Who's lovin' you online?

Okay so the title may be slightly misleading. This isn’t about Tinder (and it has even less to do with a well-known Jackson 5 song).

I recently attended &more, a MRS conference for young researchers.

The very entertaining and engaging Christian Howes, data expert turned television presenter, took centre stage to discuss the power of social media insight. In the past he has correctly predicted the outcome of many events including who was going to win Big Brother as well as more serious matters such as Brexit and Trump’s win. He did this by analysing social media data and measuring the frequency of mentions to piece together his hypothesis.

Despite his strong credibility he didn’t always find it easy to convince clients.

He refers to a conversation he had some 10 years ago with a well-known global bank. The meeting went something like this;

Christian- “I can tell you what your customers think about you on social media sites and what they are talking about online”

Bank- “We don’t care what they’re talking about on social media. It isn’t relevant to us”

That was around a decade ago, so they can almost be forgiven for not understanding how social media would infiltrate our lives and usefulness of the data it generates.

Fast forwarding to 2017 we live in a world where customer complaints are solved on Twitter, Pinterest is our wedding planner and our Facebook status helps us share our deepest thoughts with our nearest and dearest 500 contacts.

Despite this it can be still be a challenge to convince clients of the value in keeping abreast of what customers are saying about them online. These clients may be more traditional, non-tech savvy or reluctant adopters of innovative techniques. However they need to care. Social media is an expressive outlet and social listening can help organisations understand complaints and compliments as well as providing vital information on competitors. Social media sites is where many people hear about brands first – rather than a TV ad or a conversation over the garden hedge. Therefore the primacy of this channel is what’s important as well as the honesty that comes from disintermediation and, to some extent, the anonymity.

Ultimately social media sites are a key communication channel for the vast majority of us- I personally use 4 social media sites on a daily basis. Regardless of what you think about social media it is time to embrace the reality. Customers will tell you exactly what they think of your brand, products and services.

They are open, brutally honest and without any inhabitation…whether we choose to listen or not.

Chris Handford