Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

Social media monitoring – more first step than end game

by Robin Hamman

Prior to the rise of mass production and assembly line processes in the latter half of the 20th century, new products and services were often created in response to a direct conversation between consumers and businesses.

If a consumer – they weren’t called that then – wanted to make a purchase, they would explain their requirements to a person or business they thought could fulfill those needs and then negotiate a price. It sounds impossibly time consuming to us today, but the approach had it’s advantages:

  • those delivering products and services were assured of a market before they’d expended time or resources
  • costs were kept low because there was little, if any, marketing overhead
  • because consumers were directly involved in the process of devising the product or service, their requirements were more likely to be met
  • pleased customers would tell others (word of mouth)

During the 20th Century, in particular it’s latter half, production and service delivery has become profit, rather than consumer, focused. Most often it’s now businesses that come up with product or service ideas – designed for profitability – then utilise mass marketing to generate consumer need, and mop up the resultant disappointment with neutralising doses of customer relationship management and PR.

Although originally devised to fill the gap between consumers and businesses, mass marketing and CRM, most often impersonal (even if they do call you by name) and delivered from a distance, is de-humanising or worse. Whilst production costs are arguably reduced by providing one size for all, the additional costs involved in artificially generating demand and protecting reputation are of no benefit to consumer or society as a whole as they don’t contribute towards the creation of better products or improvements in service delivery.
 
It hasn’t always been like this, and we now have the tools to effect real positive change, as my colleague Lee Bryant argues in his presentation The 20th Century was Wrong:

Some people see new social technology and networked culture asdangerous and ‘new’, and they fall back on their experience oftechnology and organisational culture in the late Twentieth Century asthe ‘established’ model. Yet, in fact the reverse is true. TheTwentieth century took the ideas of the industrial revolution andapplied them to people. Mass production. Mass marketing. Mass slaughter.

If you look at a longer timeframe, you will see that our new era ofsocial technology and social business is in fact more traditional, andcontinues very old, resilient models of network-based trade, businessand socialisation. The difference is, we now have the technology andinfrastructure (and arguably the globalised world) that enables us toscale up these old ways of working to support our modern life.

In short, consumers can and should be closely involved in the co-creation, testing, refinement and marketing of products and services – something that nearly always involves a conversation – and social tools are now available to support this.

Over the last 6 to 12 months we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of times we’re asked about social media monitoring. In response we’ve investigated, and in some instances implemented, solutions. The packages and services on offer come in various shapes and, as Richard Stacy points out:

“there is a huge industry selling incredibly impressive black boxes thatreel off reams of charts and data and figures and tracking, withsentiment analysis and conversation mining (conversation mining?) andall sorts of other wizardry.

Finding conversations about topics or brands can be genuinely useful but, as compelling as I find graphs and other forms of data visualisation, I’m not quite ready to believe that human behaviour is something that can or should be turned into zeros and naughts to be categorised, visualised and measured.

Whilst it’s true that, at present, most social media monitoring is being used to protect existing mass processes, I remain enthusiastic about it’s potential to help genuinely social businesses gain a foothold by helping them identify opportunities, make contact with those with a need (“the market”) and build awareness of their ability and eagerness to fulfill that need. That, however, requires more than just a monitoring solution – it requires a consumer focused strategy, utilising a variety of social tools to support consumer involvement in every step of the process, including product or service definition, testing, refinement and marketing.

I want to prove this works, so here’s my challenge – I’m looking for a client who wants to genuinely involve individuals, members of the public, in what might best be described as a circular process, where consumers (or audiences) are put at the centre of your business, and are pro-actively involved in the processes of devising, defining, creating and possibly even delivering new product or service offerings. By them, for them, with you facilitating.  We’ll help you find the audience, create the work flows, and support the necessary processes through the use of social tools and social business strategies. You’ll get nothing short of an opportunity to transform the way you do business. Ready?

9 Responses to Social media monitoring – more first step than end game

  1. By Philippe Borremans on September 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Robin,
    What you describe as;
    “to genuinely involve individuals, members of the public, in what might best be described as a circular process, where consumers (or audiences) are the are put at the centre of your business, and are pro-actively involved in the processes of devising, defining, creating and possibly even delivering new product or service offerings”…
    is exactly what we want to do…
    So yes, would gladly explore more after my 2 week holiday. I’ll be back on the 24th and would love to talk then.

