Monday, February 1, 2010

Strategy for Effective Listening

On Friday I wrote about the importance of listening to brand-related conversations on the web. It’s an important source of information these days. It’s also a potential source of qualitative data.

The problems with thinking of web conversations as data are twofold:
1. There is so much of it
2. It is qualitative.
A lot of us use Google Alerts to manage our own personal brands or brands with limited reach. Google Alerts are great, but if there’s a lot of conversation taking place, it quickly becomes unmanageable. I’m also not smart enough to filter what comes in so I only get the specific types of items that I’m looking for. Google Alerts picks up items that have a URL but in order to monitor microblogs and other social media conversation you have to use different services.

I’ve tried Social Mention in the past. I used a rather generic search string and I was inundated. That tends to cause the user to just give up and cancel the alert. Fortunately, cancelling them is easy, so you shouldn’t hesitate to give it a try. I just set up another one on Social Mention with a very specific search string. It immediately sent me an email to catch me up on what I think was the last month’s activity and the first dozen or so entries (of 28 for this specific, local issue) were spot on.

When there’s a problem web entrepreneurs arrive to try to solve it. I wrote about Techrigy last summer as a social media metrics service. Obviously, in order to produce the types of social media metrics described in the post it has to collect social media data. That huge database made it attractive to a larger firm and Techrig recently became part of Alterian. According to the site, the SM2 monitoring product continues to grow in line with the ecosystem it monitors.

What really interested me on Friday, though, was a firm called Clarabridge. They describe themselves as providing data for customer experience management, another recent subject. They do it by content mining. Data mining for quantitative data; content mining for qualitative data—concept makes sense, doesn’t it?

The relationship is that Clarabridge uses the Techrigy database of social media activity and puts its proprietary content mining algorithm on top of it to produce actionable insights in various aspects of marketing operations.

And that’s my point. Every business needs a listening strategy. Start small, say with Google Alerts. If that works for you, fine. But you also need to be monitoring social media and that requires another service. If the volume is high, you will need more help.

But that’s not all you need. This is a lot of effort; it’s going to require some resources. That means you must have a thoughtful listening strategy. Jeremiah Owyang outlines 8 Stages of Listening. We all must be progressing through those stages as our needs and our resources allow.

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