Brands that are not paying attention to the real-time digital conversations happening on social media could find they are missing out on valuable insights into both their customer base and the industry sector itself.
Social media has become a ubiquitous part of B2C strategies. Although social media platforms may not always be the community-focused utopia that their founders had hoped for, there is no doubt that an active listening strategy can result in major business wins for media-savvy brands.
Listening is stage one
Social media listening is, as defined by media management platform Hootsuite:
The process of monitoring social networks for mentions of your brand, your competitors, your product and any themes that relate to your business.
Conversations between people that might not seem to be relevant to a brand at first glance can often provide insights or data that can be integrated into a current or potential business strategy.
In fact, social media monitoring is now an actionable way for marketing teams to prioritise and evaluate feedback from the general public. This constant flow of information can often relate to customer experiences (positive and negative), indicating a level of brand awareness and consumer engagement rate.
With that in mind, here are two different social listening examples that resulted in business wins for the brand concerned.
We want the sauce
In October 2017, McDonald’s severely underestimated the demand for its Szechuan sauce when a limited edition run of the condiment in the United States prompted fans to swarm restaurants. McDonald’s is one of the largest fast food companies in the world, so anything it does is always going to make headlines.
The decision to produce a small batch of the product – originally introduced in 1998 as a promotion for Disney’s Mulan movie – was purely based on a remark about the sauce made by a cartoon scientist in the popular “Rick and Morty” show. As a consequence of that throwaway line, fans of the cartoon started an online petition to bring it back, and McDonalds obliged. The fly in the ointment was that they didn’t produce enough, with thousands of people expressing their discontent on social media and others driving hundreds of miles to find locations that had sachets for sale.
In February of this year, McDonalds announced that it would be bringing back Szechuan sauce to its U.S locations, with an initial run of 20 million packets, Fortune reported. As a result of this social listening experiment, the company was able to both satisfy customer demand and apply the lessons learned to other consumer requests such as the introduction of all-day breakfasts, according to Business2Community.com.
Transport companies are notorious for drawing the ire of their customers and most of us have probably complained about problems on our commute more than we’ve said anything good about the company.
UK-based Virgin Trains proved that it was actively listening to its customers when a young man on a journey from London to Glasgow tweeted that the lavatory he was in had run out of toilet paper and asked for help. According to Virgin’s blog, the marketing department was tracking all mentions of the brand on social media and swung into action. Within minutes, a train employee was contacted and instructed to deliver rolls to a specified toilet, where the customer was waiting.
The incident (which happened way back in 2014!) made national headlines and the successful use of social media listening, Virgin said, added value to their brand image which could “not be replicated in any other way.”
Active listening works
While these two examples may seem to have no connection other than active listening by the brand concerned, they show the power of tapping into digital conversations. McDonalds, for example, responded to a mass social media event, while Virgin Trains’ response highlights the importance of treating customers as individuals.