It is not surprising that "social listening" has failed to live up to the hype. It was never going to be a silver bullet. Quite apart from the lack of cultural readiness in many organisations, there is only so much signal that can be gleaned from the noise of social media. And after one or two years listening and perhaps acting tactically many organisations are asking "so what?"
This is not to say that we should ignore social media - simply to recognise that it is a journey rather than a destination. An evolution that now needs to happen quickly. It is no coincidence that many leading social media monitoring vendors have been bought over recent times.
Forrester analyst Zach Hofer-shall describes the evolution of social listening in "It's time for listening platforms to grow-up" - pointing to the need for socially integrated customer data and processes.
Meanwhile, brand-initiated feedback programs - Closed Loop Feedback, Net Promoter or Voice of the Customer programs have seen an explosion in customer data - often event triggered feedback data about a customer "moment of truth". These programs have not attracted some of the media attention of social media but make no mistake, they have been successful in delivering timely feedback and action for customers. So it is interesting to reflect on the key ingredients of these programs and the implications that this may have for social media monitoring.
There are at least three key ingredients that set these programs up for success:
These programs typically pass customer identity (often from Loyalty programs), point of sale data and other customer profiling or segment data through various filters and rules to generate timely survey invitations. On completion of a survey, identity therefore enables the customer and transactional feedback to be analysed in context. For example, what are my high-value detractors actually saying ("Voice by value")?
As any researcher will tell you, the best insights are most often in the text or open-ended comments. This is where you will find the answer to the question you should have asked! The challenge of unstructured data is how to determine key concepts (or drivers) in a consisently accurate way at scale that does not cost an arm and a leg. Our experience with a combination of text analytics and some human intervention (this is not an exact science!) is that contemporary text analytics is starting to make a major contribution to customer insights.
The advent of standard or "open-source" metrics like Net Promoter Score have provided a simple way of explaining what success looks like. With evidence based approaches like NPS, there is nowhere to hide, sales either move in concert with NPS movements or they don't.
What does this all mean for social media monitoring?
To view social media in isolation - no matter how shiny and new - is a bit like the tail wagging the dog. Bringing together known customers with unknown consumers on social media will require persistence but has a far more valuable outcome.
The success of customer feedback programs suggests that:
- Social listening data should be integrated with customer data
- Identity in social media (as the golden thread through all customer data) should become a quest for marketers & customer strategists
- Text analytics (technology & practices) should be applied across social data
- Standard metrics (like NPS and inferences from these metrics) should be used to view social listening data
And then perhaps we will truly see a golden era of social listening!
This blog post is adapted from a presentation given at the Social Media Monitoring and ROI Forum in March 2012, see below for the full presentation.