Earlier in the year, many were saying at conferences and events that they were ready to move beyond the basics.
Advice like "you need to be listening", "you need to participate", "social media means free marketing", etc. made the rounds post after post, and talk after talk, until it was taken for granted -- background muzak.
Yet, many are still struggling with implementing this advice in a way that makes their resources allocation worth something to the business.
The good news is adoption and experimentation by businesses and brands has accelerated. The bad news is much of the free advice they experiment on is generic, and the tools are still very much geared toward individual vs. organization's use, and imperfect.
They are great for streamlining a process, allowing a team to collaborate and get everyone on the same page, for example. Hardly a perfect one-stop solution for most other needs.
How do you dig yourself out of the great stagnation?
If you're an organization, start with looking at the reasons why listening is so much more than monitoring. Here are 5 cases when listening means more. It means:
(1.) being in tune with what your customers want and expect
This helps in the service and support department, and goes beyond that. It opens up all kinds of customer insights and can improve or kick start product innovation.
Initiatives like P&G's Tremor and Home Made Simple cater to understanding why consumers talk, the first to ignite word of mouth, the second for R&D purposes. Both are opt in communities. Would this kind of thinking help you with loyalty?
(2.) playing into the need for status and gratification people have
The gaming industry got a head start on this one. And you can certainly borrow from the dynamics of gaming.
Look at what Bravo did with Foursquare. Foursquare is essentially a game. Another example is The Huffington Post, which has totally revamped their comments section along these lines. users are rewarded with special badges and "moderator" status for being active. They use a "fan" functionality, too.
How about shifting sentiment about your brand from mostly neutral to positive?
(3.) helping people reward themselves by being generous to others
The whole "pay it forward" movement latches onto the built-in desire for purpose that is greater than self. You see some of this dynamic at work when you belong to a tightly knit brand community or tribe. People share and pass on information for much this same reason.
An implementation of this concept is Kiva, an altruistic brand. The financial rewards of microloans are modest, but it's obviously playing to the need for meaning. Care2 has a lot of built-in features which reward users for making social actions, and users can reward each other with badges and stuff.
(4.) tying what happens online directly into the real world
Which is where most of the real stuff happens anyway. That's where people eat, shop, get together, enjoy experiences, and talk about them.
To an extend, IBM's virtual events do that. Think also about how TwelpeForce by Best Buy on Twitter drives traffic to its retails stores. There are plenty of other examples, and we should delve into this one in future posts. It's that important.
Does what you're doing have consumer appeal?
(5.) being able to identify and capitalize on future patterns early on
You would think that with so many brands and individuals participating there isn't much left to do. Yet, the white spaces are there, particularly when it comes to execution.
Is there a new product in what you're learning? Is any other brand playing in that space? How are people discussing it?
The overall why this is a good idea comes down to providing consistency over the short term, which becomes continuity over the long term. We're done with the basics. Now, it's about developing a coherent story that both the organization and the people who are part of its ecosystem -- customers, prospects, employees, channel partners, etc. - embrace.