For nearly a decade companies have quoted a 1999 customer service study that revealed the average happy customer will tell 3 people about their experience, while an unhappy customer will tell 10. A lot has changed in a decade, though. Thanks to blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter, a single customer’s opinion about your company could reach thousands — or even millions — of people.
And you used to think 10 was a scary number.
Consumer behavior is rapidly changing, and it could harm or benefit your business in big ways. A 2009 online consumer survey by Harris Interactive and Tealeaf revealed that compared to the previous year, consumers were twice as likely to share their experiences and opinions via blogs or social networks, and were less likely to contact a company directly. These shared experiences are highly influential, with 82 percent reporting that social media content influences their choice of vendor.
As consumers increasingly turn to sharing their experiences and opinions about your company, rather than with your company, it becomes even more important to monitor what people are saying about your business on social media sites. For example, if you discover that more than one person is unhappy with a particular product, you can fix the product defect. If you find a customer ranting about bad customer service, you can respond to the customer and offer to rectify the situation. What you do with the search results is up to you, but it should involve more than just listening in.
The easiest way to monitor your online reputation is through social search tools that let you monitor your business name or other relevant keywords across multiple social media sites. You’ll receive a targeted results page that includes everything from Twitter tweets to Facebook comments to Digg tags about your company. There are a lot of social search tools to choose from, and more are popping up every day as businesses and marketers get smart about the benefits of using these tools. Here are five social search tools you should know and use.
- WhosTalkin.com lets you search for conversations based on topics that you pick, such as your company name, a product, or types of businesses in a certain area (“Arizona pet supplies,” e.g.). You can do a general query against all sources or perform a specific search across blogs, news, images, videos, networks, forums, and tags.
- BackType lets you find, follow, and share conversations from thousands of blogs, social networks, and other social media. You can use it to remember where you’ve commented, subscribe to comments using RSS, and receive alerts with links to comments that contain the keywords you’re monitoring.
- Social Mention sends you free daily e-mail alerts (like Google Alerts) of what people are saying about your company, brand, chief executive officer, marketing campaign, etc., across blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, microblogging services, and more.
- BlogPulse not only tracks your reputation across major blogs, but it also generates graphs that measure the popularity of your company or brand against your competitors based on the number of blogs pinging your name.
- Google and Bing have recently jumped on the social search bandwagon by incorporating information extracted from social media sites into their search results. Google and Microsoft’s Bing will also let you search for Twitter tweets and Facebook comments directly from their search engines without having to visit Twitter or Facebook’s Web site. Much of this function is still in beta or yet to come, but these two powerful search engines will bring a lot to the table.
If you want to know what people are saying about your business on Twitter or Facebook, you could of course go to the source and use their search engines. But if you want to monitor chatter across multiple social media platforms, a tool like the ones mentioned above will save you time and energy. They’ll clue you in to what customers are saying and give you the opportunity to manage your reputation and improve your business.