While related, social monitoring and social listening are two distinct strategies to improve the customer experience. Social listening allows companies to take a broad look at the discussions occurring on social media around their brand. They then collect data and analyze it to find useful insights.
Through social monitoring, however, social media managers actively monitor their companies’ social accounts and newsfeeds, acting in a one-to-one capacity to address issues and engage with customers. In this way, companies can respond directly to the questions and comments customers post online for them.
We asked a panel of experts what important things companies should keep in mind when setting up social monitoring programs. If you’re considering implementing one, check out these tips from 14 members of Forbes Agency Council.
1. Have A Well-Defined Social Strategy
The customer makes the first move by reaching out to the brand, tagging them or mentioning them. Then, it’s up to the company to respond appropriately. It’s crucial to have a well-defined social strategy that helps your team know how to interact with your audience. Brands often have multiple audiences, and what you share, comment on or like differs, depending on the audience. – Tim Sellers, Inferno
2. Start With Intention
Have clearly stated expectations and goals, then share those with key stakeholders as well as the people executing the social media monitoring. If everyone is on the same page in regard to the intent behind the financial and time investment, you will better understand the key performance indicators and the value the investment will bring to the organization. – Korena Keys, KeyMedia Solutions
3. Give The Team Flexibility To Customize Responses
While brands should anticipate common questions and their answers, give the team flexibility to customize a response. Cut-and-paste answers make things worse. Your team needs marketing awareness, as their answers are read by others beyond the original poster. Also, take the conversation out of the news feed as quickly as possible on the way to resolving the issue. – Jim Tobin, Carusele and Ignite Social Media
4. Develop A Messaging Grid
Developing a messaging grid is key so that community managers are empowered to monitor and respond to mentions in real time. Account leaders should tap social, creative and PR teams and have them role-play potential responses. Community managers will be aware of frequent topics from past social listening, creative will provide the right tone of voice, and PR can play out any possible crisis scenarios. – Elliott Phear, Night After Night
5. Leverage Social Monitoring Tools
Social media is a sea teeming with brand mentions. Trying to monitor and respond manually will burn out even the most passionate marketer. Use social monitoring and management tools, such as Talkwalker, Google Alerts, Hootsuite and Reputology, to save time that you can spend on social media strategy and tactics to garner your audience’s attention. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative
6. Highlight Positive Mentions
Social media has transformed the customer service experience. It’s become a public forum. Highlight your positive brand mentions as a part of your social media messaging campaign. Boost posts on social media to support positive interactions and foster community. – Michael Kalman, MediaCrossing Inc.
7. Address Negative Mentions
Reaching out to your fans is great, but remember that negative attention can also offer a chance to engage and show off your customer-service muscles. If you’re able to correct the situation and make the customer happy, they’re likely to share that experience as widely as they shared the first interaction. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions
8. Learn How To Anticipate
My No. 1 tip is to anticipate. Before starting the program, define common workflows around who will answer the questions or comments. Determine ahead of time what common answers and approvals will be, if needed, so that all stakeholders are aware of what is happening. Social media responses go quickly, so we want to be ready to react versus waiting for approvals so that the program accomplishes the goals at launch. – Gavin Baker, Baker Labs
9. Work Backward From Your Goals
If you want sales, for example, you need to measure traffic to the site where you sell. If you want awareness, then you might want to measure reach and engagement. If you measure just for the sake of measuring, you risk not getting the whole picture. Many software solutions currently available offer far more metrics than you’ll ever need to know. – Christine Wetzler, Pietryla PR
10. Understand What The Numbers Mean
The No. 1 tip is to first understand what the numbers that you are seeing mean. How interactive are people on the platform you’re using? What age are they? What other demographics do they fill? Your program will give you a number that represents how many people mention your company, but unless you know who those people are, it won’t do you any good in the long run. – Jason Hall, FiveChannels Marketing
11. Don’t Be Creepy
Everyone knows that the things we do online are being tracked and codified. But how companies use that information can make all the difference in how their brands are perceived. Most people on social media appreciate or will at least tolerate engagement from brands as long as it feels above-board and not as if they’re being stalked. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group
12. Be Consistent Across The Board
When you begin the process of social monitoring and responding to individual brand mentions, make sure you are consistent across the board with responses. Consumers are very smart and will see if a brand responds to some comments and not others. Consistency is key to ensuring that consumers continue engaging with the brand on social channels. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
13. Find Balance Between Responding And Observing
I’ve found that the key to social monitoring is finding a balance between responding and observing. Some believe that responding to every single mention of their product is a good idea, but you can easily get lost in the weeds and not really see the big picture. Take the opportunity to step back and see the broader trends of reactions, and then use the perspective you gain to create your marketing and PR strategies. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR
14. Don’t ‘Farm It Out’
It’s understandable to want to hire a freelancer to monitor and engage on your behalf in an attempt to save costs. To keep your brand voice on-point, to hear what is actually being said on social and to engage effectively, you need a dedicated team member. Without this, you won’t be able to formulate engagement strategies around any possible PR issues, should any arise. – Bernard May, National Positions