The change in the business landscape in the upsurge of digital explosion has brought about a new wave of ideas businesses can use to listen, engage as well as conduct research on customers and prospects. Over the past three years, great effort has been taken to help transform African digital spaces into hubs. The objective? Repositioning organizations to help harness real-time and integrated ‘internet of everything’ provisions.
Social media, without doubt, has been one of those opportunity areas to bridge the divide – with a unique value proposition: Anyone can connect for free.
What’s the backdrop? According to ITNewsAfrica Report for 2016, Africa alone had 13 million Facebook users in Egypt, 9.4 million in South Africa, 5.3 million in Nigeria and 1.8 million in Kenya. Further, the same report states that in the same year, there were 450 million geo-located tweets in Egypt, 350 million in Nigeria, 325 million in South Africa and 76 million tweets in Kenya. That’s a lot of chatter with terabytes of crucial raw information! With an information pile of that girth, the obvious strategic focus areas are easily identifiable; customer engagement has ceased from becoming an option to a necessity for organizations in order to remain relevant.
Understanding social listening
Social listening, by definition, is the process of monitoring digital conversations to understand what customers are saying about a topic. In business, therefore, this can be a brand, trend, event, or industry.
Strategically, it enables the sourcing of feedback that could help to shed light on the impact of online initiatives, and it lays out a platter to aggregate social thought and sentiment. That considered, accurate and honest opinions are openly happening on social media. Crucially, it is effective for gathering data for customer sentiment, and in several ways, it’s a practical repository for details that may otherwise predict future trends.
For this story, I will focus the discussion of social listening in line with customer engagement and feedback.
Social listening and Customer Engagement
Over the years businesses have ceased from viewing the customer as a cash-bag only for a sale through transactional relationships, to a fresh way of thinking that is relationship building and nurturing, with customers being regarded as partners. It goes beyond just a once off operation to a personal and social relationship with organizations knowing information about clients e.g. birth dates, company anniversaries etc. as all aspects affect their purchasing decisions.
And, the effect is, in a tickling way, far-reaching and highly adaptable! Take the words of racing legend Jenson Button. He said, “I think social networks are really working for the drivers, because we’re able to talk directly to fans and they get first-hand information. And I think it’s great for the partners as well and the businesses that are involved in Formula One.” It’s the perfect case of social media working towards understanding the ‘customer’ on multiple levels.
Customer engagement therefore helps establish an honest communication connection between an external stakeholder and the organization through various channel correspondence. Social listening is the base of this process and the pivotal monitoring process for conversations, particularly of opinion leaders, is often the missing link for easy business wins.
Customer engagement, powered by social media, helps in identifying shifts in audience focus so that organizations can adjust strategies accordingly based on real time data and keep in sync with market dynamics.
Social Listening and Customer Feedback
It is worth noting that customer feedback is, one, taken for granted and worse, plainly ignored. So much nerve-lighting information can be racked through simply paying attention. Take a few good social listening tools such as Hootesuite and Sprinklr. A business can gauge customer sentiment, good and bad, and leverage that to understand how their brand is performing in ‘real life’. Even more elaborate tools can be used to start aggregating this feedback and crunching it into feedback that is easy to understand. Tools like SAP Hybris CEC come to mind – and the power they can provide organisations in getting streamlined feedback is limitless.
But, up to now, we have been taking a customer-facing approach to the practical applications of social listening. How about the immediate gains that organisations can get from efficient feedback tapping?
One of the most attractive is cost-cutting. Yes, you heard right – cost cutting. How? Well, think of it this way. If you are conducting market research for car accessories and you introduce an alpha product, social listening will allow you to collect voluntary reviews and feedback. Meaning, while a formal market inquiry may be employed, more-than-credible information can be utilized, and using the right tools, the information be easily gathered, analysed and the insight turned into tangible business intelligence. But don’t take my word for it. A great example of this in action is Standard Bank, which uses Facebook contests to gain customer experience insight. An example is a contest they held in which they asked their customers to post a picture or video of themselves outside any branch and state what they feel could improve their customer experience. Using simple incentives and a clever strategy, they both raise brand awareness, they encourage dialogue between themselves and their customer base, and they also gain vital information based on customer pain points – which they thereafter utilize to sharpen current products and services, as well as develop new and innovative ones.
In a nutshell…
Over and above, social media is a novel reservoir of business insights and customer voices that will shape the business landscape and cause radical shifts in practices as consumers become more interconnected and networked. Businesses need to pay attention, listen, and respond accordingly to their audience.
What has been your experience with social listening and what value has it brought to your business?