Social Media Monitoring in the age of the Engaged Consumer

Written by Anonymous

The Times are Changing

The 21st century has brought on rapid changes for companies, where consumers are now taking an increasingly important part in the creation of brands. Consequently, marketing has been given a new role, where brand managers are no longer the creators of the brand image, rather are seen as hosts to the new engaged consumers (Christodoulides, 2009). The shift in power has caused brand managers to rethink their strategies in order to cater for the needs of the consumers and preserve the brand image in this new world, where absolute transparency is present and a brand can be tainted within minutes. To gain a deeper understanding regarding the effectiveness of observing the online traffic, the question How can social media monitoring be used to meet the needs of the engaged consumer?, will be answered in this post. 

The Home of the Engaged Consumer

In order to gain complete comprehension on what I will refer to as social media in this post, a definition is in order. To clarify the concept, Social Media are web-based communities, such as Facebook, Twitter and many other Web 2.0 platforms (Akar & Topcu, 2011).

To stretch this concept a bit further, ”Social Media is often characterized as sites where participants can produce, publish, control, critique, rank and interact with online content” (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2012, pg. 319-320). This definition gives further insights as to what is actually occurring while consumers are engaging on Social Media, and illustrates that brands are not dictating a monologue where the audience is simply listening. Rather, Social Media empowers the consumers to interact and raise their voices, which makes it is necessary for brands to listen carefully in order to remain successful in the dynamic environment (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2012). 

The Engaged Consumer’s Impact on Contemporary Marketing

As previously touched upon, Social Media has allowed the consumer to take a more prominent role in the marketing process, making the consumer an engaged consumer, which in turn needs to be defined in order to understand why Social Media Monitoring is needed.

The engaged consumer holds true to ‘sharing is caring’, and their contribution can make or break a brand. They are engaging with the brand and other consumers through social media, consequently the marketing process for brands has been altered (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). Consumers are now generating brand stories where they share personal experiences and opinions with the online community, which are considered highly impactful for the brands (Gensler et al., 2013). As the consumers have become more empowered, they are considered to have a co-creating role when it comes to the formation of the brand image of a company. This new form of customer involvement implies that they have an impact on every step in the marketing process, starting at the production of the product and ending at how the product is eventually promoted. Due to the transparency in social media and the fact that consumers are expecting full disclosure of information, authenticity rules in the kingdom of the engaged consumers, where they turn to their peers for reliable information regarding products and services (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011).

Listen up! The Engaged Consumer is Talking

In the modern and connected world we live in, managerial attention needs to be brought onto the engaged consumers in the Social Media landscape. In a study conducted by Deloitte LLP (2009), where employees at different companies were interviewed, an astounding 74% of the interviewees believed that it is easy to ruin a company’s reputation through the usage of Social Media. With this strong belief about the impact of Social Media, it is surprising that the same study showed that only 17% of companies have implemented programs that thoroughly monitor and mitigate reputational risks associated with these external networks (Berthon et al, 2012). 

Companies appear to not lead their employees through the Social Media jungle, rather approach problems as they arise in a reactive manner. Many employees are left without clear directions to follow, thus are not encouraged to proactively solve issues in a world where the power of the engaged consumer is evolving (Leonard 2009). 

Whereas traditional marketing allowed brand managers to create a message to be communicated to an audience, the role has now changed and the relationship between the sender and the receiver has turned into a dynamic process. Due to the new type of relationship that has been developed, new monitoring strategies are needed in order for brands to stay successful (Christodoulides, 2009).

Monitoring is very important, as the consumers are providing companies with immediate feedback on different Social Media platforms. As consumers are providing real time responses, it is necessary that the companies closely monitor the environment in order to detect negative opinions at an early stage (Zhang & Vos, 2013). A negative tweet might seem innocent, but can have detrimental effects for a brand if it is not detected on time. This is due to the engaged consumers’ broad networks and tendency to share content with others.

However, monitoring is not only a good tool for detecting the spread of negative comments, but it is also a great way to actively search for opportunities in order to stay innovative. Social Media monitoring provides great insights into the consumers’ minds, and unmet gaps can be identified. Therefore, Social Media Monitoring can be the gateway to a competitive advantage, by being able to provide consumers with something they did not know they were even missing. To illustrate how Social Media Monitoring can be used in different ways, I will look into two different examples of companies who listened to their audience and took actions accordingly. 

Monitoring to Innovate – Virgin Atlantic Airlines

Virgin Atlantic Airlines (VAA) is a company that has successfully incorporated Social Media Monitoring, in order to provide their consumers with value-adding services. By implementing Social Media Monitoring, VAA is not only able to to identify how consumers perceive their brand, but also to stay innovative. Being an innovative brand, VAA has incorporated monitoring to be able to find glimpse of what consumers are missing in a service as well as to recognize new segments (Barwise and Meehan 2010).  For instance, VAA noticed that consumers were looking for help while planning a big trip. Based on this finding the company launched Vtravelled, which allows consumers to exchange information and inspiration for their next journeys. Instead of focusing on an increase sales, the goal of this platform is to reinforce the brand image and gain access to consumer insights (Barwise and Meehan 2010).  Thus, by this example we can notice that monitoring in itself is not useful unless the information gathered is used for a purpose. VAA chose the innovative route, however there are other ways in which Social Media Monitoring can be done right.

Monitoring for Brand Image Protection – The Coca-Cola Company

The Coca-Cola Company is actively monitoring the Social Media environment. The company is focused on spreading happiness through the different platforms, and efforts are made to ensure that this brand image is kept throughout the different Social Media channels (The Coca-Cola Company, 2015). In the company’s digital “Share A Coke” campaign, consumers were able to customize Coke cans by choosing their name and ordering the can. However, in South Africa, consumers detected that the program rejected the word “Gay”, whereas words such as “Straight” were allowed. The word spread like wildfire, but Coca-Cola was able to detect the negative responses, that could have tainted the brand image, at an early stage. Coca-Cola responded quickly to the accusations of being homophomic by releasing a statement on their corporate website and by ensuring their consumers that the company celebrates diversity, rather than discards it (Esterl, 2014). The Coca-Cola example illustrates how monitoring the Social Media environment can save the brand reputation from being harmed. By detecting their slip at an early stage, Coca-Cola was able to redeem themselves and prove to their consumers that they had resolved the issue.

Social Media Monitoring – A Must Have

The increased spread and reach of Social Media has empowered consumers, who are taking a more prominent role in the marketing activities of different brands. Due to the increased activity of the engaged consumers, it is necessary for brands to continuously apply Social Media Monitoring. By doing so, brands can not only prevent a tainted brand image, as in the Coca-Cola case, but also gain a thorough understanding of consumer preferences and opinions in order to be innovative. To answer the question stated in the beginning of this post, How can Social Media Monitoring be used to meet the needs of the engaged consumer?,  it is important to realize that Social Media Monitoring can be used for different purposes. The two options discussed in this post, to maintain brand reputation and to innovate, illustrates that Social Media Monitoring provides managers with insights to the consumers’ minds, thus indicating what is missing or what does not align with the brand promise. Coca-Cola considers itself as a brand that ‘celebrates diversity’, thus homophobic rumors would taint their image. Social Media Monitoring allowed the company to take actions in a timely manner, to assure the consumers that they in fact are the brand that they promised to be. This is one of many examples where Social Media Monitoring helped securing a brand’s reputation. In a world where words spread like wildfire, the use of Social Media Monitoring should be incorporated in the everyday routine of the online marketer, as it helps to maintain an overview in an increasingly accelerated online world.


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