Accordion Al - image by Ivy, age 10

Business in Vancouver

Canadian Freelance Union- CEP

Gathering the latest social media business intelligence for your company

by  Alan Zisman (c) 2011 First published in Business in Vancouver April 5-11, 2011 issue #1119 High Tech Office column

When we last checked in with social media marketing guru Shane Gibson, he offered suggestions to maximize your social media return on investment (“Five steps to maximize your business’ social media ROI” – issue 1113; February 22-28).

Gibson, author of books Sociable, Closing Bigger and Guerilla Social Media Marketing, with Anthony Caridi is hosting a series of monthly “Socialized Lunch” discussions; the March event looked at how social media (Facebook, Twitter, et al.) have redefined business intelligence.

Once upon a time, Gibson suggested, companies owned their brands. Today, however, blogs, YouTube videos (and comments), Facebook, Twitter and more give customers the power to influence how your brand is perceived. As a result, marketing has evolved from a series of press releases to more of a conversation between your company and its potential customers.

And back in the day, finding out what the public thought of your brand or your company meant commissioning a survey, waiting for the results to be analyzed, printed, circulated and discussed. Now a series of tools – many of them free – let businesses find out what people are saying in real time.

Gibson noted that analysis of online comments can even be used to predict the future, pointing out a study that found Twitter comments about movies, prior to release, anticipated the films’ eventual box office takes.

A suggestion: replace your old-style suggestion box for customers or employees with an online one, perhaps using www.suggestionbox.com ($495/year; $50/year for non-profit/educational accounts).

Among the free tools Gibson recommends to listen in on what is being said in the diverse online sources:
www.facebook.com/search; and

As the URLs suggest, each of these tools provides information on a specific piece of the social media puzzle: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs and the web. Worth noting: you use localized searches within some of these tools to find what is being said in and around Vancouver. The advanced page of Twitter’s search tool, for instance, lets you optionally limit your search to things said within a desired radius (the default is 15 miles, but it can be easily changed) of a location.

Also potentially of use, “dashboard” products like Sysomos Heartbeat (www.sysomos.com), which combines one-stop monitoring and analysis of multiple sources of information with a way to quickly follow up with the people talking about your company online. A worthy alternative – the locally produced HootSuite. These tools can access multiple sources of information, organize information into graphs and (very handy!) let you save the results – something generally missing in the free, site-specific tools.

Gibson notes that in addition to seeing what is being said (right now!) about your company and its products, it can be worthwhile to track what is being said about the competition – and to follow up with people whose comments about your competitors were not entirely satisfactory. (Part of the power of analyzing social media comments is the ability to easily contact the people who make the comments.)

His example: a company that imports custom-tailored suits from Asia following up on what’s being said by customers of a large Vancouver menswear company.

Technology publisher Tim O’Reilly has said that we’re on a cusp between Web 2.0 – an era when individuals and organizations are increasingly making use of interactive online tools – and Web 3.0 – a time when we take these tools for granted.

Gibson suggests that to successfully prepare for Web 3.0, businesses should recognize that they have to engage their customers in a conversation, monitor and respond to comments in real time, organize to make use of free or more sophisticated monitoring tools and build awareness of social media marketing across the entire business.

Next month’s Socialized Lunch will look at steps to ensure a business is social media ready; you can connect on Twitter at #SocializedYVR or at www.socialized.me.

Powered by NetNation- www.netnation.com

Search WWW Search www.zisman.ca