Category: Risk Management
The super-hot political season we’re in is a great time talk about reputation management in social media as professional smear artists work overtime spreading rumors about candidates of all stripes. Obama’s campaign has aggressively recognized this with their Fight The Smears site where they immediately publish any new rumors and refute them decisively in real time. I don’t know if they are using social media monitoring to follow what people are saying but I think it’s likely. This kind of proactive reputation defense requires a combination of technology and human involvement.
For example, though we offer a sentiment indicator in our analysis tools it is just that: an indicator. It identifies words and phrases in context that it thinks could be indications of a negative or positive statement related to a keyword in that search. If it saw ‘Obama sucks‘ in a blog post it would likely flag that as negative. This is where the human beats the computer every time however. Using our drill down feature you can read the ‘negative’ statement in context. Suppose it actually says:
‘ Obama sucks down a frosty at a local fast food joint while talking to a smiling group of fans’
The computer thinks that’s negative, any human knows it’s positive and would correct the sentiment in SM2 accordingly. Yes, it’s labor intensive but not as intensive as rebuilding a reputation damaged by an untruth or misconception.
Sentiment and Accuracy Claims
Semantic search offers up the Holy Grail of search, search that understands natural language queries such as:
‘which dealer in Rochester has a blue Civic in stock?’
The amount of things a search engine would have to understand to return an accurate answer to this question is mind-boggling. It would have to know that Civic and dealer in the same sentence probably means a car is involved, that ‘in stock’ is a sort query and that blue is an attribute. Then it has to know that we’re only interested in Rochester dealers.
This kind of thing is why we have to be very wary of claims of accuracy in sentiment analysis. Unless a service is having actual humans read every result you can only use sentiment as a guide to the general direction of the discussion.
Reputation also varies with demographics and you can see some of this in SM2. If SM2 shows a majority of males from 34-50 in the Midwest think Obama is a Muslim (he is not!), then your management has identified a particular demo in social media that requires your attention and some remedial action.
Reputation management is labor and time intensive. It requires real time discovery because distortions can travel extremely fast in social media, the ultimate rumor mill. Like a recent Doonesbury storyline depicting his weary daughter relentlessly scanning the web 24/7 for Obama smears, it requires a lot of attention.
ROI for Reputation Management?
How do you measure the cost of swing voters in a hotly contested state? Of a false product rumor that derails sales overnight? Of not being prepared when a new market sector latches onto your product for a use you never considered? The ROI is based on risks averted which is tough to quantify.
Aaron Newman, our commander-in-chief here at Techrigy, just posted a new white paper on engagement in social media. It lays out a complete approach to listening, analyzing and participating in conversations across the social space including several links to resources, advice on how to avoid being viewed as a spammer and how to build a positive reputation.
No registration required…
We’re seeing a lot of interest in social media from educational marketers, not surprising given the age of their target market. There are conversations going on about college choice throughout social media with prospective students comparing notes, parents checking out each others’ experiences, current students talking about the college lifestyle and marketers ranking and promoting schools.
Many of the college marketing people we’ve spoken with are not thinking about monitoring, they are on the fast-track to having it in place and working for them now. And it’s not just promotion, it’s risk management because it doesn’t take long for a negative story or rumor to spread among this audience, true or not. They (students) don’t dip into social media, they live in it. So you have to have a handle on it and delve in when negative stories surface.
On the positive side, monitoring can also identify great stories and enable you to reach out to the individual telling them, add them to your official social media sites use them to position your school positively.
Sarah from ReadWriteWeb has a great piece about the volatility of UGC and the importance of social media monitoring for brand stakeholders. Obviously for us here at Techrigy this is preaching to the converted, but she is absolutely right- you cannot ‘control’ the conversation nor should you try to. Monitor, analyze, listen, join in and participate. Everyone becomes a customer service person in this new paradigm and once again, as always, the customer (user) is always right (even when they’re wrong!).
Brian Solis has a long piece on Techcrunch today on the Renaissance of PR driven by social media and how the way we pursue publicity has changed from pitching to participating in the conversation, one of my talking points.
Highly recommended. And don’t worry about the title: this applies to everyone- not just start-ups.
I think they got it right- this is one complex bugger to scale:
“Social networks have similar complexity issues, but they only usually need to route a message to a single user (or at the most to a defined group). Even so, social networks like Friendster struggled for years with technical and scaling issues. Twitter is specifically dealing with text messages, and in most cases with active users those messages are very frequent and go out to hundreds of contacts (or followers, as they are referred to in Twitter). Every new Twitter user and every new connection results in an exponentially greater computational requirement.”
This obvious statement was clarified for me while commenting on a blog post about using Twitter to pitch people, a very bad idea, IMHO. When we look into social media to follow conversations about brands we don’t see places to insert a pitch, we see opportunities to join the conversation; a different proposition. Pitching is pushing out a message into a situation that may very well resent the intrusion. Listening and adding value mean you are building trust and authority by respecting the others in the conversation.
The primary goal of brand marketing is building trust. In social media, trust is based on reputation as verified by individual contributors. Factors are sentiment, relevance, quality of response in both good and bad situations- all the things we measure when we interact in the real world with real people. The people you interact with in social media aren’t markets or personas, they’re actual people and they can make a snap judgment about you just like in real life!
Treating social media like news media doesn’t work. Treating social media like a conversation does. And that’s where the opportunity lies.
I’ve been in a lot of SM2 product demos in the last two weeks, most with PR and marketing professionals. They’ve provided a tremendous amount of input, insight and competitor intelligence in addition to enthusiasm about the depth of SM2’s capabilities (which I’m learning more about in the process as a newbie to the company!).
Today, in a great meeting, we walked an agency pro through her Freemium account and helped her filter results and see how the model works with one of her client brands. At one point we decided to see what Twitter was returning about her brand and the competitors (a food product category) and she said she really didn’t see the value of tracking Twitter. I understand her perspective because I felt the same until I started seeing how people are using Twitter to discuss product experiences. We went in and immediately found multiple Twitter threads about her brand which is a fairly specialized product. There was some pretty positive feedback taking place in real time as in ‘I’m eating breakfast including XYZ and its really good- not what I expected…etc.’
Bringing back that kind of ‘listening in’ value to a client is pretty cool- and very valuable. I could see a whole ad campaign emerging or, on the downside, a chance to make changes before something negative gets out of hand…
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