Over the last few years businesses have become more and more confident with Social Media and most have a presence in some respect even if it is just advisory. However depending on the businesses core offering sometimes having only a direct presence is not that beneficial as internet consumers are interested in their passions rather than just products. For example unless someone is looking to renew their car Insurance they are unlikely to spend a Sunday afternoon trawling the internet to see who offers the most comprehensive and value for money car insurance, however they may spend the afternoon on a car discussion forum talking about their passion. In this instance there is more value in participating in the forum i.e. contributing articles, sponsoring events etc to increase brand awareness during the year in addition to having a separate site just offering quotes and hoping that your brand is considered during the annual renewal window.
It is paramount to engage potential customers in the channel of their choice and exhibit behaviour they would expect (i.e. if want to become a respected brand on a forum do not interact with it by suggesting links for quotes or brand placement as this behaviour would probably get more negative feedback from the users than good).
In an effort to increase brand awareness businesses are now starting to invest in Social Media Monitoring tools to try and understand what is being said about them in order to try and change negative sentiment into positive (Many are also implementing teams modelled on the Dell Social Media Listening centre which was opened in Austin Texas in 2010). However this should not be the only reason for listening as this is a reactive behaviour and will only end in the tool becoming a complaints resolution mechanism.
Even though businesses are now engaging with customers in reaction to negative sentiment (especially from celebrities) is it a good thing? There have been numerous incidents recently where celebrities have tweeted issues and the businesses involved have gone out of their way to resolve the problems to ensure that their millions of “followers” see them as being reactive and able to fix issues (See the 2 incidents BT resolved with Lily Allen and Lord Sugar). However when the tweets have long disappeared into the ether and are no longer searchable there will still be reams of Blogs and news stories recounting the problem for everyone to see forever. After reading these articles do you feel that you would move to BT as they are reactive to issues or does it make you feel that you need to be a celebrity to get an issue resolved quickly?.
To really differentiate it is important to know your customer and understand their passion. Social media monitoring tools are ideal to assist in understanding this, so Instead of just monitoring your own brand it is important to understand where discussions are being had around product connected subjects. This data will then allow you to interact in the right place at the right time.
There are a plethora of products available in the marketplace to monitor the web and they range from sentiment analysis (i.e. what is being said about your company, is it good or bad and how is it compared to others) to tools which monitor staff internet usage whilst on company networks to track where they are visiting and restricting where necessary (i.e. you may allow staff to access Facebook but not use chat or play games).
Like most things the value of these tools is in how you interpret the data rather than the amount mined. Also if you are extracting data rather than using live data to create MI, who will be responsible for retaining it in the future and for how long? What if a court ever asked for information on a subject would this new data store need to be considered as there could be a whole host of incriminating information in the extracts?