Enterprises are becoming old pros at social collaboration and communication, but what about social listening?
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Disgruntled customers are no longer calling the customer service line, but instead are taking to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to air their grievances about companies and their services.
Social listening has become just as crucial to enterprises' social media strategy as collaboration. Pulling social media monitoring capabilities into enterprise social and unified communications (UC) tools and applications will help enterprises react to and remediate business problems that erupt online.
Making social listening as easy as communication, collaboration
Social listening isn't a new concept. Many businesses have been tracking feedback from news sources and customers for years, but the recent proliferation of "#fail" hash tags on sites like Twitter regarding various companies’ services and products has enterprises wondering how to get in front of online comments and criticism, said Brad Shimmin, principal analyst at Washington, D.C.-based Current Analysis Inc.
"Customers have a voice, and in the current climate, it's a boisterous one," Shimmin said. "Social monitoring is something that enterprises can't ignore. It has become paramount for companies that are public-facing to pay attention to what is being said on social networks."
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One route that some UC and social software vendors are taking is to combine enterprise social collaboration platforms with social monitoring capabilities to create a one-stop shop for users -- sales and marketing employees, for example -- who need to stay ahead of customer feedback as they work.
MindLink, a social collaboration platform from U.K.-based collaboration technology provider Formicary Collaboration Group (FCG), provides social monitoring and collaboration to enterprise users. The platform links live communication capabilities among teams of employees based on internal applications (like SharePoint for document collaboration) and on external sources, such as news feeds and public social networks, said Neal Fiske, development manager atFCG.
With MindLink, users can select and subscribe to live content streams, such as Twitter, that are relevant to their work, and they can establish internal conversation streams with co-workers based on these social feeds. Because the platform is built on Microsoft Lync and can be integrated into Outlook, employees don't have to toggle from one social collaboration tool to another. They can view their selected live streams from within applications they are already using, Fiske said. MindLink Mobile lets users choose a subset of live streams to appear on their smartphone, iPad or Linux-based tablet, he said. "[Users] can collaborate based on the live streams with the right internal team of internal employees, quicker and more efficiently that sending emails back and forth."
Social listening: Who should be paying attention?
Enterprises have many tools for measuring customer satisfaction and mining data and feedback that predate social media, but Twitter, Facebook and other services offer companies the chance to monitor consumer feedback in real time.
"These consumers have the ability to sway the decisions of others," Shimmin said. Enterprises need to manage this customer influence with social listening capabilities tied into tools that employees are already using to get their work done, he said.
A tool like MindLink, which blends social collaboration with social monitoring, is great for groups of employees working together and following a company event -- like a sale in the retail industry -- who might want access to real-time customer feedback from Twitter or Facebook.
"[MindLink] goes deeper than just data mining," said Karen Kervin, senior research analyst for Mokena, Ill.-based Nemertes Research Group Inc. "It allows a user to click on a particular story from their live feed -- like a news article on their company or product, or a comment on Twitter -- and create a conversation based on the story that other users in the group can see and contribute to."
Despite recent growth in social media monitoring and management, it's still not where it should be, Kervin said. Social monitoring traditionally has been handled by the marketing department, but new tools and applications are allowing social listening to move into other areas. No one employee can respond to all the comments on Facebook and Twitter, but the wrong person handling social listening -- for example, an employee who argues with clients publicly -- could have implications for the company, she noted.
Ignoring social media also leaves a company open to a PR fiasco. "The first thing people are doing now is hopping on social media and bashing companies when they've had a bad experience," Kervin said. "The most logical place for [social monitoring] is the contact center," she said. Contact employees have the tools and experience to respond to consumer feedback.
And the ability for social monitoring capabilities to integrate with such UC tools as Microsoft Lync will be a big driver for greater adoption of social listening for enterprises, Kervin said.