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likeable social mediaHow to DELIGHT YOUR CUSTOMERS, Create an IRRESISTIBLE BRAND, and Be Generally AMAZING ON FACEBOOK (and other social networks)
By DAVE KERPEN
McGraw-HillCopyright © 2011 Dave Kerpen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneListen First, and Never Stop Listening
You are angry.
You just got a letter in the mail from your car insurance company explaining it will cover only half the cost of the recent work you did on your car following an accident. You're out $700, which stinks, but more important, you're wondering why you pay these high monthly premiums if not to cover situations just like this. So you call the company, and you're placed on hold for 30 minutes. Finally you get a representative, who says, "I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do. This is the policy." As you sit there, frustrated and dejected, the telephone representative feeds you the next line in the script: "Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
"Of course not," you think. "How about paying for my car repairs? Maybe you should spend a little bit less money on your stupid TV ads I see all day and a little more time on your customer service." It's so frustrating not feeling listened to.
You post on Facebook or Twitter: "My car insurance company _____ sucks. Same old story." A few minutes later, you get a notification that someone responded to your post. Surprisingly, you click to find a written response from your car insurance company: "We hear you. Please send us a quick e-mail with the particular issue, and we'll get to the bottom of it as quick as we can." Somehow, you already feel a little bit better about the situation.
Did the company respond so positively only because you posted publicly? Maybe. The point is, a representative realized your frustration with the company's services and was forced to take notice of your post. Companies can no longer afford to ignore their customers' specific needs or complaints when the conversation can so easily be made public. Instead, they must listen, understand the issue, and respond appropriately.
EVERYBODY LOVES TO FEEL HEARD
Communication is 50 percent listening and 50 percent talking. Yet for many years, companies large and small have done a disproportionate amount of talking, shouting even. Customer service representatives, marketing researchers, and focus group organizers may listen, but budgets for these "listening" activities amount to little compared to the money spent on mass media "talking." For the first time in our history, now, through social media, companies can listen at scale to conversations about them and their competitors.
You have a front seat to spontaneous chatter of interest to your business. You have the ability to check in on prospective customers or prospects discussing problems your company solves or listen to existing customers talk about unrelated issues just to get to know them better. Checking in on your vendors, partners, or even your competitors' customers has never been easier. The amount of data you can gather and the number of conversations you can tap into through social media is nothing short of mind-boggling.
As tempting as it may be to "join the conversation" on social networks, Facebook and Twitter simply aren't broadcast media. They're engagement media, or listening networks. Besides, how can you possibly know what to talk about in any conversation until you listen, at least a little bit?
Ask anyone who has ever dated or been in a successful relationship how important it is not only to listen to your partner but to show him or her that you are truly listening. The guy on that first date who talks incessantly and does not listen strikes out every time. So does the woman at the cocktail party who only talks about herself. Increasingly, same goes for the company that spends most of its marketing dollars talking and little time or money listening. Social media is the first communications channel that allows for such listening in large scale, and no matter what you sell or market, your customers are definitely talking.
Listen first before you talk back. You can join the conversation as a listener.
THE BENEFITS OF LISTENING: WHY DOES IT REALLY MATTER?
If and when customers or prospects acknowledge that you're listening, you immediately strengthen your relationships with them. We'll talk more about responding later, but clearly the ability to not only listen but also to acknowledge others makes them feel heard, which makes them happier, which is always a good thing. Even if you can't acknowledge customers (as is the case for highly regulated industries such as pharmaceutical and financial companies in which only professionals can legally supply appropriate responses, if they can legally respond at all), there are other benefits to listening. A better understanding of how your customers use your products (or don't use them) can help you make critical changes to your offerings and to how you communicate about them. You can also uncover new opportunities you hadn't thought of or determine features you thought would be big hits that have ended up not mattering to customers, or being failures.
Knowing what's important to your customers can help you better plan offers, promotions, and contests to further drive buzz and sales. Instead of expensive product launches, you can test new ideas carefully and receive feedback quickly, keeping your finger on the pulse of your customers. Avoid pricey ad campaigns championing things you think people will love about your product or service by listening to what people actually want before you spend one dollar. Consider social listening the ultimate surveying and focus-group tool—practically free, and running 24/7/365 for you.
