Harvard Business Review just ran a very good article on social listening– the process of monitoring ongoing social media conversations about your brand to discover what the public really thinks – and it includes an interesting discussion that centers on knowing who your customer is.
A company that sold mouthwash devoted themselves to listening to social media conversations about bad breath. Aside from the expected complaints and jokes, the researchers found a significant amount of commentary coming from parents who were seeking ways to help their children address bad breath issues. This revealed a new target audience to market to; in this instance a group of people who care for the people who were actually going to use the product.
Many times marketing efforts are directed at the end user of a product or service. However, there are times when it may be more effective or relevant to target someone who is in a relationship with or cares about that end user. The benefits these people perceive are often very different from the factors considered by the end user. For example, in the case of B2B software, the end user may be very interested in the fact the program is easy to use while the business owner who’s purchasing the software values the productivity tracking tools built into the system.
It’s important that you know the different audiences for your offerings, and what each audience finds appealing. It’s also good to understand the relationship between the parties involved: while parents are notorious for going above and beyond to give their children everything they want, an employer may be far more cost-conscious when making purchases for their team members to use.
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Cutting edge brands reportedly engage in social listening on a daily basis in real time; it may be more practical for the smaller business to devote time on a weekly basis. Social listening is a process; you want to identify conversations that are happening around areas of interest to your audience and spend time monitoring what’s going on without contributing to the conversation. Your job is to pay attention. Researchers track conversations in two ways: the first is the number of people talking about a given topic; the second is the context of the conversation. Understanding who is involved in the conversation and why they’re involved can take a little bit of time, but it is this type of inquiry that yields up the richest results. You may come away from this exercise bolstered in your confidence that you know who your customer is, or you may find new opportunities for your brand to explore.