brand monitoring

Realistic Brand Monitoring

It’s been a year since I started this little blog. I was blogging for my former employer’s two company blogs when the ax there fell. What I’ve never gone into here was why I left the agency. Seeing as how it is relevant to work you may be doing for your own business, I think it’s high time I did.

I’ll be keeping out the names of companies not so much to protect them as myself – if people who made bad decisions get called out I’m not that concerned. If I get sued, however, I’ll be more than a little concerned.

We had a client who did on line learning, and they wanted a brand monitoring report. This is a competitive analysis looking at how a company is viewed in the media – news, video, social, etc. It’s the sort of thing that’s terribly useful once you bottom line what all of these mentions mean.

Among their competitors were two state universities. Now, it almost goes without saying that two major universities are going to have a LOT of media mentions. But since we were looking at them as direct competitors, it didn’t (and doesn’t) make sense to look at all of their press mentions – it only makes sense to look at how their product is mentioned. In this case, that would mean how their on line learning courses were covered and mentioned.

The client had wanted to hear all of the press mentions of these two Universities, but as I said, I felt this was unnecessary information and suggested we inform the client of that.

Let’s say you have a coffee shop. You’ll want to know how people write about your competitors like Starbuck’s, Coffee Plantation, and Seattle’s Best. You’ll also want to know how they react to McDonald’s, now that they sell various coffee drinks too. But having the additional information about how people are writing about the McRib Sandwich, The Ronald McDonald House charity, and the opening of 100 new stores in China (which isn’t in your market anyway) does not relate to your product. Sure, people who become more familiar with McDonald’s may then go in and buy one of their coffees. But looking at the company as a whole, and from that trying to glean what people think of their coffee, is quite a stretch and defeats the purpose of doing the analysis in the first place.

If you look at a competitor with as large a brand identity as McDonald’s to see how you compare to them, you will loose. What’s important is how your product compares to theirs if they sell the same one.

Instead, a week later, I was in an office with two of my three managers (God help me, I had THREE managers!) informing me that my services would no longer be required.

It’s one of the major drawbacks of working for an ad agency, that what the client wants is rarely what they need, and that you don’t really tell them this if their checks are all clearing. Since then I’ve gone to work at a stable company with a clear, strong on line objective. More importantly, they understand the difference between what a competitor does, and what a competitor does that effects us.

Facebook Conversation Monitoring

Finding conversations on Facebook is an ordeal. Unlike Twitter, which comes complete with a search engine, Facebook profiles are closed off to anyone who isn’t a friend of that person. (Unless that person turns off that particular privacy filter, which isn’t often.)

So seeing as how Facebook is the Myspace for the moment, how do you find people who are talking about you or what you sell?

Facebook Cat

One way is using Facebook’s own Lexicon tool. This searches through Facebook wall posts looking for terms you select. However, it will only show you how that term is trending, and will only find something that already has high use. For instance, if I do a search for “beer,” you can see that this gets mentioned a lot – with an ungodly spike in use on St. Patrick’s Day. However, if I do a search for “Four Peaks Brewery,” a local micro brewery here in Tempe, there’s nothing. Even if it did turn up something, I wouldn’t be able to find out who is using this term, and how.

You can also use Facebook’s paid ad server to find out how many people use a specific word in their own profile. If you want to find people who list “pizza” somewhere in their profile, it will tell you how many do so to the person. It will also tell you their age group, gender, geographic location… it’s very neat for that.

However, it is also wildly unspecific. It doesn’t tell you what context people use the phrase in, so they could be using the phrase you are looking for in any number of ways that have nothing to do with what you’re looking for. Also, Facebook users aren’t prone to updating their profiles. Once they create an account and enter some information into those “about me” boxes, they usually stay untouched.

And after that, things dry up pretty quickly. Because Facebook walls off the information people post to their immediate friends, there is no easy way for you to penetrate this information.

My advice, frankly, is to monitor everything else. Remember, “brand monitoring” is simply a fancy way of saying, “what people are saying about you.” If the zeitgeist believes something about your business or industry, the frequency with which they say it on Twitter or blogs isn’t going to change dramatically on Facebook. If 60% of Tweets say pizza is delicious but 88% hate anchovies on it, you can bet Facebook posts aren’t going to be dramatically different.

