For those of you that have read Maximize Your Social, you know that I consider Social Listening to be an important ingredient to a social media strategy. The ROI of Social Listening, however, has often been questioned by many.
How do you go about calculating the ROI from your Social Listening initiatives?
Let’s first take a look at how social media monitoring has evolved into more strategic and analytical social listening.
Those of you who read my recent blog post here on Maximize Social Business about the ROI of employee advocacy and social selling will remember my take on social media monitoring tools:
A good friend of mine was director of social marketing for a large enterprise in the financial services industry. When he started working, he realized that they were subscribed to a social media monitoring tool recommended to them by their PR agency. Although at the time every company was investing in a monitoring tool and setting up listening posts, one of the first things he did was pull the plug on that program because he saw very little business ROI from the exercise.
In the early days, what we refer to today as social listening was often called social media monitoring, and it was often done as a defensive mechanism to protect against embarrassing moments that can happen in social media, made famous by the below tweet from @Dooce:
Of course those social media monitoring tools soon added analytical capabilities, including being able to generate sentiment analysis and share of voice reports, but their use was limited to certain departments such as public relations and corporate communications, soon thereafter followed by customer service as conversations with customers over social media grew.
At the same time, while many saw what-was-soon-to-be-called social listening as a cost center, some forward-looking companies saw social listening as an opportunity. As Joel Don wrote in The Big Data Impact on Social Media Marketing back in 2012:
This combination of traditional structured business intelligence information plus unstructured social network content can offer a bonanza of perspectives and insight into the way businesses, consumers and organizations relate to and interact with products, services and the global economy. The value of this information, according to a McKinsey & Company report, can help companies and organizations increase productivity, reduce costs and make better decisions.
Since then we’ve seen everything from social listening helping in predicting automotive equipment failure to tracking the real-time preogress of global epidemics and even being utilized to predict economic trends. We also know that law enforcement agencies worldwide, some more than others, have become very adept in utilizing social listening.
If social listening can be used for these seemingly niche applications, why can’t they be used to a greater extents by any given company today? In today’s world of truly Big Social Data, the potential for Social Listening becomes greater as more people have more public social conversations. If you think about it, Social Listening can provide ROI for a great number of corporate departments utilizing the data and insight to understand the following:
- Market Trends
- What the Media says about you
- Both what your Competitors are saying AND what is said about them
- What your Customers are saying about you AND TO you
- Who Potential Customers might be and what they are saying
- Who Your Advocates are AND what they are saying about you
- Who are Influencers and what they are saying
- How social conversations important to your company went viral
- What your Employees are saying in general AND about you
- Where potential candidates might be to fill your Talent Pipeline
The above is not a comprehensive list at all, and there are many creative ways of using social listening data depending on your specific business type and objective. Here is one such way of combining social listening data with financial data to measure the ROI of sponsoring sporting events.
We know of the potential use cases for marketing mentioned above, but there is strategic business intelligence to be gleaned from social listening that many forget. As Joellyn Sargent wrote in Social Media for B2B branding: Using Social Listening to Transform Your B2B Brand,
For B2B brands, social listening is a powerful tool to understand markets, trends and competitive issues – all factors that inform decisions about positioning and brand strategy.
I’ve also recently blogged about How to Generate Leads from Social Listening. Social Selling has become a predominant area where the ROI of social listening is becoming clear, some comparing Social Listening to Sonar for Salespeople. As Craig Jamieson writes in The New Sales Model is Social Listening,
We have never had the chance to listen to so many conversations, with so many people, without any geographic limitations at all, as we have right now … today. This represents the opportunity that is social selling.
Needless to say, in order to maximize the potential from the ROI of Social Listening, it will require actual adoption by all of the departments that can benefit from what I described above and having the data fully integrated with their workflows and processes and results measured and aligned with their current KPIs. The reality is that few companies have made it this far, especially when it comes to the metrics. That becomes the critical piece to prove the real ROI of Social Listening, as written by Todd Grossman, Americas CEO of the leading social listening platform Talkwalker, in his post on How to Explain Social ROI to C-Suite:
In our experience, to prove true value it’s critical to build metrics based on data that C-suite can easily digest and clearly map back to true business goals and objectives.
The closest I have seen to this realized in a social listening tool are the IQ Apps offered by Talkwalker. As you can see in the sample screenshot below, they are an attempt to take unstructured social data and actually apply it to some of the potential use case scenarios I mention above in order to provide “instant social intelligence tailored to your specific business needs and spread it throughout the enterprise.”
All of this reminds me of a blog post I wrote more than 4 years ago on the topic of social media ROI, where I said,
Social media, like your website and internal IT technology, becomes part of your company’s infrastructure over time. It’s not a question of having a robust social presence just like you need a robust website: You simply must have them…Fewer and fewer of [corporations] are asking about ROI but proceeding forward in their investments and trying to get better and better results. They understand that social media must be measured, metrics created, and objectives met. But it’s not about social media ROI: It’s about Business ROI. Did your social media efforts, at the end of the day, affect the entire corporate bottom line, and how did it positively or negatively contribute to it…Social media in itself is not a strategy – it is a tool, a tool that is integrated into the things that your company has always done.
Social Listening in 2015 is no different: It should be an essential part of your corporate infrastructure. The question, then, is not what the ROI of social listening is but rather how will you best utilize social listening to improve your business ROI.
I’m excited to be part of a webinar discussing the ROI of Social Listening together with Todd Grossman, CEO of Talkwalker America, Kim Celstre, Senior Director of Product Marketing from Jive Software, and Ben Kay, Social Media Senior Managing Consultant of IBM, TODAT, December 3rd! Please click the image below for more information!
What is your company’s take on the ROI of Social Listening?