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Social Media- Listening to the Right Buzz?

Posted on  4 April 12  by 

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There is no end in sight to Facebook’s web traffic dominance. And yes, social sites like YouTube and Twitter, along with Wikipedia.com and Blogspot.com continue to follow closely behind. But we continue to find that the volume of traffic and the volume of “buzz” on these channels are rarely translating into tangible insights for Market Research to confidently integrate into their organizations.

To truly unlock insights from social media, leading teams approach their social media learning plans not from the perspective of broad monitoring (where we tend to find vague sentiment or trends) but by focusing on specific hypothesis testing. Identifying the specific queries that satisfy hypotheses based on real issues for your business is no small challenge—nor is it the only one Research faces in getting real insight from social.

It is tempting to run to the high-traffic channels of Facebook or Twitter to start listening. But, as Mark Hunter of the INSEAD Social Innovation Center recently said (and the MREB would strongly agree), “it isn’t the social media per se that you should be attending to; it’s the media used by the people and organizations that care most about what you do.” Our second challenge is to identify those channels that are most popular among the audience we care most about (customers, potential customers, or specific segments) and not simply the average “talker.”

Southwest Airlines smartly uses a network “hot spot” screening process to identify the sites where their most meaningful stakeholders are active online. Their approach in 4 relatively simple steps (all steps your social media vendors should be able to support or you can do in-house!) includes:

  1. Begin with a list of anticipated influential sites: Start with a list of the blogs, Facebook pages, community sites, or publications where you know your stakeholders are active.
  2. Add new candidate sites: Expand beyond “the usual suspects” and identify new sites/discussion threads by searching for keywords like the company, products, competitors, related topics, emotional laden words. A fresh search (we’d recommend bi-annually if not more often), invariably yields sites previously unknown to be smart listening posts.
  3. Screen for traffic:  Apply a traffic filter (readership/Web rankings, number of links, popularity) to identify sites that potentially reach more of your targeted audience than the initial outlets on your radar.
  4. Screen for activity: Identify the sites where your stakeholders are most actively engaged by filtering for things like frequency of posts, volume of comments, SEO quality, emotional tone, etc.

This process helped Southwest Airlines identify a new set of listening posts where their specific customers or potential customers were more engaged. New hot spots for them include active travel communities online, as well as things like a seemingly unrelated fashion community where there is quite a volume of talk around travel and travel deals to get to various events.

Set yourself up for tangible learning from social media by identifying these passionate communities of high-value customers, specific demographic segments, or even the competition, to listen for insights from social media that can help you confidently shape recommendations on specific issues for your business.

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