If you are concerned with “what people are saying about you,” there is a wealth of free tools available to you, with more coming on line all the time. It isn’t something that takes a great deal of effort to look into, and can give you a good idea of what people do and don’t want.

Once you have this information, simply apply it to Facebook proactively through your Page, Group, text ads or applications.

What you are not likely to get any time soon is an easy road map to each user according to what they post. This is certainly annoying, given the number of people who use this site. However, it is only a matter of time before the next “big thing” comes along on the Internet. Perhaps the next Myspace will get you better information.

But if someone knows better, I am all ears.

Brand Monitoring for Brand Champions

There’s a lot of talk about brand monitoring these days. While there doesn’t feel like a lot you can control when it comes to social media marketing, checking to see what people are saying about you is fairly easy to do and report on. It’s pretty easy to look for people talking smack about you, or spreading mis-informed opinions about what you do or who you are.

Tweet Up Nametag

But what about the people who like you? While I’m sure people keep a tally of who’s saying something nice about them, there’s rarely a plan for dealing with them. Perhaps because the concept of brand monitoring is born out of putting out fires. If someone says they like a company or product, there’s no fire to put out. Usually, “thanks for the comment!” is all kind words seem to merit.

This is a waste. People who take a moment to say something nice about your company could be made into full-time brand champions. With encouragement and appreciation, they could be the kinds of people you dream of having out there, ones who comment on other people’s blogs or tweet about how brilliant what you do is.

Just as you should have a plan for dealing with the negative comments, you should know how you’re going to deal with your potential new friends as well. Here is what you should try:

  1. When you find positive mentions of your brand, reply back as quickly as you can. Thank them for their praise, and be sure to comment directly on what they said. For instance, if someone writes, “Dionigi’s Pizzas are the best!” respond with, “Glad to hear it! What do you like on yours?”
  2. After that, if you can, try to send a direct message to the author, or an e-mail if it’s available to you. Send a private thanks, and ask them in further detail what they liked. If someone at a party said to you, “You’re with [your company]? I love you guys!” you wouldn’t be shy about asking why, would you?
  3. Maintain a list of these fans that you’ve been able to get in touch with directly. Obviously, if you try to write back to a Twitter user about why they liked your brand and they don’t respond, that’s a dead lead. Move on. But if you have a lengthy exchange with one, get their name and put it in the list as someone to contact later. Do this for bloggers, Tweets, Facebook friends, reviewers on Yelp, forums – if they have a name and you’ve been able to establish direct communication, log them and where you left things off.
  4. With that list of friends in hand, go back to them occasionally and offer them know of “inside” tips and specials. This is particularly effective if you’re responding to a blogger. Bloggers love inside scoops, something they can be the first to report. On occasion, when you do have something you’re going to announce or offer, let them know first. Give them a chance to be the hero and spread the word for you first. It builds incredible good will with them, and frankly they may have the juice to publicize your story better than your press release will.
  5. When your friends repeatedly don’t bite at your offers of specials, info, coupons, etc., take them off your list. They aren’t doing anything for you after all, and in all likelihood you’re just bugging them. You definitely don’t want to do that, lest they start posting about how much they used to love you, but now you’ve turned into a pain in the ass.
  6. If you’re a local business, have a party for your list of fans. Rent a room at a bar or restaurant and have them all over for food and drinks. Tweet-ups are great for this. (Stuart Foster has a great piece on how to organize Tweet-ups on Mashable.) Be sure they know it’s a show of your appreciation of them, and do NOT use it as a time to get them all “on board” with some new messaging you’re really hoping they’ll evangelize about. That is a turn-off. Remember, these people aren’t employees – they’re your customers, and they’re there because they took the time to tell others how great you are. This is simply something you should do to grease the rails with them.

Think of all of this as a volunteer affiliate program – you don’t have to pay these people to post about how great you are, but you do need to keep them happy. Some will be so into what you do that they’re happy to help. You may even want to hire some of these people eventually if they are effective marketers and bloggers who have, of their own volition, drank your Kool-Aid.