Simply put, I follow the money. In business, money tells the story. Sorry for being so frank and unromantic about it. So let me share with you some evidence of the maturation of social media.
The impulse to write this was when I saw this tweet by George Dearing, where he quoted a Financial Times article today that says “boom in social networking & need for online reputation management has helped increase public sector PR spending.” This is an astute and important finding. And I noticed this too over the past year, while at Forrester. The growth in the social networking and social media means that there will be corresponding growth in the relationship management aspects of the social Internet. So while traditional print media may be suffering lower readership, there is a real buzz online. And where there’s buzz, there’s business.
I have been looking at two Social Media monitoring tools these days — each offer different slightly features, but each play in the online reputation management space. I find them both interesting, for different reasons though.
- DNA13.com. They reached out to me via Twitter, and we’ve had some fascinating conversations since. These guys have a very deep insight into the mechanics of running PR. And they have an impressive combination of tools that help brands monitor and take action on the online conversations. Their tools not only tell you what is going on — but help you through an open workflow process to address a PR event or campaign.
- Techrigy’s SM2. I met these guys a few years ago when they were working on a related product to their current flagship SM2. And I knew then that they understand reputation management, and large numbers. In fact I use their SM2 service for tracking my own personal online reputation. They help me find when other bloggers talk about me. And they provide a great collection of analytics to help me understand the numbers.
Now, there are many other tools and vendors out there, and some are very big and accomplished, and some are pricy. But depending on the value of your brand — it’s money that you will spend. Other industry analysts have excellent reviews and coverages of this space. I’m impressed with Peter Kim’s coverage, as well as Suresh Vittal’s. And I think it goes without saying that you must read Jeremiah Owyang’s take on brand management – and on just about anything else he has to say.
Why are business beginning to place more attention to the way people talk about them online. I’ll share three reasons:
- They don’t want to be cited as the negative example. Like the Motrin Mom’s ad case, or many others that reflect poorly on a brand that simply neglected to pay enough attention to the online sentiments being expressed on blogs (and twitter).
- They want to be cited at the positive example. Like the Comcast Cares twitter guy who was proactive in helping customers.
- They are realizing that the conversation in Social Media is both relevant to them – and is inspect-able.
Brands could not hear your water-cooler talk. If everyone in your office thought that the new Fox lineup was horrible, and spend all morning complaining about it, how would Fox know about that conversation? They can get evidence of it via ratings and surveys, but how would they know if a very influential person ranted about it? How would they ever know if someone had a brilliant idea that would energize the audience? But as we take conversations online – they can discover, and even influence that exact conversation. And many brands are getting smart about this. They are creating places for conversations to take place, and they are listening carefully to the feedback.
To me, this is an indicator of maturity. Social Media is not just the frivolous conversation between lonely souls on the cold Internet. It’s part of the new marketplace. It’s the buzz at the Bazaar. And the fact that companies are placing serious money in Social Media PR — to listen, influence, energize, unify, measure, and compete — tells me that we are entering a new stage. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this new stage still feels as awkward as puberty.