If you fall into the camp of knowing social media monitoring should be a key element in your marketing strategy – but aren’t exactly sure what to do – you’re not alone. Here is a brief “how to” guide for shaping your marketing efforts.

Monitor for trends

Anytime there’s an uptick in conversation and sentiment within your audience, you want to understand what the discussion is about. That’s why it’s never enough to search solely for your brand name as you analyze social data.

Tracking topics and sentiment in real-time keeps you aware of emerging trends that may offer the perfect opportunity to connect with consumers. These could be anything from a new game, to a great episode of a popular TV show, to a collective appreciation (or not) of a particular product, service, celebrity, meme, etc.

Whatever it is, you don’t want to be the last to know – especially if jumping on board can create a prolonged “moment” for your brand. Be aware, however, that not every trend is worthy of exploiting. Use your social monitoring tools to assess your audience’s interest level before diving in.

Monitor competitors

Monitoring the social landscape should also include your competitors. After all, your audience is also theirs – more or less – and there’s a lot you can learn by seeing what those shared consumers like and dislike.

Start with topics of conversation getting a lot of engagement, then dial into sentiment as well. Why are these topics popular, and how can you use this information to improve the way consumers feel and talk about you?

Insights could include love or distaste for a particular marketing style, or appreciation for a customer service tactic. You might discover demand for a new product that doesn’t exist yet – one which your brand could introduce.

The best part? You learn from other brands’ successes and failures without having to expend the resources and experience those lessons yourself.

Monitor campaign reactions

It had to be hard for marketers in the old days. With limited research options available, an ad campaign would either sink or swim, and lessons learned would have to be applied later – if everyone survived the failure.

Now marketers have the gift of real-time social monitoring, allowing them to track campaigns every second along the way. The benefit here is ability to course correct based on live results – not a report delivered weeks or months after the campaign has ended.

Brands can also track sentiment in advance of campaigns – much more effectively than yesterday’s brands could – so they have a better sense of what will work before they even start.

Still, not every campaign idea that sounds good is a home run when launched – so you’ve got to monitor social reaction to be sure you’re getting the results you want.

Monitor for customer service issues

Social is far more than a destination for content – it’s a place for customers to connect with brands, for better or worse. It’s all well and good to market yourself there, but you undo all your progress if you leave consumers hanging without responding to issues they share on social.

Conversely, a great way to organically promote a top notch customer experience is by demonstrating you care when consumers have a problem. Use social monitoring tools to alert you to customer service issues, then respond quickly and publicly so your audience sees you’re there for them.

Complex issues should be solved off social, of course – but the request for a customer to direct message you shows everyone on social that you’re paying attention and committed to finding a resolution. The best reward? A formerly disgruntled customer happily singing your praises on social media.

Monitor for reputational threats

Some people, however, don’t want resolution – they’d rather malign you on social channels, inciting others to join in. These could include former customers, competitors, or even employees who want to damage your good name.

You need alerts here as well, to warn you of red flags so you can stop negative chatter before it goes viral.

The same is true when the unforeseen occurs – a product issue, for example. You need to know at the first sign of trouble to understand what is happening and how to proceed. Not every negative comment is cause for alarm, and some issues are made worse by your response. But you have to be aware so you can decide.

Always marketing, always monitoring

Marketing is no longer limited to specific campaigns. Every interaction online represents your brand to the world, whether you initiate the conversation or not. Real-time awareness is the antidote to all that ails – or could. So put your social monitoring tools to work, and keep your brand healthy, and your audience happy.

Image from Paul Downey

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