The Quantum Mousetrap

Mark Eduljee's blog about Social Media Insights Intelligence and his FlightSim Movies

Posts Tagged ‘ROI’

Listening: social media’s 4th dimension

Monday, May 24th, 2010

There is this wonderful story in the world of physics used to describe dimensions. It goes like this: An Ant is walking along a very long, looped, thick, cylindrical wire.

Wait! What the heck has this got to do with Social Media!!?

Patience grasshopper! And shuddap and listen for a change!

Let’s call the ant… Adam. Adam Ant. It has a nice ring to it yes?

Anyway, Adam is happy. He is wired to his universe. In his 3 dimensional universe he can interact with others, follow them, exchange information, and help out. With a vibrant and active community Adam does not lack the opportunity to engage in conversation, exchange information, interact with others, help out, meet others, or participate in activities.

Are you seeing a parallel? Does this world sound familiar to something you are in, right now? …Community on line (get it?), with roles, followers, activity, interaction, help, and conversations, all within a self-defined, self-perpetuating system? Sounds like the current Social Media universe?

Viewed from Adam’s vantage point and broadly speaking, Social Media’s 3 current dimensions are:

  1. Social Media Marketing (buzz, followers, sentiment, demand generation, and awareness)
  2. Social Media Communication (do I need to say more)
  3. Social Media Engagement (interaction, relationships driving perception)

These 3 (MCE) have been well studied, documented, with many a wise word written and oodles and oodles of content created about these activities to understand and help us use become more aware of these 3 dimensions. There are many careers that have been built on their platforms and its foundation. This is good. It should be encouraged. It advances the collective body of knowledge to drive SM participation reach, excellence, collaboration and contributions.

Back to the Adam Ant… As a member of the online community he’s not focused on, nor is he even in a position to be able to broadly Listen to the community. Sure, he can talk 1:1, or 1:100 if he shouts really loudly, or 1:1million if his megaphone and following is big enough, but he can’t listen to, or easily make sense of, the vast number of conversations in the online space. His measures of success and passions are limited and well understood too. His focus is participation and engagement.

But like the Dark Energy and Matter that scientists say pervades and influences how the real universe behaves, Adam feels the effect of a 4th social media dimension, but because of the level of activity around him, it’s very difficult for him to see it. Unlike his activity-driven universe which he can reach out and touch, this 4th dimension is much harder to understand, harder to measure, and much harder to “do” well, consistently, and predictably.

What is that 4th Social Media dimension?  … Social media listening

To put this 4th social media universe dimension into perspective, imagine now that Adam’s community is contained in a great big glass Ant Farm, one that contains a larger number of communities, all living their lives quite blissfully unaware of the world beyond the glass wall.

Certainly Adam is impacted by those outside who observe his community, and as a result, make environmental or other changes. After all, the community’s health is at stake. He participates, but the Listening dimension interprets his participation as “feedback”, and if it is doing its job, it has the option to take that feedback and make changes to the ecosystem as needed to keep Adam engaged and happy.

Exploring, understanding, and getting “really good” at 4th dimensional Social Media Listening is the next frontier.

What is Social Media Listening: It’s defined in terms of having the …

  • Commitment (executive sponsorship, the will or the awareness to invest in social media Listening and data science)
  • Capacity (Funding. Moolah. Dough. Some grease to keep the Listening effort functioning over time)
  • Capability (Providing the right tools and people to enable Listening)
  • Competencies (Alignment of roles, responsibilities and accountability. Organizational excellence)

…to create a framework that pulls in the voice of the community on one end, has people, process and tools to generates actionable insights while assigning them to competent individual subject matter experts in the middle, who then make changes to the customer experience on the other side.

Why is it in your interest to have a SM listening strategy?

Why is listening to 2 billion online conversations a year a good thing? And why is it important EVERYONE make an effort to get good at it?

  • Why not? If you are a business or person intent on gaining traction and awareness, what better (and more efficient) way to know what actions you need to take next than to first listen to what your customers want!
  • If you don’t, you are getting ½ the story: Most businesses and enterprises focus on Social Media Marketing (creating, gathering, or generating Followers and fans, Newsletter subscriptions, site visitors, click-rates, Communicating messages etc). That’s all great, and necessary. But SM Marketing is not SM Listening. Surveys, focus groups and other data collection methods traditionally used in marketing science disciplines are aimed at guiding decisions based on customer sampling, and they have their place and time. It’s a narrow, focused, time-bound method of getting a pulse. I’m not against surveys and focus groups. (Part of my previous job was to own the Survey strategy and governance for our line of business, so I get it) But that’s not broad Social Media Listening. Marketing’s purpose is to build and raise awareness. Listening is about gaining insights from EXISTING conversations.
  • SM listening provides unmatched, real-time early warning signals: If you want near-real time feedback, there’s no better way that I know of to hear what your customers are saying about you. BTW, putting up a survey on your site, or in a presentation is not SM Listening. Surveys are a fantastic tool in under certain conditions, but have been overused and abused. Surveys have inherent design problems that few understand…overcoming bias, sampling, stats and other math. I’ve seen many scorecards which have used averaged averages and other weird (convenient) math. It takes special skills, from trained professionals, to produce high confidence results, AND, to competently interpret the numbers without bias. You’ve probably got Monkey results if you’ve ever used surveyMonkey to run your surveys. Show me a result you “want” and I’ll design a survey that gives you that result. Survey results are easy to manipulate, and politicians and special interests use surveys to get the results they want to suit their agenda all the time.
  • Listening gives you what you “need” to hear… the good, the bad and the ugly. Marketing analysis gives you what you want to hear (focused, keyword driven data). To listen to SM conversations is to cast a broad net with very few keywords to cut the bias out of your Listening. The result is that you become a consumer of conversations, as opposed to, in Marketing, a conversation influencer.
  • Listening inspires innovation: There is no person or team on Earth who can compete with the collective power of all the brains, and ideas, and passions of all social media participants. They will invent new ways to use and abuse your products than you ever thought possible, and think of more new “if only it did…” features than you ever will. Which team wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of those Listening insights?
  • Listening completes the ROI story: Much has been written about Social Media metrics like reach, followers, sentiment, awareness, visitors, sales, conversion, net promoter scores, subscribers etc) But most, if not all of these measure SM Marketing success and effect. SM Listening takes your ROI story to the next dimension. Imagine your scorecard that also includes the following:
    • Product and Service quality improvements (Customers will see a difference)
    • New feature/service innovation (Competitors will struggle to keep up)
    • Business, process, cost efficiencies (doing more of what’s needed, and less of what isn’t. CEO’s Love this)
    • Influencer identification (long term deeper customer engagement and retention)
    • Key themes for SEO and content generation (making it easier to find, solve and engage)

