“Like the town square of yesteryear, but digitized.” This is how Daniel Dévai, director of the data intelligence company applied to the marketing Epsilon Technologies. A process that consists of “capturing in the virtual space the comments and ratings that users make about a brand, a company or a specific topic ”.
In this online listening activity, the square is the social media, blogs, forums and news pages, among other platforms. The neighbors who chat are the Internet users. The ears that perceive the comments correspond to the digital tools. And, while passers-by in the square come to find out about the news and give their opinions, the final objective that is intended to be achieved with active listening, explains Susana Pérez Soler, professor of Digital Content Management at the Blanquerna Faculty of Communication and International Relations , belonging to the Ramon Llull University (URL), is “to know the perception that users have of companies, through the messages that mention them, whether they are their clients or not.
“Hear it serves the community to implement improvements based on the needs of customers ”, adds this expert. Using this technique, it is also possible to detect trends, opportunities, locate the most influential users and have information available to design products, services and campaigns.
Dévai suggests that the first thing to do is define your business objectives and what is being pursued with active listening. For example, you can search for market knowledge, improve Customer Support, generate sales, detect weaknesses of a competitor or manage and anticipate the crisis reputational.
From manual search to specific tools
Companies have many tools for active listening. The most basic, explains Pérez Soler, is manual consultation in search engines and in social media, the same method that users use when they want to find information on any topic. There is also the possibility of creating alerts with Google Alerts, a free digital content detection service offered by the search engine. This application allows the entrepreneur to program the words (known by their name in English, keywords) that it considers that Internet users use the network to refer to the company and receive notifications via email, when these terms are identified on a web page by Google.
These words should include all the concepts related to the company, such as brand names, products, campaigns, slogans, even competitors, and hashtags related to the company and its activity, in addition to the generic ones of the sector. It is important that these same terms are also included with the most common misspellings with which users could write them. For example, incorporate words without accent marks if they have it. This listening will capture all of these concepts, even when there is no direct mention on the company’s online channels.
There are more sophisticated and paid tools for monitoring social networks. Pérez Soler highlights the Social Mention program, which provides alerts based on keywords in real time; and other social media management applications, such as Buffer and Hootsuite, which also include a content detection service.
Enrique Hidalgo, specialist in strategy and marketing digital at the consulting firm RocaSalvatella recommends Tableau, a tool for the structured visualization of information from many sources. This expert, who leads the webinar Active listening and social listening: methodologies and tools to give our clients a voice, organized through Banco Sabadell’s HUB Empresa, suggests visiting the g2.com search engine, a directory of business programs, where you can find information on these softwares, as well as evaluations of its users, which allows to compare and choose the most appropriate one.
Sign up for the webinar Active listening and social listening: methodologies and tools to give our clients a voice, with Enrique Hidalgo, digital marketing and strategy consultant for RocaSalvatella, organized through HUB Empresa de Banco Sabadell. When: June 29, at 4:00 p.m.
Move from capture to analysis
Active listening tools collect a lot of information, but not all of it will be useful for the company. “You have to make a selection to work only with the data that respond to the company’s search intention,” says Hidalgo.
The analysis of these data is included within the social intelligence (social intelligence, in Spanish). According to this expert, it is “the research technique that allows business decisions to be made from the aggregation of data from different sources and its intelligent exploitation”. This analysis assumes that, in addition to capturing the information, it is necessary to interpret it and put it in context in order to use it for the benefit of the company.
To develop this task there are also digital tools. Hidalgo highlights Talkwalker and Brandwatch, for their ease of use, the first, and, for the amount of functionalities it provides, the second. In addition, he points out, they are available to any company, whatever its size. “For a simple use it is possible that specialized personnel are not needed, but to exploit the full potential of the tool and for brands with a high volume of conversation, it is necessary to have an expert who is exclusively dedicated to this task”, argues.
Dévai highlights Icarus Analytics, an instrument that provides brands with the option of knowing their digital presence based on “attracting followers on social networks, interactions and virality”, among other indicators. These programs use artificial intelligence (AI) and massive data analysis (big data) to find valuable information among mentions to the company.
New possibilities for SMEs
Hidalgo points out that small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) focus on managing the interaction that occurs in their digital channels, without paying attention to what happens outside of them, neglecting that active listening. For their part, large companies hire consultants and agencies that carry out these tasks for them and, therefore, can deepen the efficient analysis of that information.
The RocaSalvatella expert recommends SMEs to start in this area in a progressive way. “That they begin by listening to their brand and their products and, when they have consolidated the method, expand to other areas of study.” Establishing a price for these processes, he adds, is complicated, since it depends on the needs of each company. “The billing of the tools is not homogeneous, there are multiple subscription plans: by number of queries, by channels to be monitored … The variables that come into play are many,” he underlines.
Online reputation management
Active listening and social intelligence are key to preventing online reputation crises, notes Pérez Soler. The monitoring of social networks helps to save time in the face of a problem that compromises the image of the brand, he explains. One of the best known cases, Pérez Soler points out, is that of the musician Dave Carroll, who composed a song to denounce that the aviation company United Airlines had broken his guitar on one of his trips.
“Uploaded the video of the song to Youtube, it quickly got a million visits and plunged the value of the airline’s shares ”, says this expert. “The hours in which the company took to react were key to the viralization of the video. For this reason, in social networks you have to listen and tackle a situation of reputational crisis as soon as possible ”, he insists.
Active listening can even prevent these episodes. Through it, Dévai argues, it is also possible “to anticipate if the volume of criticism is increasing, if the detractors are recurrent or find out if the most belligerent people are really real threats from consumers, that is, if they are spontaneous or paid” .