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We’ll come to you.

It seems that if there are many ways to listen in the social Web, there are also many reasons with the ways to answer. Tom Asacker puts it well, we define ourselves both according to what we identify with and what we reject, and given the abundance of marketplace choice, we now choose interactions which we feel will produce the best story possible.

With that in mind, when customers interact with us, we have an opportunity to help enhance their stories. The social Web is but a tool that allows us to do that in many more ways, depending on where our customers are.

Even with the best tools, the first step is to know what you’re listening for, to be attuned to what your customers may be saying both with what they are explicit about and what they are not saying. For example, if nobody is paying you compliments, well you should think about that.

As well, complaints may be the indication that something is not going well in the relationship - they’re not necessarily an indication that there is anything specifically wrong with the product. On the other hand, a problem needs to be fixed before it becomes an emergency or a crisis.

How do you know which one is which? And how do you answer the social phone?

It all starts with your ability to determine how customers are talking about your content and your brand.  Do they speak with passion about it? You will know if you pay attention to the count of positive testimonials and posts in a given period of time

Another way of finding out if you’re making headway is by identifying the volume of  conversations aligned with an idea you might have shared. Or you could literally measure the number of links your content receives. On Twitter you could watch the times your content is retweeted.   

To determine what needs most attention then you could compare the types of sentiments contained in the posts or conversations about your company or brand. For example, take the number of referrals and compare that to the number of complaints or talks about seeking support and not receiving it.

It’s a good idea to also determine which conversations about products and solutions like the ones you offer lead to conversions - actual sales or inquiries that could lead to a sale.

If you’re monitoring online conversations you should also capture the relative direction of inbound and outbound links, or look at patterns with retweets of our content.

Marketers will tend to notice new sources because they traditionally spend more time on finding prospective customers. That’s why you also need those who are focused on existing customers to be part of the process.

There is tremendous value in growing your share of the conversation. Seen in this light with Marcel LeBrun of Radian6, a company that is learning more every day about the data they’re helping you measure, the word starts to take on a whole new meaning, I bet.

By far the best problem to have with your customers is that of a high level of engagement. You’ll know that you have it when all of a sudden you find yourself involved in answering comments and those comments become lengthy. If they didn’t care about your company or product, they would not take the time.

Many companies today have begun monitoring what is being said about them. The social Web is mature enough that it’s time to get off the sidelines and start responding to customers online.  

Valeria Maltoni | Conversation Agent