Ask anyone in public relations or corporate communications and they’ll tell you that monitoring the media is as essential as Vitamin C is to a kid with a running nose. Knowing what’s being said publicly about your company’s brand, products, services, and even people are of utmost importance to managing the reputation of a business and its communication needs. But with the online and social media now becoming mainstream, our mindset and approach toward monitoring what is being said about our companies in the public space will have to evolve to take advantage of the new opportunities.
We now have Buzz
Once upon a time there were just a few mediums: Print, TV, Radio. The last few years has introduced us to discussion forums, blogs, wikis, comments, social networks, microblogs, and other platforms for information dissemination and conversations turning everyone who cares to offer an opinion online into an influencer. Pitching stories to journalists was mostly predictable for the typical corporate announcement. You hold a press conference, invite a handful of trusted journalists, give and take a few that drop out, and there you have your coverage.
The social media has given us the added ability to track another level: Buzz. The unpredictable, unadulterated, uncontrollable buzz that takes place as anyone and everyone who cares to share something about your new announcement will on one or more social media platforms. This buzz that is created is a perfect way to understand the impact your message is making and the genuine interest of your customers. With the use of the correct tools, buzz can also be quantified and displayed as a timeline where spikes and valleys are easy to identify. This helps companies spot trends, or even catch a serious issue or crisis before it explodes.
The wheat from the chaff
The sheer volume of data created by the social media does present the issue of frivolous chatter. While buzz is a terrific quantitative indicator, the qualitative approach to what’s being said can be difficult to digest. Announcements of popular products such as Apple’s iPad produced over 1,000 unique opinions an hour. How was Apple’s PR team suppose to read all that and make sense of it?
In traditional media, it was a lot easier. For a journalist to sit through your press conference and put in the effort to write columns that actually fill up physical space on a paper or minutes on a news show almost guarantees that it’s an important clip to monitor. The same does happen on the social media too. Honest opinions from experts do get shared and published, but companies need to be able to separate the good from the frivolous.
The beauty of the social media is that everything (and dare I say everyone) can be quantified. That means a sense of how influential a blogger/author is online can be determined or guessed to a fair degree of accuracy. This will help companies identify who’s really influential and who’s just talking to a wall.
Local influencer, global influence
Traditional media made targeting easy. The LA Times was in Los Angeles (duh!) and ComputerWorld Antarctica was published for the researches crazy enough to live there. Today, johnsmith.blogspot.com could be in London or Kuala Lumpur. You wouldn’t be able to tell from the URL or title. These individuals have the ability to influence globally, but really they only exist locally. If John was really in Kuala Lumpur and he piqued your interest in the US, it’d be a little difficult to ask John out for a coffee.
But the social media is amazing because more often than not, people leave clues and information about where they are physically. This allows companies to locate these influencers and engage them locally. Increasingly, social networks are beginning to be built around geographical regions and people increasingly share their location, talk about what’s happening within their locality, and discover others that are nearby.
As the social media becomes more ubiquitous, companies will increasingly care to monitor both the traditional and social media. As the nature of the media changes, so do our mindsets and approaches. Using the right tools and having a strong understanding of the change that is coming will significantly improve our ability to cope with the evolution.
This article was written by Benjamin Koe, co-founder of multilingual social media monitoring solution provider JamiQ (http://jamiq.com). Benjamin was formally a PR and social media consultant with Hill & Knowlton in Singapore. Benjamin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.