Advocates of social media monitoring are unanimous on its necessity and benefits for firms to actively manage their digital presence in today's socially-driven Web landscape. This would help enhance their business strategies, brand awareness and boost consumer base up a notch, they added.
David Alston, chief marketing officer for Radian6, a social media monitoring provider, said that as social media networks grow larger in size and number, so does the volume of online chatter generated across these platforms.
Tapping into the sources of online interaction, a company can understand consumers' needs and wants and measure how successful it has been in engaging its customers, he noted. With this in hand, brands can then develop a business strategy fully informed by "social insights", the executive told ZDNet Asia in his e-mail.
"By leveraging social media effectively from adoption to management, businesses can build a stronger brand and stronger relationships that boost the bottom line," emphasized Alston.
Benjamin Koe, co-founder and head of client leadership at Singapore-based social media monitoring solutions company JamiQ, held a similar view about the manifold advantages of social media management. He said in an e-mail that the amount of information shared on social media platforms is of great value as companies now have access to customer feedback as well as the ability to detect potential issues and identify fans and critics.
This information helps brands get a clearer, holistic idea of their online reputation as seen by consumers, which would help in better managing their digital presence and make informed decisions, he pointed out.
Koe went on to point out that evaluating one's online status is a good start for any company looking to explore the benefits of jumping on the social media bandwagon.
"Even if you don't intend to reach out to consumers [through social media], the least you can do is find out what everyone is saying about your company and products and make sense of it", he stated.
Sifting relevance from chatter
According to Koe, the biggest challenge in social media monitoring is experiencing an "information overload". For example, he noted how popular products like the iPhone and its launch could generate thousands of unique user posts an hour. "The vast amount of data produced is making it near impossible for companies to read them all and understand what their customers are saying", he said.
Furthermore, the information does not just get generated in various social media platforms such as Facebook and instant messaging chat rooms, but also in different languages. This is why JamiQ provides tools that monitor social media across all markets and languages, he said.
Radian6's Alston pointed to another challenge for enterprises: how best to tap into the vast volume of social conversations, identify those that matter and fit them into existing business systems and processes.
"Companies need a scalable listening, engagement and insight solution so the useful information they find can be used throughout the enterprise," Alston added.
Having a human touch
Besides creating suitable algorithms to track online chatter accurately, Koe noted that effective social media monitoring needs to have a strong human element to it.
"[What a company] needs is people who are willing to learn and experiment with different platforms. It could be Facebook and Twitter today, but maybe in a year's time, there could be newer, bigger platforms," he pointed out.
Ben Israel, digital strategist at public relations company Edelman Singapore, which offers social monitoring services, noted that many tasks such as mining data and monitoring the Web are efficient when outsourced or automated.
More valuable are analytical skills that can help a company know what to look for in the aggregated data, make sense of it, and recognize relevant patterns and trends to apply to critical business decisions, ideas and strategies, he explained.
Ultimately, an organization has to have a basic understanding of social media and familiarity with social platforms. This includes knowing basic online etiquette, and awareness of where conversations about its brand take place the most, whether it is through a Facebook page, a blog post, or Twitter, Israel concluded.
Thomas Crampton, Asia-Pacific director of digital influence at public relations firm Ogilvy, reasoned that knowledge of various social monitoring tools is not as important as understanding how to take a strategic approach to utilizing social media.
"Ogilvy invests a lot in training and spends a great deal of time training people how to use social media and setting up guidelines for interaction," Crampton remarked. This is the only way to build a strong team for the execution of social media monitoring, he added.