Over the past decade, we have all witnessed the rapid growth of social media and how it gained its fair share of attention from brands and media agencies as a powerful tool. As years passed by, we have seen brands taking their “social media” game to the next level, moving away from merely relying on organic content to now considering it as an important touchpoint in every integrated media campaign.
Until date, social media as a channel plays a vital role in actively spreading a brand’s message out to the masses. With an estimated 2.65 billion social media users worldwide, there is no doubt that a message can be delivered.While virality acts as one of the main reasons behind the undeniable success of social media, communication falls second in line. Social media was not only able to provide brands with a medium to spread their messages, but it also gave them a platform to communicate and form a closer connection with their target audience. A brand’s social pages have been able to bridge the communication gaps between them and their consumers, which can in turn improve brand loyalty overall.
Unlike traditional media, social media was able to create a two-way communication form, resulting in consumers feeling closer to the brands they consume. It gave users a space where they could choose to praise the brand, file complaints or even give suggestions through the use of simple methods such as tweeting, commenting or sending direct messages.
But how can a brand make sure it’s always part of every conversation taking place about the products and services it offers? The answer to that would be social listening.
Social listening is a simple yet effective exercise that enables brands to understand how their target audience reacts. It supports in gathering deeper insights about the audience’s behaviours; answering questions such as, “What was the target audience’s opinion of the newly launched product?”, “What is the sentiment around the current campaign?”, or even “What are the complaints that need immediate attention?” Essentially, it provides brands with the appropriate data required to help them improve their product offerings and innovate further, all while ensuring that the needs and wants of their consumers are kept top of mind.
Aside from collecting data and being always present where consumers are, social media also plays a crucial role in crisis management. Through social listening and closely monitoring ongoing conversations, brands can leverage on the fact that they can react in real-time. In turn, this has improved the brand-customer relationship because the communication gap is bridged between the brands and their audience.
Here we observe how social media switches its role from a communication platform to an efficient PR channel. Conveniently, social media becomes the space the PR team owns to effectively send their counter-crisis message to the masses. Ten years ago, the traditional way to handle a crisis was to address the audience through the press. Today, brands can personally deliver their message directly and monitor its impact.
Virality will always remain a reason for the success of social media today, but virality can be a brand’s worst nightmare if their content and the response to the content is not heavily monitored
and appropriately controlled. We have all witnessed countless instances where brands faced a loss in their market value because they were unable to properly handle a crisis in which an offensive or disagreeable piece of content went viral on social media.
Social listening plays a crucial part in crisis management; however, it’s not the only element that needs to be focused on during this critical time. It’s important to plan in advance how to counter this challenge and contain it as much as possible to minimise its effect. When a crisis arises, social pages are bombarded with queries, and in order to ensure that the crisis is properly managed, it is important that there is a support team working 24 hours a day to make sure that the brand’s audience and their concerns are addressed in a timely manner. Here we see the importance and impact of two-way communication.
It is then fundamental that brands issue a statement that clearly clarifies their position and publish it, and then close the loop by thoroughly monitoring all conversations going on to decide the next steps accordingly.
We are at a stage where social listening cannot be put on the backburner by brands – it simply cannot be overlooked because they will risk not being present where they should be, thus missing out on conversations that help in strengthening brand presence and perception; after all, a consumer will be more likely to connect, trust and remain loyal to a brand that is available to address a concern to provide flawless products and services.
As with everything in life, there will always be a positive and negative side. Social media has been a fundamental catalyst in sparking conversations between brands and their target audience. In an ideal world, brands would have uncovered the ultimate solution to reaching ultimate closeness with their consumers, but with the downfalls of social media, brands are faced with dire repercussions if crises are not properly handled.