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Are You Getting Too Close to Your Customers? Unraveling the Social Conundrum

smallNetBase-Social-Listening-InfoGraphic.jpgWe’re all familiar with the power of corporate social sites to constantly monitor customer conversations. Armed with likes and dislikes, companies can develop better products faster, execute more targeted marketing campaigns, and manage crises quickly to save potentially millions of dollars. Not so fast says a new study released by NetBase and the J.D. Power Panel that threatens to upend common social wisdom and practices.

According to these findings, over half of consumers (fifty-one percent) want to be able to talk about companies without them listening. However, forty-eight percent of consumers would allow companies to listen if the goal is to improve products and services. And fifty-eight percent believe that businesses should only respond to complaints in social media. What’s a business to do?

Lisa Joy Rosner, Chief Marketing Officer of NetBase, unequivocally says to keep listening. She relates story after story of how companies of all sizes turn customer insights into profits. A major food company changed the placement of products in the grocery store based on customers’ eating patterns and increased sales. Another company found out their customers liked the product and pricing but hated the commercial. In response, the company changed the commercial and sold more products. Then they were able to see people complaining about running out of the product and adjusted their supply chain to increase inventory where it was needed.

NetBase has partnered with SAP to develop SAP Social Media Analytics, an industrial strength solution that gathers and processes billions of onlineconversations in real-time. With deep natural language processing capabilities, this analytics solution delivers all-important context that helps companiesunderstand the nuances, including things like sarcasm, irony, and word play. Misunderstanding conversations is just as damaging as not listening at all.

Privacy concerns notwithstanding, social is powerful because all businesses are about human interaction, whether customers are people in other businesses or consumers. At my company, SAP, teams use SAP Social Media Analytics on a daily basis to check online sentiment about our solutions, and create daily monitoring reports that are sent to executive management. The reports capture every conversation in blogs, news, and more encompassing volume, sentiment, questions, and feedback. They are instrumental in finding out customer wants, needs, and concerns, especially with new technologies such as SAP HANA that powers our real-time business platform.

SAP is in good company. According to B2B Magazine, 56% of business-to-business marketers plan to increase their spending on social media in 2013. Social media sites and other online sources will continue to be the first stop for consumers and business people in search of information. In an always-on world, company’s and customers can’t easily pull down the blinds. The challenge is making sure we don’t get too close to jeopardize comfort.

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  • Great post! What's the point of tweeting or posting about a company or product if you don't want them to see it? I do believe there is a line companies should walk in terms of being too social heavy, such as replying to every piece of sentiment they come accross... However, Lisa Joy Rosner is 100% correct in saying that companies need to keep listening. 

  • Great post, indeed. I guess the motto of social listening/engagement should be something like "don't be evil" (where have we heard that before?), meaning: use it to help people, but don't annoy them (which is quite easy to do with social ;o).

    It's also interesting to see that social listening is becoming just as relevant for B2B as it is for B2C, and this is where Social Networks may well meet Business Networks, like the Ariba Network. After all, one of the many things it does is help buyers connect with sellers and this is where reviews from other participants could be really interesting on both sides, i.e. not only "does this seller deliver the goods on time?", but also "does this buyer pay the bill on time?".

    Do you think that combination would make sense?