In 2013, Maker’s Mark made a decision that lead to a very serious problem – they reduced the amount of alcohol in their whiskey, a move that likely made sense on paper or in the boardroom. Not surprisingly, once word began to emerge, imbibers everywhere expressed outrage and after thousands of social media complaints and organized petitions, the company utilized social listening data and reversed course within a few days.
The company’s response actually turned what could have been complete brand suicide into a social media win, and a positive experience. Not so much because they gave in fast to angry shouting, or even took action in the first place with little market research. It was more about listening to their current and potential customers, apologizing, trying to make things right and continuing forward with a strong relationship.
It was also a perfect example of something we call social listening. True social listening is when you take extra effort to discover what people are saying about your brand online. This could found in comments or questions on very public forums like social media platforms, positive or negative feedback on review sites, or even opinions on personal blogs.
Social listening blends fundamental customer service skills with digital marketing efforts. And businesses can go beyond their own social media and digital presence and utilize other methods, like SEO techniques, to track discussions and references, either getting involved in conversations – or at least observing what people have to say.
Here’s why it makes sense.
Easy market research
With social listening and social listening tools, you’ll have more specific and thorough data about who is using your products or services and what they genuinely think about them. Just because your CMO decides that a particular strategy is a solid one, doesn’t mean your customers will buy into it. This can of course be a positive experience, as well as a negative one – as in the case with Maker’s Mark. A great company can learn from both types of feedback. If you partner with an agency to engage in social listening, you’ll be guided through data like: where your customers are coming from and how important your product is in their lives. You can take this feedback and shape future projects and even online content.
Before the digital marketing age, most companies had strict business hours and any customers who tried to contact them after these times were told to come back another day. Today, customers have the possibility to come from any time zone, anywhere around the world and provide feedback at anytime. By saying “we’re closed” may be frustrating or set a perception that you simply just don’t care. A smart strategy would be to put processes in place in order to provide customer assistance around the clock. For instance, the airline KLM has customer service staff that focus on email and phone support, plus 130 full-time social customer care employees who are strictly on social media. These types of efforts are responsible for an impressive 23-minute response time.
Discover and follow the influencers
If you listen hard enough, oftentimes there are super-users or prominent influencers who are using your product and talking about it positively to their respective audiences – even without you requesting or paying them. This type of authentic, extra exposure can get more people to experience your product than you ever thought imaginable, especially with a positive endorsement. If they already like your product, they might be willing to talk to you about your other products or spread the word about what’s new. Today’s consumers, specifically millennials, actively go out of their way to engage with brands highlighted by prominent social media influencers.
A J.D. Powers study of 23,000 people in 2013 showed 67% contacted a business through social media for service needs. Related to this interest is a 2012 study from Gartner, which urged companies not to ignore social media comments, questions or complaints. Ignoring someone is as bad as not answering the phone or an email, and can lead to a 15 % increase in churn. The study’s conclusion warned companies to put mechanisms in place to accommodate what they anticipated would be a high rate of people interacting through social channel. So yep, you guessed it, listen to your audience on social and respond to them with an authentic brand voice.
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