It’s been over four decades since technology has provided the ability for individuals from across the world to communicate with one another through a computer.
Now, we think nothing of connecting with someone in France, Hong Kong, Vietnam, or Kenya from anywhere in the world. The advent of globalization came through technology advancements, and this has made life interesting, exciting and dramatically different, affecting education, research, and media/communications as well as business practice.
When ecommerce was introduced to the web, there were a lot of skeptics along with much concern about security. When Napster enabled people to download individual songs at will and it took off, the music industry transformation began. When Amazon became a go-to source for books and music, ecommerce really started to take off. Why? Because people were trusting the Internet as a purchasing platform.
Today, the Internet continues to be a magnet for solo-preneurs, entrepreneurs, bloggers, videographers, influencers, and serves as the access point for myriad business and personal information networks. Businesses have as a result become more savvy about consumer behavior and have started to match consumer and customer intelligence/ behavior with strategies and tactics drawn from real time analytics — whether they are doctors looking for patients or retailers looking for buyers.
Today’s online business utilizes tools to understand their consumer, at every step along the purchase process, at every segment of a relationship pathway. This is part of what social discovery about: What people are doing and saying about your product and how they are behaving in your relationship pathway.
With back-end analytics, you can discover. Discovery involves seeking out, through inquiry and exploration, the patterns and behaviors of your customers that lead you to a new understanding or perception.
And social discovery starts early, when you are just developing your brand, your products, your offering. You engage in discovery to identify your ideal clients, your target audience, your niche, the essential experience your brand offers, and its transformative value. This can take days or weeks to do. Once you have identified your ideal client personae and what drives them to purchase. Note that we are not talking about demographics here, like “My clients are females ages 22 to 45 who like _______”). As writer Elizabeth Gilbert once noted, that is more like a voting block than a description of an ideal customer!
Once your business is launched, however, you also require the process of discovery because the online business environment is dynamic. Platform features, opportunities, customer desires — these are always shifting.
Therefore, when your sales or number of visits or inquiries start to take a nosedive, it’s time to engage in additional discovery before you start to make changes. Discovery is what you start with at an inflection point. It is the action to take when you are seeking to establish where you are now and where you want your business to go.
Social Discovery As Action
What do you do to “discover”? You look and listen to what is happening in the marketplace around your core product or service and your industry. That means going to social networks not to post but to conduct research as an exercise in inquiry. Are you still offering what people are looking for? Is your pricing competitive? What are people saying about the nature of your product, specifically? What are they saying about their experiences with businesses in your niche? What are people saying about you in particular, or your type of product?
A key way to “hear” this and to explore the impact of your brand is by looking for it online, and that is what we call social listening.
Social listening is about much more than sentiment. It is direct feedback in real time about the things people appreciate, accept, reject or dislike about your brand or your market space. It lets you discover what individuals are sharing and commenting about.
Let’s take a closer look at how social listening can reveal facts and attitudes about your brand that pave the way for discovery.
Understanding your audience: Your audience may be a small niche of like-minded consumers, or it may be a broad base of consumers as, say, those who enjoy the outdoors and purchase outdoor clothing and equipment. Listen to consumers’ response to your product or service and begin to identify whom you are really serving. Do they write comments and reviews? Do they rate each of your products? If so, what are their complaints and praises? How many people are reading your blog, if you have one? Do they comment? If so, what do they say? How many Likes do you have if you have a Facebook page. When was the last time someone “Liked” your page? If you tweet, how many followers do you have? How has that changed in recent weeks/months?
Discovery of competitors: Following your competitors and checking out their social platforms will provide you with insight into what they are doing online and how it affects their consumers. Careful “listening” to their online chatter can uncover vital information that directly affects your marketing strategy. Perhaps you find that there are certain pleasures or outcomes that people very much appreciate. Perhaps there is language that is used to define or describe features or benefits that customers seem to prefer. Perhaps you learn that, for the most part, competitor customers are asking a lot of questions about how long something takes. All this information is important to you, for it opens up opportunities for you to re-position or reframe what you offer in a way that you know potential customers will appreciate.
Discovery of influencers: Influencers are consumers who champion your brand online with positive sentiment and who have a tribe of their own to influence. Influencers can produce significant chatter in a variety of online arenas and can play an advocacy role that has potential to shift your business to another level. How do you find influencers? You use online measurement tools like Buzzsumo and Brandwatch to discover who is writing and how big their following is. Using keywords that represent your market niche, you look for bloggers and YouTube videos that are linked to your keywords and review content you find.
Formulation of your tribe: Discovery of influencers typically results in the creation of a greater following for your product or service. Influencers in your market niches are the heralds of your tribe. Cultivate them, nurture them, and continue to discover who you’re working with and how they are framing and describing what is going in your market niche.
Insight into consumer desires and necessities: Your tribe will likely tell you what their baseline desires and necessities are. Discovery allows you to identify people who will continuously feed you ideas and insight about your brand. Utilize this to your advantage.