Selecting a social listening platform is no easy task, and not a decision that should be made lightly. At SIGMA Marketing Inisghts, six months ago I partnered with our Director of Web Analytics to begin to look at the tools out there for collecting social media data, and determining which platform(s) would best suit our personalized needs. For us, a key element is combining our social media data with not only our online customer data, but our offline consumer insights as well - thereby giving us a 360° look at our customers and prospects. The B2B social media landscape will have completely different listening requirements than a consumer driven business.
When you consider the concept of social media data collection, there are mass quantities of data available from channel upon channel of social communities. If you try to capture all of it, you may find yourself treading water or drowning in a sea of analytics with no idea how to boil the information down into actionable chunks.
Last week, I sat in on a Forrester Research Webinar on social listening platforms, and the output from this was validation that we had considered all the right parts and pieces when determining which tool we would select. The Forrester research article on social listening platforms is due out in short order, but here is my recap of the 3 essential things you should map out before selecting a social listening platform:
1. Staff Availability Assessment. Social media data collection (or social listening), is not a 10-minute per day thing. You can't just glance at a dashboard to get a full understanding of your brand representation, sentiment, campaign analysis, who the major influencers are, and perhaps where you should be placing your energy. Gathering social media analytics and translating the data into actionable marketing strategies takes human resources. Most social listening tools can be set up with standard reporting, but there is most certainly a human analytics element to gathering and understanding the data, which cannot be accomplished through full automation. If you don't have the manpower internally to devote to social listening, you'll either need to augment your staff, or select a listening platform that provides managed accounts with dedicated resources who provide the analytics insights for you. If you have dedicated social media personnel, you may perhaps choose more of a self-service type listening platform.
2. Define Your Collection Goals. You have to know what you want to learn. Are you using social media for customer support? Perhaps you are monitoring competitive brands. You may even be running multichannel socially integrated marketing campaigns. It is possible you are doing all of those things and more! Once you answer the questions of why you need to "listen" - you'll want to understand which social channels you'll want to collect insights from. Will you want live news streams, blog feeds, Facebook updates, YouTube uploads, image posts, tweets or other sources? When you know why you are listening, you can then begin to select the relevant social channels, which enables you to filter out unwanted "noise." Different listening platforms provide insights from different sources - so know what you want to learn, and from where you'll gather that data, before deciding on a tool.
3. Know How You'll Manage the Social Listening Process. Map it out. Understand what you'll want to look at daily, weekly, monthly, etc. Will you need to spend your first hour of every day? Will you use your dashboard reporting daily? How hands-on will you get with the data that is pulled from your selected social channels. Will you integrate your social media analytics with your web analytics? What will your monthly insights look like? Will you need a listening platform with work-flow functionality built in? Some tools allow you to assign tasks, and create actions based on social content. Put a plan in place ahead of time for practical use of the data. This will be your guide for building the day-to-day process of using the social listening platform you select.
Consider the fact that 78% of businesses are currently listening to their customers, yet few act on it. (This according to Forrester Research.) Are you one of those few? Could it be you've selected the wrong type of tools or perhaps are gathering either too much social data, or you are not listening to the right channels? Consider whether you need a basic social dashboard, a tool that provides multichannel analytics, or even perhaps a service partner. There is a huge price range, for each of those types of social listening platforms. Do your research ahead of time before you make an investment in the wrong tools.
I could go on and on about things to consider when selecting the best social listening platform for your personal business needs. Hopefully, this will start you thinking about some areas you can focus your efforts when mapping out your social media listening or analytics strategy. And in the mean time, keep an eye out for the soon to come Forrester Research 2011 Social Listening article.
Good luck, and happy listening!