Reaction time is a major competitive advantage in social media. What I mean by reaction time is the difference between an event or popular meme and the opportunity for your brand. This is one of the reasons that a comprehensive listening plan is so vitally important to any company. It takes one blog post, one media mention or one video phenomenon to present you the opportunity of a lifetime.
Don't get me wrong, it's crucial to create a social media strategy and have a plan, but part of that plan needs to give you the tools to stay fluid and react in real time. The strategy needs to act as a guide.
Monitoring Plan: Listening is key to success in social media. It's the first thing I recommend to my clients in this space and it takes a real commitment. The tools for this are all around. You can use any combination of options. Most programs that I use involve the following:
- Monitoring Service: Radian6, Collective Intellect, Nielsen, Cision, Vocus, BackType (per Jason Baer) etc.
- Google Alerts: They're easy to set up, they're real time and they are proactively sent to you
- RSS Reader as aggregator: I use Google Reader to subscribe to the following two options to stay on top of things in an easy, manageable way.
- Blog Search RSS: Go to any search engine and enter your keywords then look for the RSS symbol. They'll let you subscribe to those results and monitor changes (try Google, IceRockey, Technorati, etc.)
- Twitter Search: The ultimate in real-time listening, enter your keyword and subscribe to the RSS feed
Analytics: Having analytics and using analytics are two very different things. This is one of the most powerful tools that we have as digital marketers. Know your site, look at the keywords that are bringing people there, what sites are they coming from, why are these things happening? Also, find out what is important in your analytics package and go over it regularly. It only takes one week of skipping a report to miss the next big thing. You can isolate opportunities through analytics. I'll cover this in more detail in January.
Popular memes: Keeping your ear to the ground and staying active in sites like YouTube, watching what's popular on Digg/Delicious/Facebook/Techmeme/etc. gives you a way to stay relevant to your audience. If you're trying to reach women ages 40-55, you need to find what they're watching, what they find funny and what moves them. Think about Mentos and Diet Coke. Mentos found out and embraced the meme. Diet Coke was late to the game, reacted negatively and finally saw the light.
Shortening Time to Customer: Too many companies have an unnecessarily long delay between identification of market opportunities and the time the customer is aware of the response. Legal review, group think and death by committee are killers. There needs to be a clear path to the customer and a knowledge of what is critical to get review (some things do need legal input) and what is good to go. I would suggest making this path as short as possible.
Opportunity Report: Create a daily/weekly opportunity report for your client or management. List key trends, key partners, memes that impact your customers, pop culture trends, etc. Doing this a couple of times will prove easier. You can have a junior person compile this, but it should have senior review to make sure all of the opportunities are seen.
Content is Key: Marketers need to have a mind shift. We are content creators. Not the usual content either, the content we're creating is open source. It needs to be free from copyrights, open to the public and easily repurposed. It could be video, photos, copy, a logo, a story, etc. This is not a website, but content that finds the customer and rings true to their ears. It shows up in their social sphere, on their turf and in their language. The best marketing is doing this now. Examples are hard to find, but agencies/companies are making it work. More on this in January too.
Keep Your Mind Open: This is also important. Not everything that comes out of this will be new media. It may require doing more events, possibly advertising in a new place. Alternatively, an opportunity may come up quickly in the online space. It seems marketers are finding/leveraging new services at breakneck pace. I caution clients and I'll caution you, be strategic about your selections of platform and service. Make 100% sure your customers are there.
Measure. Measure. Measure. Any digital campaign should have measurement at the heart. Key interactions need to be recorded and have meaning assigned in order to manage performance. A/B testing messages is easier than ever. Unlike offline marketing, we have the opportunity (and responsibility) to maximize the dollars we spend on behalf of our clients in real time. Allowing money to underperform is negligent in this day and age. If an ad isn't getting clicks, find why. Test the copy, test the target. It may mean taking it down and refocusing the spend. It's up to us to measure and respond.
What would you add?
[UPDATE: David Alston from the comments below was profiled on Shel Israel's Twitterville notes. Another great case for listening and reacting.]
[UPDATE 2: Gary Vaynerchuk talks about the need to pounce in this video. Listen up PR folks!]
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