Major brands and corporations are beginning to find the value in social media marketing, yet many still do not know how to begin the process. It is easy to set up a Facebook fan page, Twitter account, Flickr photo stream etc. but what exactly does this accomplish and why choose these social media sites? The main-stream buzz around social media has created almost a clarion call amongst executives to undertake social media initiatives. What many do not realize is that social media marketing must be executed with a clear strategy consisting of strong metrics, objectives, and goals. The “ease-of-use” of these technologies has really created a tremendous problem within the marketing world, in which marketers are throwing out traditional long-term planning and strategy development to jump head first into so-called “social media marketing.” One of the most critical components of social media marketing is determining how to effectively engage the target audience before even attempting to do so. This can be accomplished by listening to the conversations that are already occurring online even before building that Facebook fan page or Twitter account, a step that many marketers forgo. As marketers it is essential that we understand this critical step in social media marketing.
WHY WE LISTEN
Today, more than ever, people research products and services online before making a purchase. Social media marketing utilizes a pull strategy allowing customers to reach out to products, services, and brands, relevant to their own experiences, via the web and social media sources. Therefore, it is important organizations know how to engage their audience to provide some sort of value, in a relevant manner. Through the process of listening, organizations can find where/why the audience looks for products and services, and determine how to effectively reach them.
A VIRTUAL FOCUS GROUP
Listening to the online audience essentially serves as a virtual focus group. Conversation occurs across a wide array of social web components such as ratings/review sites, blogs, multimedia sites, wikis, and social networks. Listening reveals insight into satisfaction, brand association, brand loyalty, product ideas, product improvements, demographics, competitor activities, market opportunities etc. Once organizations have gained a deep understanding of the online audience, strategic objectives and relevant success metrics can be defined to develop a measurable social media or marketing strategy.
LISTEN BEFORE ENGAGING
Social media marketing allows organizations to establish meaningful and impactful connections with their target audience that may lead to valuable long-term relationships. Social media marketing works similar to offline conversations and business networking. A dialogue is established in which both parties exchange thoughts and ideas. The exchange allows individuals to find relevant connections, which may then lead to a valuable relationship. It is necessary for companies to begin the process with social media monitoring, to first listen to conversations already occurring online. Listening and analyzing to the on-going social communication produces valuable insights that are then used to effectively engage the target audience.
What are your thoughts on the importance of listening in social media marketing?