As of right now, we are living in an age that you could categorize as the “big data” age. Every day that we access the Internet, we are leaving “bread crumbs” behind for the market researchers to pickup and try to analyze. “Big data” is so popular that you might have heard a few rumblings about how some governments are collecting online information to listen to what their citizens are doing online. Well, that kind of technology is available for the consumer and companies too.
There is an endless amount of sources of real-time information that you can “listen” to for when your customers have something to say about your brand. One good source that is often over looked is bulletin boards and forums. They have existed as far back as the early days of the Internet. Today you can find a forum for almost any particular brand, products, service, or topic. These sites today can have over ten million members with thousands to millions daily posts. For many brands, they are not able to put their ear close to the ground to hear many of the positive discussions about them. Thankfully, in the most recent decade, the development of listening tools has greatly expanded to include forums.
The consumer listening tools market has become a multi-billion dollar industry that aids on focusing on all market sizes. In a McKinsey Global Survey report, it disclosed that 56 percent of business executives felt customer engagement online is a top ten priority. Therefore, listening to your audience and engaging with them should be one of your top priorities.
Some companies might consider discussion forums as worthless investments to help grow positive brand awareness. However, if you carefully consider the sale of a popular industry forum to be $3.2 million, there really is something to speak of the value in these well curetted forums.
The Influential Power of Forums
The existence of message board and forum communities allows like-minded people to engage in discussions with people that they would normally never be able to meet face-to-face in their local community. These in-depth discussions about any particular topic can be adulations or exasperations about your brand. The power of these forums can really put a dent into the reputation of your brand because it is easy for a single discussion to turn into an all out rant when several highly influential members voice their frustration of the same situation.
We all know that the costs of negative sentiment of experiencing your brand can destroy value of your brands reputation. Even more so, the cost of regaining this displeasured customer and their inner circle far out weights the cost of making that single customer happy in the first place by five times. “It takes years to win a customer and only seconds to lose one.” Therefore, trying to target online forums can help by discovering the early stages of negative or positive sentiment towards your brand.
When scouring the forums that relate to your brand, it is always best practice to award opinionated people that are saying positive remarks about your brand as they are freely advocating about your brand. In a study of online discussion of brands, only 15% of discussions are negative to brands. This is good percentage, but how can you decrease your negative sentiment down towards single digits? By being active in forums, it will help reinforce to your customers that you hear their discussions and you want to help improve their future experiences in which will create true loyalty.
The biggest value that forums bring to your brand is the weight they have on search engines. Google’s indexing of forums has higher weight than tweets and posts on social media networks. This means negative and positive comments about your brand have greater chance of reaching the top of the search engine results. This is why it is even more important to promote positive discussion in forums to help drown out any negative results that be indexed by search engines.
Today there are hundreds of tools that exist on the market that listen to consumer discussions on the Internet. There are however about 20+ companies that directly target forum discussions as part of the other services. Here is a list of 20 companies that offer listening for forums: Attensity, Boardrader, Brandwatch, Data Rank, Digimind Social, Engage 121, Hubspot, General Sentiment, Google Alerts, Mention, Mutual Mind, Nielsen Online, Omgili, Radian 6, SDL, Synthesio, Sysomos, Trackur, uberVU, Viral Heat, and Visible Technologies. There is a variety of pricing offerings ranging from free, free trials, freemiums, and demos.
Most of the above listed services have a fee attached to them in which you are not able to use as a free trial. The majority of them have similar features like a handful of social media networks that you can publish to, sentiment reports, demographics reports, location reports, keyword clouds, and listening to blogs and RSS feeds from news sources. In tomorrow’s blog post, we will have a breakdown review of the Top 7 Analytical Tools for Online Forums Listening.
Getting It Done
By using one or more of the above listed tools, your company can begin focusing in on the important conversations that your customers are saying on online forums. Your sales staff will love the hard work you are able to put in to create new and returning buyers and management will love the ability to quantify a return on investment reports for customer delight. So go ahead, become part of the 24% of marketers that use listening tools, as it will help you get ahead of your competition.