  2. By gianandrea facchini on September 14, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Cannot agree more.
    And I’m sure that when referring to circular process you may like the chart in the presentation of my company:
    http://www.slideshare.net/gianandrea59/buzzdetector-en-2009

  3. By Kaleem on September 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Social media monitoring has its place and uses but business thinking focused on impressions places blinders on many, forcing them to focus on strictly quantitative measures as the measures of success.
    What those measures lack is a recognition of the qualitative nature of behaviour. So it is not an accident that anthropology, sociology, and designing emotion and experiences into products and services are among the hottest topics in business circles.
    It is a recognition that an exclusively quantitative, scientific approach is inadequate to capture social processes like the one described at the beginning of this post and reminds us that all endeavours are human endeavours.
    -K
    (I believe you meant to write “Prior to the rise of mass production and assembly line processes in the latter half of the 19th century….”)

  4. By Brad Schwarzenbach on September 14, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Robin,
    This is one of the most succinct cases for social media that I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot of them.
    The mistake VPs and CMOs make is assuming that there’s some sort of quantifiable measure of success in social media engagement; a magic bullet that will say in big shiny numbers, “Yes, you’re doing it right!” or “No, try again.” As if sales numbers pointing up are the only value to be gained from substantive interaction. They seem to forget the social part of social media.
    Keep up the great work! Care to record an interview for our podcast?
    Thanks for the insight!
    Brad

  5. By @digitalinfant on September 14, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Excellent post, and the bit on co-creation “In short, consumers can and should be closely involved in the co-creation, testing, refinement and marketing of products and services – something that nearly always involves a conversation – and social tools are now available to support this.” hits on something that @jted and I have been talking about and following for the past few months. Social tools have helped eliminate a gap between consumers and product development that was at its widest during the introduction of mass production. I’d be interested to hear what you think of what @jted and I put together on this same topic http://jasontheodor.com/2009/08/21/from-chasm-to-convergence/ (never mind the google wave at the end)

  6. By Samuel Driessen on September 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Great post, Robin. Liked the quote from Lee placing this movement in historical perspective. And how you stress organisation wrt monitoring. Buying a tool is not enough. You could start there. But actually engaging in conversation requires people to actually do the work.

  7. By Jan van Veen on September 23, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Great post indeed Robin. I like the fact that you place the social media in a broader historic and social perspective, and I like your views on this matter. In fact, Samuel Driessen, who commented before me, and me are also trying to convince our company to look beyond the media to the underlying trend and shift in human behavior. We are currently investigating social media monitoring tools. The black box kind, as you described. I will discuss your approach with the team making the decision, and see if there is a chance to involve you.

  8. By dominic on September 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Excellent post. Thank you.
    I fully agree that social media monitoring solutions (should I say except us :-), are solutions that measure the risk of the “social eco system” for a client whose drive is fear and control.
    They do not help for one cent the enterprise to socialize its business processes. They still “see” the internet as one giant un-humanized web.
    The opportunity is not in social media (as a channel) but in communities& tribes as a new constituent that is the real driver of this revolution.
    Social Media Monitoring currently is the monitoring of the “outside” whereas companies should acknowledge that they and their employees and work groups are part of the communities and that they should be looking at metrics and monitoring inside out:
    Us – Our network – Our relevant communities .
    This means, instead of counting mentions of their brand in an impersonal www (be it called social or not), assessing their footprint in their target communities and their ability to socialize, connect and relate to these communities.
    To take an example, for the people in IBM working in cloud computing: counting the mentions of “ibm and cloud computing” in blogs and twitter is nice but this is not really actionable when it comes to increase IBM’s influence in the Cloud computing market and making them a social business.
    Mapping the cloud computing community, measuring the level of awareness of IBM’s value proposition for this ecosystem, measuring the level of connectivity and the number of conversations between the IBM teams and this eco-system are more actionable metrics
    I can’t be your client, but I would be interested in helping you in your project.

  9. By Luke Brynley-Jones on October 2, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Robin – I’ve been talking to a *lot* of people in the social media monitoring space recently (organising Monitoring Social Media 09) and while I get the sense that social media folks see through the fog of statistics and quantitative analysis, end-users (brands) are still struggling to justify investment beyond individual campaigns.
    In light of this – Dell’s suggestion (from last year) that each online detractor costs them $57 on average while promoters gain them $32 seems far sighted in the extreme. From what I can see, they are still the exception to the rule.