To the best and the brightest of brand champions, social listening and the value it drives is not a new concept. As the social listening landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, our Performance Analytics department has to stay ahead of the curve in identifying the trends as they develop. One of the latest trends we’ve identified is real-time social listening reporting. While most brands have discovered the value of knowing what consumers are saying about them, only a percentage of those brands have discovered the value that time relevance adds. In this case, listening for what individual people are saying in real-time means that our clients have the opportunity to react immediately, and this provides exponential value for their business.
There are several applications for this type of reporting and each has its advantages. For instance, real-time monitoring for community management allows the brand an opportunity to insert itself into negative conversations and potentially remedy the situation before it escalates, while also mitigating negative brand exposure. They say it takes twice as much investment to earn a new customer as it does to retain a current customer. This real-time approach gives products and brands the ability to retain the current customers that would otherwise be lost by providing the capability for improved customer service. This improved customer service often can come without assistance ever needing to be requested. This enables products and brands to rise above the customer’s expectation by surprising them in an unexpectedly positive fashion, which pushes that individual from a brand adversary to a brand advocate.
Real-time monitoring can mean being the first to know about a rising PR crisis so that the company has greater speed to awareness, the opportunity to make immediate decisions, and can begin to prepare appropriate responses. Meanwhile, all of these activities are foundationally informed by those most critical of them in order to identify the areas of greatest vulnerability.
Similarly, real-time monitoring immediately following a traditional press release enables us to identify the speed with which news is picked up to project and plan for future press releases. It also helps us understand how many people were reached by the news, who those people are, and their reactions to the news. This exponentially reduces the time this type of information previously took to be retrieved and analyzed. This can affect decisions related to the press release content and can also allow the company to adapt their strategy for the next press release to better reach their target market.
And let’s not forget the sales application. Providing brands with the opportunity to find lead generation through real-time monitoring means that brands are connecting with the consumer at the time when it’s most relevant and when conversion likelihood is at its highest. This is the ROI of social listening at its core, and it’s powerful because huge benefits can be achieved from minimal investment in initiatives that are effective and measurable.
So how close are we to truly achieving this type of analysis for our clients? While the advantages are clear, achieving these rewards can be a complicated process given the current evolution of the tools at our disposal to do this level of analysis at the speed required. Although applications vary tremendously, being able to monitor in real time provides integral value beyond other types of social listening reports. Many (but not all) social listening tools do have at least some form of real-time monitoring capabilities. Yet there can be some limitations to working with real-time data. Of the tools that provide real-time capabilities, most institute caps in data volume that minimize the data validity, especially during times of crisis. Sorting through search results based on keywords alone means that some irrelevant data is bound to return in our queries. On the other hand, when we try to hone in on the relevant data with more specific keywords, we then run the risk of missing relevant data at the expense of weeding out the irrelevant data.
Likewise, the sheer amount of data may make real-time monitoring difficult. Data overload can often mean data paralysis, and the built-in analysis functionality of some tools is limited when it comes to real-time data. The simple fact is that the value in real-time monitoring lies in being able to respond quickly, but focus and analysis takes time. For this reason, there exists a balancing act between being able to identify the types of insights that are actionable in a time frame where a relevant response can still be made.
We also want to be cognizant of resource constraints, especially during times of crisis. When mentions for some topics or brands have the potential to reach tens or even hundreds of thousands per day, this type of analysis requires dedicated resourcing. Even then, a fully dedicated team of analysts and community managers working around the clock may only put a small dent in overall volume. Furthermore, these tools are only as capable as the analysts behind them, and dependent upon how well they can interpret the data and follow the training and protocol that must already be in place prior to these types of events.
In many ways, these tools and the services that they provide are still in their infancy, and time will tell where the capabilities truly lie. One thing is for sure: The flexibility of these tools as they are applied across different industries and brands is going to be valued more and more as these tools continue to evolve.