here is the article I wrote for the march Issue of RSVP MN Magazine. It originally appeared here.
It has been the hottest marketing jargon tossed about since Oreo jumped on an opportunity at the 2013 Superbowl when there was a power outage to let their audience know it was still “OK to dunk in the dark.” The tweet went viral and was the most retweeted post (15,000 retweets) by a brand during the Superbowl. Everyone was super excited, especially marketers. So much so that brands spent hundreds of thousands, and even millions, to be the brand with the Oreo moment at the 2014 Superbowl.
Company’s like Papa John’s, Doritos, Verizon, Jaguar, JC Penny, Butterfinger and Reese’s all tried to get into the real time game. They tried to post about plays as they happened or predict outcomes, really without much success. The winner apparently was the Esurance commercial after the Superbowl which announced a million dollar giveaway in exchange for retweeting a hashtag. While the benefits of buzz and awareness do have some value—more social media followers were gained—the bottom line, from Oreo to Esurance, is what has been the conversion of new business dollars from this? Something no one seems to want to measure.
There is of course a better tactic. I propose you do the one action on social media that actually could drive your business forward: perfect the art of real time listening. As of 2013, according to PEW Internet, less than 50 percent of brands and businesses monitor the online activity that mentions them. How can you ever respond to and service your audience if you are not listening to them on the channels they prefer to communicate?
The same PEW report also indicated that more than 90 percent of consumers using the internet for business transactions expect not only that the brands and businesses have a presence online, but that they can interact with them online as well. For too long social media’s focus and intrigue to the C-suite has been its potential to drive sales. The real value of social media though is the ability to perfect and enhance your customer service. There are three steps you can take this year to perfect your real time listening skills:
1. Monitor the channels where you have a presence.
You need to listen, engage and respond to followers on all of the social media accounts you have set up for your company. All of these channels have the ability to push notices to the person managing your account. There are even management tools that will pull all your accounts into one tool, such as HootSuite.
2. Monitor review sites and the general internet for mentions of your brand or business.
Whether you use free tools or hire an outside firm there are different levels of monitoring that can be done. For some brands 24/7 monitoring is needed. For others it can be a daily or weekly situation. The tools can provide you with information as frequently as you would like it to give you reports.
3. Integrate customer service into your social media team.
The final piece is the human element that can respond to the information gathered during the listening. Put into place guidelines for response to customer issues. Empower your team to take action to a certain point to satisfy your customers as quickly as possible, but also have a plan in place where problems that need escalation will receive attention in a timely manner. Larger corporations are forming communication command centers that can achieve this, or are outsourcing to firms that provide these services.
Real time marketing will have to be able to be measured as converted sales dollars if it will ever be successful. While we wait for that to happen, if you aren’t even participating in the conversations by listening to your channels, you will miss any opportunity that arises in those conversations. Are you listening?