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April 27, 2010
Are You Listening to the Right Conversations?

My kids want a pet, so I did what any self-respecting parent would do and went online in search of the mammal/reptile/rodent that would cause the least damage to our current way of life. Within seconds, I came across a thoughtful recommendation from a consumer about the preferred diaper brand for pets suffering from incontinence.

Good to know. I'm by no means belittling the problem. It's clearly a bigger issue than I expected, and it proved, in the most graphic detail imaginable, what I have always believed. No matter what the issue and no matter what the product, the blogosphere is gold to marketers. The key, however, is to make sure that you're listening to the right conversations.

Whatever the conversation is going on right now, and it's surely going on, whether small or large, inconsequential or dire, it's certain that there is potentially a germ of an idea, trend, or thought that is actionable for a marketer.

Few clients are disciplined listeners

Unfortunately, our clients and prospects are not disciplined about social media listening, and they're not alone. A recent CMO Council survey showed that just 16 percent of senior marketers surveyed monitor message boards and blogs. This is stunning, since my clients generally acknowledge what's happening in the blogosphere.

Still, they do not fully understand how social media is affecting their brand, business, and bottom line. Again, my clients are not alone, for the same CMO Council study found that 60 percent of marketers believe that social media is having an impact. The number of marketers who believe in the impact grows daily, as more people adopt social media into their communication rituals. In fact, I recently received a friend request from my mom (a clear sign of its ubiquity).

Finding the conversations

Finding these conversations are invaluable for our clients, so we're increasingly selling ongoing listening programs. We've been successful explaining the importance of social media listening tools by showing them how such monitoring affects the bottom line. I have great admiration for our clients, which are challenger brands that have succeeded through courage, their ability to seize opportunities, take risks, and move fast.

We view social media listening as an essential tool for collecting important business intelligence. Our clients continually find ways to outthink and outrun their larger, better-funded competitors because their success is based upon staying ahead, and not being caught in the shadows of larger competitors. Part of outthinking is the ability to find different ways to ascertain consumer feedback on brands, insights into their industry, as well as the competition.These companies thrive and prosper through greater business intelligence.

Monitoring required, especially competitors

While our client brands tend to garner less chatter than their big competitors, we have developed methodologies that not only monitor what is being said about client brands, but equally important, what is being said about their industry, competitors, and relevant consumer trends. Social media monitoring provides challenger companies the ability to get an up-front examination of their larger competitors like never before.

We can now put ourselves in the underbelly of our larger competitors and ascertain real-time perspectives about these companies. We can listen and derive real-time insights into what connects their competitors and their customers. We can eavesdrop into how large competitors handle their customer relationships through how they handle customer service, both positive and negative. In addition, we can develop a deeper understanding of their customer relationship management strategy, positive and negative, including how successful they are at rallying loyal customers.

Whether it's identifying and leveraging trends, tweaking lead generation and CRM strategy, or changing customer service protocols, we start and end the day by listening to the conversation.


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Scott Gold co-founded RP3Agency with partners Beth Johnson and Jim Lansbury, after gaining experience at leading agencies including: Hill Holiday (Boston & NY), Kirshenbaum & Bond, and DimassimoBrand Advertising and most recently Rosenthal Partners. His account duties have included FBR, Commerce Bank, Sandy Spring Bank, Honest Tea, National Industries for the Severely Handicapped, Sunrise Senior Living, SunRocket, Fox Hill Senior Condominiums, Searstone, Stanley Martin, AED, Brambleton, MASN, Orioles, and AARP. 

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