How to Listen
There are lots of free ways to listen to what customers and prospects are saying online and many paid enterprise systems available as well, with costs ranging from a few dollars to thousands of dollars per month. If you're new to listening, try these free ways first:
Technorati blog search
If you go to any social network and type a phrase or keyword into its search function, you will see what people are saying using that keyword in real time. National and global brands might search the entire Web, while local and regional organizations will want to use geographical filtering to find posts only in their coverage area. Remember not just to search for your brand name but for your competitors', and more important, for terms and words that your customers would use. For instance, if you're a real estate broker, sure, you can search social networks for the name of your agency. But wouldn't it be more helpful to search for the phrase "want to buy a house" in conversations on social networks in your town so you can find real people in real time sharing their needs with others? If you're an attorney, you can search for your firm's name, but it might be more helpful to search for the phrase "need to hire a lawyer" to listen to potential future clients talk about what they are looking for in the way of legal services.
For more advanced listeners, or for brands with higher volumes of conversations to listen to, consider a paid enterprise software solution. There are dozens of listening platforms available, but a couple of good ones to start with are Vocus and Radian6. (See Table 1.1 for a number of others.)
Such products allow you to tap into large volumes of conversations across the social Web in a systematic, easy-to-follow way. You can generate real-time, daily, or weekly reports on mentions, competitive analysis, sentiment, and more. While solutions such as Radian6 are much more expensive than "free," they're a lot less expensive (and a lot more valuable) than traditional marketing research, such as surveying and focus groups.
I'm Listening, Now What?
It's important to keep an open mind about what data you'll find when you listen and, more important, what you can do with it. If your brand or product is being talked about in a negative way, it's urgent to fix the problems being discussed as efficiently as possible. If people are asking for something new, figure out a way to create that for them. For instance, maybe your customers love a product but wish it came in a different flavor, color, or design. Or maybe they'd be willing to pay more for your service if you offered a new tool they need. If customers are revealing their favorite features about your product that you didn't realize were popular, consider accentuating these features in future marketing and communications materials. And of course, once you've begun to formally listen to what customers and prospects are saying, you'll want to formulate a plan to respond appropriately whenever possible (as will be discussed in detail in following chapters).
THE COST OF NOT LISTENING
At best, by not listening, you're not leveraging potential opportunities for growth, damage control, or both. At worst, you're causing your customers and prospects to turn to your competitors, those who are listening and will respond to customer needs. You're also allowing your brand reputation to be significantly hurt because by the time you get around to learning what people are saying, it's too late to respond efficiently and make necessary changes to keep your company growing. Even if you're in a highly regulated industry and you're unable to fully join the conversation, it simply doesn't make sense not to leverage the resources available to find out what your customers and prospects are saying and to use that information to create better products, services, and processes.
I talked with Shel Horowitz, ethical marketing expert, author, and longtime social media user, about the importance of listening, and he confessed that, at first, he didn't always take the concept to heart as he does today:
The first discussion list I joined, I didn't listen first. I went in with keyboard blazing, did not take the time to understand the group, and ended up slinking off with my tail between my legs and leaving entirely. Since then, I've been in many groups, and I usually read all the posts for about two weeks before posting, and start with an introduction. I've developed a reputation as a friendly, caring, helpful, knowledgeable, and very transparent individual whose advice carries some weight.
Shel told me he can now safely attribute 15 to 20 percent of his book sales directly to his time spent listening and responding across social networks and online communities. So many marketers have taken to using new marketing channels to talk before listening, essentially filling each new channel that comes along with noise. Think about e-mail and most other forms of so-called "interactive marketing." Is it really interactive, or is it mostly marketers talking? Social networks provide marketers with massive opportunity to leverage the listening half of communication.
