As the established social media landscape consolidates just as new platforms enter the field, the ways in which companies monitor customer conversations and direct feedback will have to change. The same can be said for the social listening software providers that help brands make sense of all the chatter.
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I communicated with Loic Moisand, co-founder and CEO of Synthesio, via email about the ways in which companies can use social media as a vehicle for fostering better customer relationships and increasing sales. We discussed how businesses can meet these goals regardless of their company's size or the platforms on which their customers are communicating.
PCMag: Social listening seemed to be a pretty straightforward industry when all of the major social networks were privately owned. However, as industry consolidation occurs, along the lines of Microsoft buying LinkedIn and rumors that Salesforce might buy Twitter, how does that impact the way companies such as yours do business?
Loic Moisand (LM): This is not really a new situation for us. Since the beginning of social media, there has been a strong, constant flow of activity around the major networks, with some, like Myspace and to some extent Foursquare, disappearing, and some getting acquired, like Instagram, Periscope, and LinkedIn. Yet, while all these business changes were happening, the communities that were built inside of these social networks are still thriving and moving together to another platform. Furthermore, when they move from one network to the other, as they initially start at a new and exciting social network, they invite more of their friends to join that network.
Thus, the impact that networks being consolidated, purchased, disappearing, etc., is very minimal for social listening platforms like ours that exist to provide organizations information and insights around what is being said online about them in almost every previous, existing, and future social network. This trend is continuing as the amount of social profiles that a standard individual owns has grown to about five platforms per person and, as we know by now, social media is not a fad and this trend is not going to slow down.
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PCMag: We're all well aware of the power that social listening can have on major social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and even apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. What are the next frontier social networks on which companies need to be focusing when posting content and listening for feedback?
LM: The main global social networks that everyone knows (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) are important for any business to utilize in their social media tool belt. However, that is just the start as the next frontier is already here and it consists of the social platforms that are regional strong-holds: VKtontakte (Russia), WeChat (APAC), Sina Weibo (APAC), etc. In 2016, most businesses have a global aspect to them, in large part due to their online presence and visibility.
So, in order to have a true understanding of their social data, their social listening needs to include access to all of these platforms. A few months ago, we put up a blog post about the importance of including WeChat in your global Social Listening program, and also an eGuide looking at the importance of understanding how global cultural differences can affect your global Social Listening practice, and they have been incredibly popular. This has really driven home for us how people want as much data as they can have, and they want to get in front of their entire audience, which is why special attention must be placed on these regional global platforms.
PCMag: As consumers post increasing numbers of video, and their sentiment is vocalized in video posts (as opposed to text-based responses), what can companies such as yours do to ensure that you're able to listen and derive data from vocal, video-based content? Do you currently have the tools available to mine vocal-based posts?
LM: Video is definitely picking up through tools like Facebook Live, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., and we are looking to integrate it into our platform sooner rather than later. However, currently we use our visual social listening tools to access the video itself, excluding the audio, to see what is in the images, what is being said, etc. Between the comments on a video, the context given by the post, and other visual and text-based clues, we are able to derive a strong analysis of a video.
On a personal note, I'm always impressed by the behaviors derived mostly from Instagram. Power Instagram users, and power social media users in general, have really taken to the habit of using very specific hashtags to describe their content that make it much easier to derive an actionable and context-driven analysis. They are looking to get identified as opinion leaders and be searchable by any user looking for relevant content, and that is incredibly helpful for social listening technology like Synthesio's, which is why we've recently even added the ability to derive the top hashtags used on any or all topics in a social listening dashboard that is built with our platform.
PCMag: We have a lot of readers who are micro-business owners: pizza shops, grocery stores, online businesses. These companies don't have the kind of name recognition that generates a large amount of social feedback. What can these companies do to start listening on social media in ways that might be constructive for their businesses? Is it even possible?
LM: Some form of scalable social listening is important for all businesses of any size, as everyone has customers who are talking online,and competitors who they need to track. Whether you're a local pizza shop, small online business, the world's largest enterprise organization, an agency or anyone in between, it is crucial to monitor what you can. While platforms like Synthesio are likely to be too much for what is currently necessary for a micro-business owner, there are free and smaller options to help monitor as much as they can.
For example, Google Alerts mixed with [published offerings from Agora Pulse or Hootsuite] can be a great start to monitoring key terms and manage your own social networks. While you won't be able to get as much detail and information as you can with a proper social listening tool, this will be a great start that will help get you started on your way to understanding and properly utilizing social listening.