We must turn the corner from merely collecting and repackaging social and digital data to actually analyzing "big data" and learning from it. We Are Social have it right in their Future Factors 2014 Report.
3 Phases of Listening
I often describe brand marketers moving into a 3rd phase of social listening and digital data mining. The first phase was the "just do it" phase. Brands realized that they could learn and gain experience simply by monitoring what people were saying about their products and services across social media. Listening to brand mentions in blogs and later Twitter and Facebook was revealing. At the same time that novel information helped build belief internally that customer use of digital and social media might be important.
The second phase was the "operationalize it" phase. Technology companies like Salesforce, Sysomos and others raced to sign contracts to get their listening software into brands. They took advantage of those graduating from the "just do it" phase who wanted a more sensible way to monitor. There were plenty of other brands now interested in adding social signals to their customer care functions. They just needed an efficient way to do so since their customer care centers were still measured on efficiency not advocacy.
The third phase is a back-to-basics departure. It is not typified by more technology or the latest algorithm. It is not the magically accurate sentiment engine that we seemed to crave for too long.
The third phase is the "learn, apply, repeat" phase. If we do this right, we should see significant positive impact to business metrics and make as big a splash as the first phase when we began the listening journey.
"Learn, Apply, Repeat"
I was inspired by We Are Social's Future Factors 2014 report. In their list of "10 Provocations" number 3 is "From Listening to Learning" and in it's abbreviated form captures the essence of the third phase of lsitening. (You can access the report on Digital Buzz blog here).
Two of their points bear repeating:
- "Use data to understand the future not just report the past"
- "Invest as much in the interpretation of data as you do in collecting it"
We need to spend more time and brain power on interpreting what these digital and social signals may mean. Then we need to build the procedures internally to take timely action based upon those learnings. We need to repeat this cycle everyday. There aren't too many shortcuts here. This is about having experienced analysts who know your business forming hypothesis, testing via data and pulling meaning from the results. This phase will be less about the listening technology companies than the internal research functions or consultants like Networked Insights and MotiveQuest.
Marketing Leaders have a responsibility to telegraph the importance of this activity. We cannot settle for those silly reports filled with bar charts and pie wedges that get emailed around and never talked about.
Sometimes the proper analysis starts by comparing what we learn in digital and social with what we hear from the field, customer care or primary research. Social data collection did not render all of those valuable research sources inert.
- Invest in the analysis of data for insights and actionable observation
- Build an intentional process of reviewing those insights regularly with the relevant business disciplines
- Always be pulling out actions ('stay the course' can be an action) and actually taking them
- Make this all a repeatable ritual