Tuesday, February 28, 2012

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How to Turn Social Feedback into Valuable Business Data


Joshua March is co-founder and CEO of Conversocial, a provider of integrated social CRM and marketing software for Facebook and Twitter. He resides in London.

You’ve set up your company’s Facebook Page and Twitter account, pulled together a social media team to start generating engagement, and now you’ve got a decent audience involved in conversations about your brand. Great, but where’s the real value?

It seems most companies understand that they need to take advantage of social feedback; however, many aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, 85% of marketers think that customer insight is the best potential advantage of using social media, but only 6% of businesses are actually using social media to collect customer feedback, according to a late 2010 survey.

Why is social insight so valuable? For starters, it’s real and organic; marketers can escape the barriers posed by contrived feedback methods, and get direct access to their customers’ real opinions. The more conversations you have, the greater potential you have to learn something, but the data can be difficult to extract.

My company looked at the different messages retailers receive on Facebook and Twitter.

Between 50 and 75% of messages that companies receive on Facebook and Twitter don’t need to be actioned in any way — they’re just noise. Isolating relevant messages from general chatter is time-consuming, especially while you’re trying to stimulate conversation and engage with your fans and followers by the thousands.

The real challenge is to identify and learn from different, valuable lessons based on just one message. You’ve found it, it looks interesting, but what can it do for you?

1. Shed Light on Perceptions of Your Brand

Over a third of messages posted on social networks tell you something about how customers perceive your brand. Your fans and followers will say what they think of you without being prompted. Got any preconceptions you’re trying to shake? Trying to establish a certain brand personality? Social media tells you if it’s working — directly. Your social conversations can help determine whether not just your social strategy, but your entire brand strategy is working out as intended.

2. Peek into Your Customers’ Heads

Want to really understand your customers? What are they talking about, and what does that say about them? Conversations that form around your brand can give insight that you may never have considered. Chatter around a product announcement could reveal feedback that, next time around, you can tap into. Community managers’ conversation starters can provide more than just engagement for engagement’s sake. Have you considered directly asking things about your customers? For instance, what new trends are they loving right now?

3. Understand Which Products Resonate the Best

When you promote a new product on your Facebook Page, do you listen to what your fans have to say about it? Do they love it, or have you gotten an underwhelming reaction? Are your customers calling out for changes or other things they’d love to have? This is valuable feedback for your product team, and can be achieved within minutes of posting a new product. And if you receive complaints of disappointing purchases, respond and make necessary changes. Crowdsourcing doesn’t have to be a sophisticated process; it’s just making the most of what your Facebook Page or Twitter account already knows.

4. Learn from Major Customer Issues

Complaints and questions on your Facebook Page or retweeted across the web are social media managers’ nightmares. But the only way to really stem the flow is to track the complaints that surface time and time again — and to do something about it. Be prepared to deal with these issues (pre-emptive action may help in the future), and let the rest of the business know the most serious service problems it faces.

5. Construct a Social Media Customer Conversation Plan

How do you join the ranks of those leading companies that effectively learn from their social media communities?

Here are a few starting steps to get on top of diverse and jumbled social conversations, and to make the move toward effective research and analysis.

  1. It sounds simple, but work out what it is you’d actually like to know. Categorize messages that would benefit your company (complaints, product feedback, categories related to certain product lines), then create a checklist. When you’re next working your way through conversations and find something interesting, record it.
  2. Have a conversation with every team member involved in your social channels, and establish who needs to know what. If your product team has nothing to do with social media just yet, you may have some lobbying to do. Start collecting your own data, and show them all the insight you’ve discovered. They’ll soon sit up and listen.
  3. Mark customer sentiment on your Facebook and Twitter messages so you understand customers’ satisfaction levels around specific products or marketing messages you’ve sent out. It’s a really simple way to understand opinions.
  4. Group all relevant messages by the categories you’ve defined. This will make it easy for you to look through and analyze customer sentiment by product or service. Keep in mind that uncovering real insight relies upon representative data. If you’re working at any scale, you’ll need a tool to help you extract and categorize information.
  5. Put it all into a weekly report to share with your colleagues.

Social media insight is something worth capitalizing on. If you have a social media presence, you’re already generating valuable, organic data. The next step is to prevent it slipping through the cracks.

Image courtesy of iStockphotoTommL

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