Social media is providing a unique aspect that was never available before, the ability to listen and respond to consumer demands in real time. Before the social media, and the internet, companies would conduct length surveys, focus groups, observe consumers if possible, or simply guess what is working or not working. Today with every connected individual having a voice on the internet a company only has to tap into the thousands of conversations going on about them to learn a wealth of knowledge and apply it to their business. Today a well plugged in company can talk to thousands of people at once and hear them all.
The ability to listen to your consumers also gives you the ability to properly respond, and respond in manner that invites dialogue and furthers your relationship. A company should not be tethered to old concepts of press releases and top down push communication concept. Through understanding what a consumer is looking for a company can respond with a human voice. The issue often becomes, how does a company interact on a personal level? What tone should a company adapt when it communicates? The answers to this depends on the goal of the company and those in charge of the communication. The formality of the tone, language used, and frequency of conversation can be a delicate balance.
The conversations happening on social media have a much wider application than simply having the ability to interact with consumers. Victoria Edwards of Social Engine Watch briefly outlines all the applications that social media monitoring can bring to a company. The marketing and public relations aspect is probably the most visible application but product validation is an essential possibility. A company can identify, troubleshoot, and change its product based on reviews and feedback. We should no longer have to wait months for market research to return to identify a problem with a product that has been costing sales, the consumer will let us know what he/she is unsatisfied with and how he would improve his/hers experience.
Just like keeping track of your own product, social media provides companies the opportunity to actively find and validate new hires. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn are continually changing the way companies hire. A few years ago a paper resume was king, but the today a resume takes on a whole new aspect. Social media platforms such as the prominent LinkedIn allow anyone to codify their entire lifes experience, share their interests, create content and attract employers. A potential employee is no longer restricted to a few pages of carefully worded and at times self-inflating resume. The employer can validate the experiences and abilities of an employee through social media, and not just LinkedIn or similar professional social media platform. Your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram provide a glimpse of you through pictures, comments, and your own updates.
The amount of available information can seem intimidating. There is a large amount of data and noise that is irrelevant to the tasks at hand. What is a good way to filter through it? If you figure it out let me know, I am trying to figure it out myself. There are a number of free and pay tools out there that help with streamlining and automatically parsing conversation on the internet. What is important is identifying what you are trying to accomplish with social media and then listening for the answer. Keep focused on your questions and set up a standard for tracking what you have learned. There is simply too much out there to keep track of it all.