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The Importance of Social Media Awareness
By: Andrew Davis
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Much has been written about the need to monitor your brand’s online reputation. In fact, an entire niche industry of “online reputation management” has been born from the concept. And, without a doubt, it’s an important part of any online marketing strategy. However, just as important is your brand’s “Social Media Awareness.”
There is more to monitoring social conversation than managing your brand’s reputation. The key to social marketing is joining the conversation, not changing it. And if you don’t know what the conversation is, your brand can’t become engaged with online consumers. Worse yet, you’re missing out on a treasure trove of insight into the relationship your brand has with consumers.
“We learn a lot from our customers, and our Facebook pages really help us to do that,” says Bic USA’s VP of Marketing, Traci Gentry, in an interview with DM News. Gentry says that Bic regularly “mines” social media conversations in order to understand how best to talk to consumers, as well as sharing the information with other marketing channels to make them more effective, such as keywords in paid search.
However, before you can join the conversation, you must first determine what that conversation is. Randy Hlavac, a social marketing expert and CEO of Marketing Synergy, Inc., calls this the “Social Media EKG.” It involves taking a measured look at the ongoing social conversation. Before engaging consumers, brands should determine what the online market, or community, is saying about its products, company, and competitors and what specific terms are they using in those conversations, as well as the tone. Do consumers have a negative impression of the brand, or a positive one?
Hlavac also says it is also important to determine the same in social conversations about competitors, which can help your brand to position itself better.
The information that you can learn from the Social Media EKG will help you join in the social conversation, and begin engaging with the online market for your brand. While you cannot change the conversation, you can help steer it in a positive direction.
Several tools exist for the purpose of monitoring the social conversation about your brands. Three popular tools are Radian6, Social Mention, and Technorati. These tools help you measure and investigate the conversation about your brand, which you can then use to form a social media plan to help engage with the online community.
"Social Mention allows me to see where the conversation is happening online, and provides insight into the discussion — whether it is positive, or negative,” says Spencer Broome, a marketing coordinator at MediaFiche. “It helps me to determine the reach of the response, as well as the keywords, or tags involved. From there, I know how to react."
And, knowing how to react is the name of the game for brands. From new products, to responding to complaints, to engaging with consumers in order to strengthen brand loyalty, everything starts with an awareness of the social conversation about your brand.

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About the Author
Andrew Davis is a Charleston, SC-based creative services consultant to small businesses and non-profits. Follow him on Twitter here.
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