The rapidly escalating tempo to keep up with ever-increasing business complexity is going to continue like the world has never seen before. In this 'always on' world of transparency, continual connectivity, information is constantly available, and enthusiastically shared amongst the staggering number of consumers who are engaged online. In the United States, tens of millions of consumers post online product reviews on a weekly basis, and these reviews recently became the top influencer for buying decisions for American consumers.

What’s more, these online reviews wield nearly twice the level of influence as traditional advertising.

Please take a second to let that fully sink in...

That's right.  Online reviews posted by total strangers are nearly twice as effective at influencing what a person decides to buy than whatever marketers are saying in their ad campaigns.

While it may be a bitter pill to swallow, it's high time companies come to grips with the fact consumers aren't listening to you like they once did - they're listening to each other.

The disruptive shifts in consumer behavior that have occurred over the last 15 years have clearly put them in control. Companies are under tremendous pressure trying to understand what happened to their profit margins due to pricing transparency, how to handle the damage control from negative online reviews, and leverage the upside from positive online reviews. The viral nature of these product reviews ‘go global’ instantaneously and a problem in Moline can fan the flames in Milan overnight.  A positive review posted in Toledo one day can cause an unexpected spike in product sales in Tokyo the next.

That's why an absolutely rock solid social media strategy is so important!

Even with this fact in mind, most organizations press on without a strategy and approach social media with an 'if we build it they will come' mentality, and then are surprised and disappointed when 'they' didn't show up at all.

Prior to launching a social media presence, companies must have a clear understanding of why they're developing their presence in the first place. For instance, what are the objectives?  To generate more leads?  Convert existing leads into sales?  Measure a marketing campaign? Track brand loyalty?  Keep a close eye on the competition?  Engage customers in meaningful dialogues?  Perform market research to determine the feasibility of extending a product line or opening a new distribution center? Has the organization experienced a crisis that requires careful management?

These are just a few examples of questions that executives should have already addressed before they launched into social. If not, then there's no time like the present to reassess their current social situation and get back to the proverbial drawing board to align social media initiatives with the organization's strategies and objectives. There should be a social media component for each of the organizational goals.

The realization that consumers don't want to be interrupted and are paying more attention to online reviews posted by John and Jane Consumer than to clever and expensive ad campaigns is likely to bruise some creative director's egos.  But there's no time for that while business is charging ahead at warp speed. Since consumers are listening to each other more than they're listening to your ads, are you listening to the consumers?

They're clearly making themselves heard, but are you really listening?  Surveys of senior-level marketing executives indicate their companies are going through the motions of listening, but aren't learning.  That's not good...

You need to be listening very closely, and learning, because consumers are readily sharing what they like, what they don't like, what they want, what they don't want; and most importantly, what they value.

Knowing what consumers value is crucial!

That's why it's imperative to incorporate the best social media monitoring, data collection and mining into the strategy so companies can obtain relevant data that provides clear insights to make knowledge-driven decisions for creating value.   "Listening" via social media monitoring platforms is the best method for gleaning the most relevant digital content from the social web.

The enormity of the very real issues in the first two paragraphs of this article are such that companies can no longer rely on gut instinct to make decisions. Nor can they afford to take the time for 'old school' market research that includes developing questionnaires, waiting for the (inherently biased) data to come back, then analyzed. By the time results from that data reach an organization's decision makers, the very issues being researched are no longer germane. That model is too slow for the speed of today's business.

Another huge benefit to using social media monitoring / listening platforms is how quickly the tool sets collect and analyze data into relevant information. Provided the strategies are in place, having such pertinent information at the ready enables organizations to take immediate action wherever necessary.

Armed with the expertise of a social media strategist, data collection and mining tools, companies can obtain priceless insights to make knowledge-driven decisions that lead to value creation, competitive advantages, growth, increased revenue and earnings.

Content with your organization's ROI? Then what are you waiting for? Now is the time to evolve and leverage the insightful knowledge you need to succeed!

Copyright © 2012  Stephen Monaco   All Rights Reserved.

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