In the spirit of listening, I’m going to now shut up and Listen – to you. I’m sure that you can think of a number of reasons and advantages to having a social media listening strategy. Comments welcome.

Over time I intend to write about social media Listening challenges, how to overcome them, and go deeper into the skill requirements and processes needed to set up and run a great social media listening system. I hope you will stay tuned. (See subscription links in the right column)

Reach out to me on LinkedIn if you wish. If you do, mention the Quantum Mousetrap. Mention Listening in the 4th dimension.

I’ll have a social media sundae please: 2 scoops of twitter on a banana boat, with a sprinkle of lets-all-do-it

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Social media, two of the hottest buzz words…Celeb-ity birds do it, biz do it, even anxious elected fleas do it, let’s all do it, let’s… well you know the rest of the song.

How many times have you heard this: “If you’re not in, you’re out”, or “the conversation is happening, with or without you” or “Its about sharing, experiences

That’s absolutely right. And with the speed of today’s technologies and the promise of tomorrows cloud integration (Microsoft Cloud strategy), we should expect this merry-go-round to go even faster, and become even more demanding.

So, “What’s your social media plan!? Where is the latest version of your social media scorecard, ROI, goals, objectives, <add other pet keywords here>…who’s in charge of all of this!? What do you tell that board member who’s a twit – no, wait, what was it?… who knows about twitting, chirping? twicking?! Or was it Tweeping?Aaaah Raspberries!

Hmm…ring a bell? Are you hyperventilating too, and is that real air you are breathing?*1* Welcome to the dessert of the real. Welcome to the social media sundae.

The sundae is comforting, gratifying, it’s easy to dig into and comes in lottsa flavors. It satisfies our inner child.

It’s easy to get caught up in the look and feel of the latest social media buzz, site, gizmo, or trend, especially for those who know they need to do something, but have no sense of where to begin or invest. It’s relatively easy to rationalize allocating money and effort into “social media efforts”. Heck, if over 1.5M follow Larry King on Twitter, isn’t that a measure of success that we should aspire to? Maybe. Different strokes for different folks, sez I. Though, all of us (sociopaths aside, but businesses, politicians, and Joe the plumber included) are hardwired to seek new connections and look at the stars. It’s a caveman/tribe thing.

But once on that merry-go-round, it becomes difficult to keep score, or who’s passing the ball. (take this fun test)

Yes, it’s easy to become distracted by the go-go participation and activity that social media participation demands while completely missing the gorilla in the room. And that’s too bad because the gorilla has the banana that would make your sundae sing and tell you all sorts of interesting things other than how many followers you have.

I wrote about learning as a core life and business strategy in my last post. If we get so busy with activity and miss the singing banana, then we need to ask the hard question, have we learned anything?

How often have you found yourself so happy just to behold the sundae!…and to taste it, and to relish in its sheer yummy gooeyness, that you were oblivious to its 1000 pound calorie impact, or the revenge it would wring out of you as you sweated and strained in the gym to work it off the next day (to my non-US based readers, forgive the USA-centric measurements/metaphors and feel free to substitute my reality with your own.*2*)

When thinking about Social Media, there are two tracks to cover. You need to be doing both to be able to say that you have a 360 social media strategy:

  1. Engagement and participation. Your brand’s visibility and depth can be measured by reach, sentiment, rank, site traffic. It answers questions like: “How many customers like Windows 7, and are drawn towards communication, messaging, and events”. This is the confluence of social media, and marketing communications.
  2. Listening, learning, and insights. This is about quality, perception, and usefulness of your brand, product or service – vital to innovate, compete, and grow. It answers questions like “What is important to Windows 7 customers at any given time, or even in the future.” This is not about key word or campaign tracking. That’s a tactic used in #one above to drive reach and tune campaigns for added “stickiness”. This is about the value your social media efforts, its about investing in systems and processes that enable the connecting of dots between distinct customer conversations and figuring out the top 3 things you need to build, fix, extend, change or innovate in. It takes time to set up and tune. But boy is it worth it! This tells you how to learn to produce a more desired, or tasty, sundae over time. Who wouldn’t like that!?

There is a lot of attention paid to 1). It’s the 2 that occupies my thoughts and time. Creating effective social media listening systems to provide the right information, from the right sources, at the right time, takes time and commitment. I am committed to relentlessly pursuing the top bananas. More in future posts…

A social media sundae sans banana is like, like, warm beer… why??!!

*1* “Morpheus in the Matrix
*2* “A play off the phrase “I reject your reality and substitute my own” by Adam Savage in the 10th episode of Mythbusters.
Pic credits: Irish food board