NEVER STOP LISTENING
Remember, it's not about listening for a while then talking to all of your new prospects and converting them into customers. Listening will always be 50 percent of the communication process, so you'll want to continue to refine your listening skills and processes throughout your work in social media. Always listen to the conversations in real time. In fact, sometimes the best daters, friends, businesspeople, and companies are the ones who do even more listening than talking, hearing what everyone has to say, and only speaking when they have something really worthwhile to express.
In dating lore, there's always the guy who thinks he knows how important listening is, so he starts the date by saying, "Tell me about yourself." After his date talks for a minute or so about herself, she says, "How about you?" and he proceeds to talk her ear off for the rest of the date, telling her all about himself. The guy may claim he listened to what she said, but the truth is, he was just going through the motions, not really carrying it through in a meaningful way.
That's not listening. In order to be a likeable organization that effectively listens to its customers and prospects, you've got to fully integrate listening into your job or agency's functions.
When You Can Only Listen: Neutrogena SkinID
Neutrogena skinID, the personalized acne solution from Neutrogena Corporation, is one of many products that fall into a highly regulated category for U.S. marketers. According to its website, "Neutrogena formed Neutrogena Dermatologics—a group of leading dermatologists, scientists, and research experts—to create an acne solution that truly takes into account everyone's unique skin needs in order to help one person at a time. The result is a personalized acne solution: skinID." While this popular product for young adults is perfectly suited for social media, in a highly regulated industry, it's challenging to engage with customers about products and specific issues. Since the conversation often involves a lot of medical information, neither the company nor its agencies can answer specific questions that, for legal reasons, need to be answered by licensed experts in the area—doctors.
For these reasons, the company has made social listening a priority. Neutrogena skinID has a dedicated team that follows and listens to huge volumes of conversations across the blogosphere and Web. With Likeable Media's help, Neutrogena gathers and analyzes thousands of comments from skinID's fans on Facebook. While we can only respond to some comments, all comments are brought to the attention of the brand team, who then use people's sentiment, comments, and questions to better build and adjust brand communications across all marketing and customer channels.
When we legally can answer people, even if only to acknowledge that we're listening, relationships with our customers strengthen. In Figure 1.1, when Mena writes that she wants skinID to come to Mexico, we quickly acknowledge to her (and since it's public, to anyone else reading) that we are listening, even if the answer isn't what she wants to hear. When Laurenzilla posts about her skinID experience, we respond to her personally with a thank you, and she quickly responds, "you're welcome." It's remarkably simple, yet many companies aren't doing it yet.
By listening and responding, greater sentiment comes from customers, whose loyalty grows. They, in turn, become better advocates for your products. It's as simple as this: customer talks; company listens and acknowledges; customer is happier, as is anyone else watching, since the conversation is public. Who would you rather buy a product from—a company that obviously, publicly listens to its customers or a company that seemingly ignores them by not utilizing social networks to directly interact with the public?
IBM's Listening for Leads: Millions of Dollars Worth of Leads, That Is
International Business Machines (IBM) is an American multinational computer, technology, and IT consulting firm. It is the world's fourth largest technology company and the second most valuable global brand. In an interview with eMarketer.com, Ed Linde II, who works on the IBM website team, described the formal steps that a company as huge as IBM has taken to listen to customers and prospects on the social Web. Says Linde:
We also have a program called Listening for Leads, where we have people we call "seekers" who on a voluntary basis go to particular social media sites where they listen to conversations and determine whether there's a potential sales opportunity.... Seekers listen to and look at conversations. For example, if someone says, "I'm looking to replace my old server" or "Does anyone have any recommendations on what kind of storage device will work in this in type of situation?" or "I'm about to issue a RFP; does anyone have a sample RFP I could work from?" Those are all pretty good clues that someone's about to buy something or start the buying process.
We try to identify those leads, get them to a lead development rep who is a telephone sales rep who has been trained to have a conversation with the lead to qualify and validate the opportunity. They'll qualify and validate it and then pass it to the appropriate sales resource to follow up....
Excerpted from likeable social media by DAVE KERPEN Copyright © 2011 by Dave Kerpen. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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