Long gone are the days of struggling to get out of bed in the morning and trying to look decent enough for human interaction. Nowadays, communicating with the outside world can be a simple matter of arranging yourself into a comfortable upright position, grabbing your laptop and instantly connecting to the internet.
With minimal effort required (a slight stretch here and there to plug in your battery cable or an occasional shuffle to the kitchen for a cup of coffee), you can easily converse with millions of people you might never have spoken to otherwise. And with the growing popularity of social media platforms, communication has become even easier.
Not only individuals can take part in this growing phenomenon, but businesses can too. Many companies using SEO are looking to social media to complement their online campaigns. I’m not talking about merely creating a Facebook profile or starting up a blog on your website and leaving it at that. I’m talking about real and engaging interaction with your audience. This will produce incoming links and therefore result in a successful SEO campaign.
Social media offers companies an outlet through which they can get to know their customers and potential customers in a manner much more personal than ever before. Anyone can get involved. You simply have to get online to become part of the conversation.
Of course, social media can also mean bad news for business. There’s always the possibility that conversation about your brand can be negative. For example, a past customer could complain about their experience with your product or service. This can, in turn, have an influence on where potential customers decide to take their business.
It’s a scary thought that any John Doe can go online and badmouth your company, and this is made even scarier with the growing rise in social media. Bloggers, Twitter, Facebook and Forum users, especially those with authority, can have an impact on the sales of your company. But, just as you would find a way to deal with bad publicity offline, you can also find a way to counter negativity online and use it to the benefit of your business.
Social media allows companies to hear about customer experiences they might never have known about otherwise. It’s almost as though you are able to listen in on your audience’s private conversation.
This is where Social Media Monitoring comes in. Think of the blogosphere, Twitter and Facebook as your new focus groups. Through these social media platforms, you can receive feedback and learn of sentiment towards your company and new ideas.
When embarking on a social media monitoring campaign, you can optimise your existing analytics software with Social Media Metrics Plugins designed to track social media data. Discover new tools, find out what kind of information they will provide you with and how they each affect traffic and analytics data. Most of these plugins are aimed more towards the US market, but South African-based company, BrandsEye, has created an Online Reputation Management (ORM) tool for the global market.
BrandsEye picks up all mentions relating to the terms you are looking for. The results are given in real time reports and graphs, which can be customised according to what you deem important, for example, author’s credibility, sentiment of mention etc. Users of this tool receive an overall Reputation Score, which can be compared with your competition.
BrandsEye claims to distinguish itself from other ORM tools, like Google Alerts and TrackUr, for a number of reasons. It lists services such as qualifying and quantifying the impact of mentions, competitor benchmarking, Online Reputation Crisis Strategy and many more.
Tools like BrandsEye can make a big difference in your social media monitoring campaign, but it will come to nothing without actual analysis of, and the subsequent engagement with, your audience. Gather data about your audience – what they’re talking about, what they’re looking for, what they like, what they don’t like, their ideas, who has the most authority etc, and use this data to engage with them. Your campaign’s success will depend on how well you engage with your audience.
An article by Joe Hall posted on SearchEngineLand discusses how social media monitoring tools build relationships and links. He says: “With every social media monitoring campaign, selection of keywords is vital to having a successful monitoring experience”.
His article discusses different types of keywords that should be monitored while building relationships. Using a running example while we look at these keywords may help us to better understand them. In this case, we will use the example of a company that sells rugby jerseys.
The first keyword Hall lists is brand mentions. So this would be the name of your company. Brand names are usually mentioned by people who are looking to discuss their experiences with the company. Whether the customer has had a positive or negative experience, it gives businesses the perfect opportunity to start conversation about their brand and build relationships with their audience.
The next keyword is industry terms; terms specific to your industry, e.g. Super 14, Stormers rugby team, club rugby. Hall says that these terms are excellent for brand building and outreach marketing.
The third type of keyword is personal brands – important figures within your industry, e.g. Schalk Burger, Bryan Habana etc. This will most likely lead you to a conversation about current events and news within your industry. Hall advises that when businesses discuss personal brands, they should do so in a neutral way, as they are dealing with individuals and opinions can vary greatly.
Finally, you have primary and secondary terms. Primary terms are directly related to your product or brand. So if the company in our example is selling Adidas and Nike jerseys, this would be their primary terms. Secondary terms are more general, e.g. polyester and acrylic jerseys. Hall says that it is often easier to begin dialogue with secondary terms as they help to establish trust and authenticity.
The worst thing a business can do when engaging with their online audience is to begin with a sales pitch. This will only serve to prevent any conversation from occurring. First, a company must build authenticity and trust, and only then will the links begin to happen.
Just as building relationships in the physical world is a slow process, so it is the same in cyberspace. But a bit of patience, and ongoing engagement with your audience, will help your company to build a strong brand – one that can be trusted, discussed, and referred to by other users of social media platforms.