Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are data gold mines. Tap them, and you’ll find yourself with a wealth of real-time information about your customers, your competitors and the market of your choosing. 

Equipped with real-time insights straight from the horse’s mouth, you can make agile, business-wide decisions that result in better products, intuitive product roadmaps and excellent customer service.

Crafting Your Social Information Game Plan

Here’s a game plan you can tailor to your organization’s needs to make social a leading indicator for your business: 

Recognize the Potential 

Companies commonly rely on market reports and customer surveys to inform major business decisions. While these reports are rich with insights, they can take weeks — if not months — to compile, which means the information is often out-of-date by the time it hits your desk. 

The best way to understand what’s happening in your market and what your customers are thinking at any given point on a timely basis is to leverage social data. 

Social channels are open forums for consumers to ask questions, air grievances and make recommendations. It’s not uncommon for consumers to turn to social networks with questions like “Should I use AT&T or Verizon?,” “How do I fix my broken HP printer?” or “Has anyone tried the new smoothies at Dunkin’ Donuts?”

This sort of organic dialogue is more than just chatter. It’s data: data that unearths what your customers are concerned about, what they think of your product how they compare you to your competitors and beyond. 

So the first step towards using social as a leading indicator is to recognize its potential. Embrace this new source of real-time, candid feedback and use social as a window into the mind of your consumers. 

Slice and Dice Your Data

There’s no denying that the data is there. It’s just a matter of collecting and interpreting the feedback. That may seem easy enough, but the truth is that it can be difficult to weed through that much content. That’s why it’s important to put the right people, processes and technology in place. With a team dedicated to decoding social customer feedback (and responding to that feedback in real-time), you’ll be able to pull valuable insights and identify early warning signs. 

Teams will need to look for specific words or phrases in order to identify which social posts are relevant and worth digging into. From there, it’s a matter of determining sentiment, so you can correlate feedback with business strategies and react accordingly. 

There are a number of ways to slice and dice your data. Consider breaking things down by location. For example, a hotel chain may find that customers visiting its New York location frequently complain on social media that room rates are too high. It may be fruitful to compare prices with other nearby hotel chains and monitor what consumers have to say about those prices to determine whether or not pricing should be adjusted. 

Similarly, you may want to evaluate data by consumer age. For instance, a popular US bank broke social data down by age and found that older adults often reported difficulty making mobile deposits because their hands were too shaky to snap clear images of their checks. 

With this information, the bank updated its mobile app so that deposits could be made by taking a video of a check, allowing the app to automatically save the clearest image. Just be sure to peel all the available information from user’s social profiles, so you can get a better understanding of where feedback is coming from.

Ideally, companies should be focused on connecting the dots on social handles to match them with unique customer identifiers like loyalty numbers. Capturing this type of data leads to endless possibilities, so you can understand social feedback alongside purchase history and usage information. 

Turn Insights into Change

Social data and insights don’t do you or your brand any good unless you leverage this information to improve the overall business. Here are a few ways you can act on those leading indicators:

Learning Opportunities

Improve Products and/or Services: Social data will inevitably illuminate what customers think about your brand and what they like or don’t like about your products and/or services. Use this information to improve products before a small snafu becomes a major issue. 

For example, a well-known hotel brand in the US believed its biggest customer complaint had to do with billing processes based on data collected from their call center. However, when the company took social data into consideration, it became clear that customers were actually most concerned about room cleanliness. The brand was then able to update its product accordingly before the issue made headlines. 

Similarly, a major e-commerce website tapped social data for feedback on its new product offering. The company learned that customers were frustrated when the product package did not include a power adaptor. Responding quickly, the company updated this product to include all of the necessary accessories. 

Update Your Product Roadmap: Not only can you update and improve current offerings, you can get ahead of the curve and better strategize what’s coming down the pipeline. With information on what features customers want and what your competitors are doing, you’re able to adjust your pipeline in real-time. 

For instance, an airline company may notice chatter from customers who miss their bags of free peanuts. This could indicate that it’s time to bring back inflight snacks. Meanwhile, a major restaurant chain may track what consumers think of a competitor’s menu items. If a new iced tea offering is proving to be popular, that chain may want to offer a similar beverage option. 

What’s more, keeping tabs on what’s being said about competitors and the market in general can help inform decisions about mergers and acquisitions. Just think what you can learn from consumer sentiment and the history of that sentiment before you make your next big investment.

Provide Better Customer Experiences: The truth is there is a treasure trove of information about your business hidden in social data. Taking it to the next level, you can also leverage these networks to improve the customer experience in near real-time. 

Track common questions that are asked via social channels and respond to these inquiries in minutes. One large transportation services provider in Europe uses the data to help commuters find the best mode of transportation, directing people to trains, buses or motorways as appropriate.   

Once you’ve handled individual issues, group the data into cohorts to unearth pain points along the customer journey. Then, make sure you address the issues head on and shift strategy to improve the overall experience. A well-known beverage company did just this when they used social to determine that people in Asia had issues with specific artificial sweeteners. Using this data, they avoided a potential misstep. 

Beyond Viral Cat Videos 

With the right people, processes and technology teed up, social data can be used as a valuable leading indicator for business. So don’t relegate social to the marketing team. Social data is a tool that can and should be leveraged company-wide. That’s right folks. The same platforms that bring fame to Roomba-riding cats, can also help you make major business decisions. So give it a try. The results will speak for themselves. 

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