Businesses are adapting to the evolution of the social Web by exploiting Web listening as a marketing tool. In a matter of minutes or hours instead of weeks or months as is required for traditional marketing research, companies can obtain demographic information and pinpoint the interests of consumers and potential customers. Patterns or trends in a targeted market space or in consumer behavior can be identified and analyzed quickly and inexpensively to predict future market trends. Additionally, businesses are using Web listening to obtain direct marketing insights, allowing them to tailor marketing efforts to consumers most likely to be interested in the company’s products and services. An added bonus is that Web intelligence offers access to information on social media sites that is public and free. This means that finding information for a target market is readily accessible and cost-effective.
With the explosion of social media and networking sites, savvy organizations are embracing a new dynamic for mining useful nuggets of business intelligence in the name of market research. Companies are listening to and analyzing the content on social media sites to help them build reputation as well as market products and services. The trendy term for this new form of listening is called “Web listening” or “social media monitoring.” Digital MR, a Web-based market research firm in the United Kingdom, describes the art of Web listening as “being intuitive, being open to listening to all conversations and extracting business-actionable insights. The science is in the algorithm and the technology that classifies and organizes the information in an automated way.”
Businesses - Why They Web Listen
Numerous social media outlets exist today and the list keeps growing. Thanks to Web listening, each outlet can serve as a harvesting tool for potential consumers and market insights. Some of the larger social networks include Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, YouTube, MySpace, Technorati, Digg and Flickr. If you subscribe to any of these services, it's likely that businesses are Web listening to your conversations because what you post could be of practical value. Similarly, if you have a Web blog or microblog, businesses may be interested in what you are saying about their companies. The ultimate goal is to improve business reputation, market strategy, and most importantly, their bottom line.
The process of Web listening or social media monitoring can be broken into four distinct phases, according to Digital MR: listen, analyze, understand and engage. The listen phase is the information gathering phase in which businesses scan social media outlets for intelligence. In the analyze phase, organizations take a deeper look at the information collected during the initial phase. In the third phase, they convert the information into actionable intelligence, attempting to discern who is posting comments and why. In the final phase, armed with information from the previous phases, businesses engage with consumers or join the conversation to manage their brand and fulfill marketing objectives.
In his article "30 Useful Social Media Monitoring Tools," Dustin Betonio observes: "Social media monitoring tools can be extremely useful to help brands, companies and individuals keep up with all relevant social media activity." Yet, the list of Web listening or social media monitoring tools is as numerous as social media outlets. Three such tools include Radian6, TweetDeck and SocialScope. These and other monitoring tools employ data mining and text analytics to enable the discovery of actionable market insights for businesses.
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