So I was talking with a peer recently about his online community work, and in that conversation I asked him what his company’s social media monitoring and response strategy entailed. His reply:
“Oh, you know, we’re using Radian6….”
Frankly, his reply didn’t surprise me. Radian6 is a kick-butt service that a lot of companies are using, ours included, however, the more I think about his response and continue talking with other folks about conversation discovery, tracking, analysis, and the like, the more gaps I find….
And, well, the more it seems that very few companies actually have a fully baked social media monitoring and “engagement” strategy.
I think part of the problem is that for too long now, too many companies, like my colleague’s above, have just wanted to get their arms around the conversation discovery challenge, and things like analyzing, acting, and archiving those conversations were secondary concerns. And, you know, that’s fair enough, but by no means is that a complete plan.
It’s with this in mind, that I thought it might be interesting to outline, at a really basic level, what a social media monitoring and engagement program looks like in its entirety (if you take a sec and extend it past the obvious tasks). And note, I’m looking at this more from a general internal infrastructure perspective, so yeah, beware, your mileage may vary. Step 1: Conversation Discovery This is pretty easy: How are you discovering conversations? Are you using brand monitoring services like Radian6, Nielsen, Cymfony, and the like? Also, are you using keyword watch lists and alerts; at very least, doing persistent searches? Typically, for larger brands, it takes a combination of the paid services and select DIY search hacks to generate a healthy river of news.
Step 2: Conversation Aggregation Again, easy stuff. What are you using to gather up all your data sources; all your inputs? Is it a commercial feed reader, like Google Reader, Netvibes, My Yahoo!? Or perhaps some sort of proprietary dashboard, like TruCast? For some, well, actually a lot of folks, their email inbox continues to be the preferred repository for all this information — for better or worse.
Step 3: Conversation Escalation This is the step where a program transitions from passive watching tactics, to analysis, response planning and ultimately, to participation. To get this job done right, there needs to be some sort of logical escalation path for getting front line issues to behind-the-line experts who can provide the best information and value — the fastest. I’ve seen big, bulky ticketing and delegation systems used for this, as well as simple group email aliases. At Voce, we’ve custom built our own lightweight system. The important thing here is to establish some sort of process/place to rely on and record activity.
Step 4: Conversation Participation What’s the best way to participate? Do you prioritize and pursue direct methods, like comments, posts, tweets, emails, etc? Or do you explore indirect methods of participation like social bookmarks, tagging, favoriting, err, “likes,” etc? Lastly, at what point is participation more effective offline? I’m a big believer that participation takes a variety of shapes and forms, picking which form is right for a given context takes, well, takes some experience and skill, but mostly patience.
Step 5: Conversation Tracking How do you keep track of all the posts, tweets, comments, links, and otherwise, where you’re participating in conversations? Do you use an industrial strength CRM or maybe one of the many comment management systems on the market, like co.comment. Or worst case, do you simply rely on email strings to help track important conversations?
Step 6: Conversation Archival Hands down, one of the biggest challenges of any social media monitoring and response program is recording or archiving actions taken, opportunities lost, and most importantly, outcomes achieved. Likewise, capturing and recording conversation patterns, identifying gateway topics, keyword mentions and the frequency/sentiment of sources, perhaps for more targeted influencer outreach work at some point, are all important.
Again, this is just a very basic breakdown here, but I think (I hope) it shows that conversation discovery is really just a small slice if what you need to round out a larger social media monitoring and response strategy.
[Cross-published to Media Guerrilla]