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Published June 8th 2011

The Role of Social Media Monitoring in: Research

Social media monitoring and analysis tools have a myriad of uses, from tracking marketing campaigns and reputation management to customer/prospect engagement and search analysis.

One of the primary themes that enters into many ways of using the tools is research. Social media monitoring platforms offer fantastic new opportunities for research and gaining insight into brand and market issues.

The depth and power of social media research is always growing the more people use social media and the more sophisticated the tools become. But from browsing blogs, forums and LinkedIn groups on the subject, there is some suggestion that we are not fully realising the potential of what is currently available to us.

Social Media Monitoring is more than a part of Social Media Marketing

How often do we see companies discussing “social media monitoring” in hand with “social media marketing”? Fairly frequently, I imagine most would agree. So often in fact that you’d be forgiven for thinking they are inextricably linked; and that social media monitoring should belong solely in your social media marketing strategy – nowhere else.

Something like this perhaps:

If you will allow me to be quite blunt – this is wrong. Or perhaps more accurately, incomplete.

Whilst it does have a place as shown above, social media monitoring extends far beyond the boundaries of social media marketing and operating in this constrained way ignores the extensive benefits it can have across the rest of communications.

But then, we’re a social media monitoring company; of course we’re going to say this. Well, please let us explain the thinking…

What actually is “social media”?

Social media is a place (or…a medium) where people talk about all aspects of both their online and offline life; they share their experiences, their ideas and their opinions; they spread news and gossip and they complain and they compliment. It is a form of human communication that shares many traits with other forms.

What does this mean to brands?

Brands have realised the power of these communications and want to impact on them. Social media marketing is one of the most obvious tools available to brands to do this – it is one of the most obvious purely due to its physical proximity to the conversations.

However, it is only one of the tools. Television/print/online advertising, events, promotional offers, customer service and everything else can all be the subject of social media conversations (just like they can be in the real world):

  • Every single part of how a brand communicates to its customers and prospects can affect what happens for that brand on social media.
  • It therefore follows that all these parts should be in some way informed, directed and enhanced by social media monitoring.

In other words, what people are saying on social media is affected by all marketing and communications, so what they are saying should thus affect all marketing and communications too.

That red “social media monitoring” box should either be promoted up the hierarchy, or pop up in several different places.

Where is this being misunderstood?

Perhaps the problem arises because of how communications are traditionally divided into distinct channels: print, television, ambient, direct, digital, and now of course, social media.

This causes much more compartmentalisation – everything happening in/on related to social media is considered as exclusively important to social media.

Of course many of the more innovative and fast-thinking brands do integrate their communications and research across channels, but it seems many are still a long way from understanding that insights from social media can and should influence decision-making like those from traditional methods of market research.

What do you think? Can we gain insights from monitoring and engaging on social media that are worthy of influencing branding and cross-channel marketing in the same way that focus groups, surveys and other traditional market research do? Why or why not?

Take a look at the next part of the series: The Role of Social Media Monitoring In: Social CRM.

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