another “customer”(more like number) to be won over. A lot of conversations are turning robotic and people are catching on to it.

      If customer service is below “excellent” then I think there is need for improvement. And this, I think, along with your point, is the reason that customers keep coming back and are more than happy to tell their friends about their brand experience. CRM is what drives the rest of the positive experience and everything that goes along with it. We are humans after all, aren’t we? We just want to connect on a common ground without being treated like we are just another potential sell.

      • Dreamrage says:

        Absolutely. So many live with the misconception that links, traffic, and that hard sell is what sells products and services, and to be honest, it couldn’t be further from the truth. But, you may as well be shouting at the wind sometimes. Most new marketers learn from the web. 90% of the time, I believe that the material they are learning from is incorrect. There are a lot of “other marketers” out there that wouldn’t think twice about writing the wrong information into an ebook and selling it off as the next best thing since sliced bread. In the end it leaves you with a lot of misguided marketers that seriously don’t know better, as well as a horde of badly written ebooks being sold with resale rights. The best thing for a new marketer to do is to think like a client, and treat their prospective clients the way they would want to be treated if they were one.

        Thanks for the follow by the way. I appreciate it.

      • lbyers01 says:

        Exactly – the Golden Rule! “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And it is too bad that some marketers think that they can get away with writing about deliberate, misconstrued ideas. We can see this in the massive shift that has taken place from push to pull advertising. Now that we can independently seek our demands through various technology that is available to us, slowly but surely, we are figuring each other out (and in some cases, reading through the lines and seeing more clearly each others’ intents and ulterior motives). Which is also why (I’m assuming) Google created the Panda/Farmer Update, which crawls and evaluates content for their validity.

        And thank YOU for following my blog and commenting on the post. Keep them coming – I love learning from others too! Something tells me you are great with people… 🙂

  2. Dreamrage says:

    If I had about 20 cents for ever forum post I have seen where people are trying to find ways to survive the panda, well, you know the rest. 🙂 Google will keep tweaking it and it will be more and more accurate as time goes on. At the moment that is about as good as any solution there is to low quality sites out there.

    It’s chaotic to be honest. People are putting sites and blogs on lockdown, and the more newcomers to the marketing scene are mislead, the worse it gets. I wrote a guest blog post yesterday (that was a bit of a rant to be honest), that spoke about SEO not being marketing. I’ve noticed that lately its all about SEO this, SEO that. New marketers need to realize that what they are being taught is wrong, and they need to be able to figure out which is a con and which is not. There are so many professionals out there that give their information away, that are willing to teach. I guess its because the misleading marketers promise riches and glory that they are more popular than professionals. All they can promise is hard work, learning by trial and error, and perfecting your own personal style of marketing. Some just seem to want quick results instead.

    The way I see it, a marketer (online or not) is like an image consultant for companies. They build reputation and trust in a brand so that the company they work for becomes successful.

    Thanks for your kind words 🙂 I appreciate it.

    • lbyers01 says:

      Right. And I do understand the importance of SEO (or I should at least, considering my dad owns an SEO company!), but he is one of very few – or the only one – I’ve heard of that values morals over money. Heck, I’ve even seen him in his busiest hours with clients stopping by his office in need of help and he takes them in, no matter how much time they demand. But perhaps SEO is not for everyone either, but it is something that marketers shouldn’t push at customers “just because everyone is doing it”; customer goals and objectives still need to be kept in mind. Again, I think it has a lot to do with strong listening skills and social customer relationship management.

      And you’re very welcome – I appreciate your comments!

  3. Dreamrage says:

    It does. If you can’t listen and respond to what our clients need, then why bother to create a product or service in the first place. Aha 🙂 so then you would know the ins and outs of all that is SEO as well.

    Sometimes I just think that some need a new crash course in marketing. Just so that they can get back to the important aspects. Clients.

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