Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Why Brands Should Shut Up & Listen

Brands have been doing the talking for a long time now and they have been more disruptive in their overall approach. This is one of the problems of outbound marketing where a family watching their favourite soapie would be disrupted by four advertisements of the things that they not interested in more often than not.

Commercial breaks became times when people would then break from their viewing to make coffee or make that phone call. This kind of marketing is one sided and it is like a local politician standing on a pedestal, talking to the crowd via a megaphone.

Winning in the digital era takes more than that. Communication has been democratised by the proliferation of self-publishing tools like Yookos and video hosting sites like Youtube. Communication has shifted from being unilateral brand to consumer to being a multi-lane superhighway where customers interact extensively among themselves too.

Their discussions include stories of their great or awful experiences with brands. One leading digital marketer said that people don’t talk about brands for the brands’ sake. Rather, they do so because they love their friends more.

A friend can recommend a certain airliner over another based on their earlier experiences with both. They do so because they want their friends to enjoy the best travel experience. This makes online conversations a lucrative gold mine that marketers can tap into.

Brands can learn about what their customers think about their products, what type of product they want and then they can make the necessary changes to match the market’s expectations. Product excellence is an outcome of creating a perfect product-market fit.

Listening also reveals what the audience thinks about a brand’s intangibles like their values framework and identity. Customers are now buying products from companies who share their similar ideals. For example an environment-conscious customer will only buy from those companies with demonstrable “Green” credentials.

The identity of a brand serves an extension of a customer’s self. People buy Levi’s and not jeans, “Bemmer” and and not a car because those brands mirror them better.

Social media marketing is by definition conversation management. Brands are acutely aware that times have changed they need to engage their customers in great and profitable conversations. Any conversationist worth his salt will tell you that the ability to listen leads to meaningful interaction.

Success on social media platforms demands that the marketers produce content that answers their customers’ predominant questions as well as educate and entertain them. Thorough knowledge of the audience’s demographics and psychographics that comes from attentively listening to their online chatter is fundamental for success.

Fortunately, there a lot of free and paid tools that enable marketers to listen to social media conversations. Examples include Google Alerts, Mention and Hootsuite to name just a few.
The conversations are then aggregated into an intelligent analysis that can be translated into actionable insights. 

Conclusion

Social listening is foundational to digital marketing as it enables brands to understand their target audience better and offer them products and services with a good product-market fit. Those brands which do not have a social listening strategy and infrastructure in place is essentially blind flying.

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