Are you tracking your brand sentiment, banning social media in your workplace or using social media to help those stranded get back home?
Last week I attended a very interesting breakfast seminar run by Freshnetworks about the social media tracking tools which are now available to measure your “brand sentiment” online. The unstoppable rise in the use of social media sites such as Facebook, which according to Freshnetworks is now visited twice as often as Google in the workplace, has led many companies to realise that they need to understand what is being said about their brand.
Whilst some employers have short sightedly chosen to ban use of all social media sites, others are providing improved guidance for their employees so that they are more aware of how they can use social media networks and respond to blogs and online conversations. Delegating this task to your office junior is not advisable, however facebook savvy they may be. Reasons to provide advice include improving conversations with business partners, suppliers, customers and the all important opinion formers in your market, which could be anyone from a prolific blogger to a specialist journalist.
The measurement of brand sentiment is not an exact science and there’s plenty of debate about which are the best methods. You could take a “pareto” approach and ignore the 80% of content that’s neutral about your brand and just focus on the 20% that is negative or positive. Imagine if you could identify who those advocates for your business are and start providing tools to accelerate that “word of mouth” marketing and provide some dramatic ROI improvements on your marketing budget.
I’m well aware that in the travel industry consumers rely more on reviews from strangers than advertisements or brochures to make key travel decisions, as confirmed by the recent Social Travel Report by Total Media highlighted by Travelmole on 25 March 2010 which found a quarter of British travellers using reviews to help determine their travel plans, more than any other source.
Smart companies are already reaching out into these online communities with their company bloggers but the key learning they’ve shared is that you have to first listen and not jump in with broadcasting messages which are a real turn off. Some companies like Virgin Atlantic are recruiting freelance travel writers for their community site vtravelled : Be Inspired and others are setting up Twitter and Facebook communities. The key thing is to be out there learning and listening so that you are not the last one to know when you have an issue with your brand positioning in the market.
Noone could have forecast the impact of the volcano ash but it’s clear that social media is being used to share information and tips on how to get home such as carpool Europe as blogged by Rory Cellan-Jones on the BBC site. However imagine how much better prepared those stranded passengers could have been if the travel companies could have helped them to connect with each other online or on their smart phones and saved them some money and time. Instead many passengers could only find static website pages with out of date broadcast messages. However for those who googled “how to get back to UK” or “ash cloud transport home” one very enterprising company resorthoppa has set up a service offering emergency coaches from Madrid to Gatwick, demonstrating the speed with which the web can be leveraged to offer significant travel revenue opportunities, even during times of flight bans and French rail strikes.