The concept is pretty simple:
Business is about relationships. Relationships is about people.
People talk. Thus, businesses (need/want to) listen.
The proposition is easy to get: the ability to “listen-in” on consumers in their unique spaces has huge amount of value for business – whether in sales, customer service, product development or strategy.
The problem is this though, with the plethora of options available for people to converse in the online environment – whether through a comment on an article, writing a blog post, updating your Facebook status, taking part in an online forum or enthusiastically tweeting your 140 characters – the sheer volume of content generated makes it extremely difficult to find those mentions relevant to your business, brand, product or industry.
Enter the online reputation and social media monitoring and management (ORM) service providers, who addresses this dilemma head-on through some very smart technologies – problem is there’s also a lot of skinny chef’s out there…
ONLINE REPUTATION (ORM) SOFTWARE, TOOLS AND TECHNOLOGIES: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
1. The Good:
Like I said, there are some very smart ORM technologies out there. Some of those that the World Wide Creative team have tested and/or used ourselves include:
- Social Mention (free)
- Advanced Twitter search (free)
- TweetDeck search filter (free)
In fact, there are many more tools to choose from (here’s a wiki of available social media monitoring solutions), however to put a stake in the ground I would recommend you look no further than the one’s I listed above. They really are well developed tools.
From our experience with these tools they do very well in:
- Scanning and finding mentions (real-time)
- Filtering of queries
- Gage and track sentiment
- Organise and forwarding queries
Each tool has its advantages and features they are strong in compared to their competitor products.
However those providers that stand out, often excel in:
- Their own reputations online
- Tasting their own “food” (in fact, I know Radian6 responds to almost every blog post which mentions their name with a comment of some kind, for example here and here)
- Realizing that they alone cannot be the custodian of a company or brand’s reputation, and that inevitably they need to provide support to their clients in using their tools optimally
- Constantly researching and improving their products
- Involvement in educating and adding to the body of knowledge around standards/methodologies for ORM
- Easily making client references available for which to contact to find out about the clients experience of the particular tool
2. The Bad:
“It’s no longer a matter of whether or not you should be listening, but what you do with all of the information you collect to build your business” (Amber Naslund, Radian6)
Even considering the ‘Good’, ORM is still a young field within the digital space, which means there really are a lot of areas that can still be improved on including:
- Generating faster response times in bringing through mentions; with all the tools we’ve used thus far – some mentions still pop-up a few hours later in our streams. An aspect I know most of he service providers are constantly improving on
- It’s imperative to try and attach context in which a mention is used in.
- The biggest area of growth in my mind is going to be in standards and technologies that integrate that data with other business functions (best case study I know about is the system behind Comcast’s ORM efforts – very impressive)
- The identification of “themes” within the conversations that are picked up, to trace general conversation trends and group them with each other
- Comparisons with competitive information to measure certain criteria against each other
- The identification and targeting of influencers and profiling those influencer’s online profiles
- The ability to monitor and ascertain the threshold within conversations i.e. when is it required to action a specific mention?
- The overall profiling of your customers online – where they are, how often are they online, how active are they, what networks are they on, how big are their spheres of influence etc.
However, a great deal of the improvements do not only come in the monitoring of mentions, but also in the management of the customer, which means – where tools can improve include: managing, forwarding, organizing, ranking, integrating, actioning, tracking, follow-ups, historical data, team responsibilities – essentially a holistic customer management plan for finding, evaluating, dealing and following-up with relevant mentions online.
A lot to take in, I know, but in my experience to decide on which tool is best for your business – test a couple of them to see what results they bring back. Fact is the efficiency of ORM tools differs from business to business, particularly when it comes to the geographical region where your customers are situated, as some tools often pick things up better within a specific region than in others.
3. The Ugly:
Often the ‘Ugly, really pops it’s head out when a business is already utilising an ORM tool. A couple of things I’ve picked up:
- Try this: tweet the words “affiliate marketing” and see the plethora of followers coming your way, with random @-replies and zero regard in which the context you used the words. Spamming is becoming more “sophisticated” through abuse of these tools.
- With the volume of mentions that might come your way, losing sight of the individual might become increasingly likely. When ORM becomes an automated find-and-respond, too many business have fallen into that trap and have lost a great deal of trust.
- As much as this post is about the tools, one cannot focus purely on the technology to do the job for you. The power of the human voice and initiative of the human mind is essential in structuring your ORM efforts successfully.
- Social media, like any other channel, has its rules – authenticity is rewarded, privacy must be guarded, sharing is encouraged etc – not understanding these “rules”, lead to problems. How often have companies jumped into the space with a typical ‘corporate messaging’ and got burned.
- “With great power, comes great responsibility” – if your tools are in place, the mentions are coming in, you are managing them nicely, you have set an expectation. It is a huge risk if that expectation is put out there and the point comes where you cannot deal with every individual mention. Ensure that systems to allow for scalability is put in place.
I’ve been impressed by the smarts of some the ORM tools out there. Some of which are really impressive and I’m sure will continue to improve, as well as open the door for new players in this space.
However, a respected digital analyst once said to me:
“Humans will always trump algorithms”
Even in going through the process of selecting the appropriate tools, you and your team’s application and management of these tools can be the difference between good, bad or ugly.
Some recommendations for further reading on ORM tools: