Don't Just Listen, Join the Conversation

  |  May 3, 2007   |  Comments

Why you should consider hiring a social network analyst to chart a course through blogosphere.

Dear CMO,

It's been a few weeks since my last letter, and I wanted to check in and share some additional thoughts. It's time to create a new role in your company and start hiring immediately. I'll even help you think about the ROI (define), so your request for more headcount will be approved.

You may already be tired of hearing about the global conversation happening around you and the wave of user-generated content destined to sweep away your traditional marketing content. If you've accepted this reality, it's time to step back and figure out what to do next. Decisive action today is the way to set your business up for tomorrow. Stop just listening to all the conversations. Start engaging.

Technorati tracks over 70 million blogs. Pick a random topic relevant to your business, and you'll find a fair number of conversations about it. Some 650 blog posts on Technorati discuss "hedge trimmer," for example. Imagine the results for Coke (515k), Pepsi (255k), even Dr Pepper (52k). The conversations are there, so what do you do?

Introducing the Social Network Analyst

The social analyst monitors, engages, and measures the conversations taking place about your company, products, and brand. Her efforts should drive ROI as well as reduce customer acquisition costs (consider blogs a channel for free advertising).

A sample scenario: The social analyst identifies an influential blogger who's been frequently posting negative comments about your products. With hundreds of readers and dozens of links, this blog could damage your company. You can either assume this blogger is just another irate customer who should've called customer support, or you can join the conversation and have customer support reach out to him.

Perhaps you could give the blogger an opportunity to get a replacement product and a discount on future products. The key here is the social analyst can head off potential negative sentiment downstream and even turn things around early in the game.

Your social analyst can create surprise and delight in the market by engaging in conversations. Sometimes, people just want their voices heard. Sometimes, they have a legitimate complaint. The analyst can tell the difference and make the right level of investment. This is fast and easy ROI.

If you see the potential in this role and the investment in social networking, here are your action steps:

  • Create a cross-functional team (marketing, PR, customer support, e-business) dedicated to social networking and have it determine the correct investment level.

  • Create the job description and a pro forma ROI analysis for the social analyst role.

  • Recruit for the role aggressively (perhaps a little social network analysis can find a prominent blogger in the market who might be better working for you than on his own).

  • Create the right incentives for everyone in your organization to align behind these efforts and support the social analyst.

  • Start reading more blogs.

Let me know when you've hired your first social analyst. I need to go do the same. Thank you for considering this investment.

Regards,

Shareholder

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Atchison

In 1998, Shane co-founded ZAAZ to advocate a different approach to Web services — one that respects and delivers on the power of the individual and the promise of Web technologies. As CEO, Shane leads the company's long-term strategic vision of working with leading financial service organizations, consumer brands, startups, non-profits, and community-based organizations, helping each realize the potential of the Internet and its meaningful impact on their business.

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