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What a time it is to be alive and in the marketing business, huh? With over 4 billion Internet users worldwide (over 3 billion of whom are active on social media), it’s never been easier for marketers and brand managers to reach so many potential customers so quickly.
But here’s the thing about the ubiquity of the Web and social media. Anyone with an Internet connection can say anything they want about your brand.
The question is, are you listening?
If your answer is “no,” then you’re missing out on opportunities to grow and protect your brand.
Large, small, or in-between, nearly every company can benefit from brand monitoring. Here’s why it’s vital no matter who you are, plus five ways (and tools) to jumpstart your efforts.
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Brand monitoring is what we call the process of keeping tabs on various Internet channels to gather insight on what people are saying about your company. This includes your products, brand image, social media, or anything else that links back to your business. Web scraping is similar, as you’ll literally be scraping up any info you can find on your brand.
But why even bother with brand monitoring? We’re glad you asked!
When people go to buy something either online or in-store, one of the very first things they look for is social proof. Think of how many times you’ve turned to Yelp before heading out to a new restaurant in your neighborhood—and how many times you’ve opted for a tried-and-true favorite instead once you saw the tepid reviews.
On the digital side, according to a recent BrightLocal survey, 69% of customers look specifically for positive reviews before they make an online purchase:
But reviews aren’t the only form of social proof out there. Testimonials, mentions on social media, and online news articles are also factors that determine if people will buy from you or not. If you were to neglect your online image altogether, fail to find and provide positive social proof, or have some overwhelmingly lousy press, the results could be catastrophic.
Say you do something like a company rebrand. Do you know how your customers felt before the change? Are you prepared for how they’re going to react after it?
For example, in 2014, McDonald's decided to introduce their international mascot “Happy” in the United States. They had seen great success running commercials overseas, which featured Happy pulling slapstick stunts that made audiences laugh:
The marketing team thought that the brand might benefit from bringing Happy to a new audience, and launched him with this Tweet:
Turns out that most people found Happy hilariously horrifying to look at. By the end of the day, he was a full-blown meme and the source of untold amounts of ridicule:
But a brand like McDonald's can survive this type of public roasting. They survived the documentary Supersize Me, and at this point, they could probably survive the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs.
But most brands don’t need that type of shitshow—nor can they afford it. It directly impacts customer engagement, which further impacts customer spending habits.
Consider this. Engaged customers spend 37% more in your business, and visit almost twice as much as the alternative.
But it’s hard to engage if you don’t know what the public’s perception of you is. You’ll be like a bad comedian who can’t read the room and make costly blunders that force you to retreat with your tail tucked between your legs.
Sometimes, content strategies flop. When that happens, you need to adjust quickly.
Another major way that brand monitoring can help you is by providing a performance analysis for your marketing efforts and product. This lets you know if the content and product you’re pushing is right for your audience, and lets you adjust course as needed.
A great case study that shows how this can help you change course comes from the video game industry. We all know that hardcore gamers take big titles very seriously. In 2017, the well-known game designer Bungie launched the second iteration of their current flagship game Destiny.
After the initial hype died down, they saw an enormous exodus of players and some severe backlash. Players felt that none of their concerns for content and engagement had been met. Even major content creators around the game had to go on hiatus because of the game’s state:
And the forums and community groups around the game were drowning in negativity.
Bungie’s response? A massive campaign to help get back on players’ good sides. They laid out every single change they planned on making to the game, and provided frequent updates via their blog and Twitter:
They spent the better part of a year making adjustments to Destiny 2 and provided a very clear roadmap that would help reignite people’s interest.
The moral of the story is that monitoring your online reputation can help you find out what your customers want, and then provide a pathway toward delivering that content.
It’s also useful when creating a brand style guide, or even fine-tuning it.
But if you aren’t familiar with what people say about you to begin with, then you won’t know how to frame your brand in a way that will resonate.
Alongside your content, customer service is another area that benefits from brand monitoring.
Just look at this case study on Futuramo, a SaaS company that offers time tracking capabilities for digital teams.
They used a brand monitoring method that allowed them to track their sales, marketing, and social performance. On the social end, they specifically looked at three areas:
One of the specific ways they saw improvement was in their ability to spot customers who needed online assistance. This allows brands to turn concerns and issues into content assets.
Web hosting company GoDaddy’s Twitter mentions is a prime example of this:
Monitoring these mentions allows them to respond directly to customer questions, but it also helps them determine what topics to cover in FAQs or on their website as a whole.
And good customer service provides higher and higher ROI over time:
But again, without brand monitoring, these opportunities would go unnoticed.
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So now that you know why brand monitoring is important, let’s look at what to monitor and how to monitor it.
You need to keep tabs on your company’s name and how people use it on the web. That means tracking branded keywords, mentions, and how others write about you on blogs or social media.
Branded keywords include a fairly wide variety of options though, such as:
These keywords and mentions can pile up if you’re not too careful, though. The key is to find the ones that are most profitable and lead to the benefits we looked at above.
To do that, look into using a tool like Awario. They help you keep track of brand mentions and other keywords that you specify.
Or, if your brand is one that’s constantly in the news, Google Alerts is a simple, free tool that can give you updates whenever your brand (or competitor, for that matter) is mentioned.
Either of these tools (and the many others like them) can help you track keywords or brand mentions and see your brand develop in real time.
Influencer marketing is so hot right now. Top YouTube influencers generate three times as many views and 12 times more engagement than most brands do on their own:
The average brand that invests in influencer marketing sees an average ROI of $7.65 per $1 spent, so mentions from an influencer can make a huge impact. You should understandably want to track this.
A great tool to help you do this without constantly being on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube is Mentionlytics.
This will help streamline your influencer tracking efforts and could even help you find new influencers who love your brand or products. It could also help you keep track of your competitors and the influencers that mention them. This will inform your future outreach and possibly even give you some ideas about which influencers might better resonate with your audience in the future.
Either way you use it, you can keep tabs on influencers and take advantage of the benefits that they have to offer.
Sometimes brand monitoring is more than just keeping up with your brand.
It often pays to know where way your industry is headed, but that’s not always evident when you’re only keeping track of what customers or influencers are saying about you. Trends are often more informational and could easily slip through branded keyword research efforts.
To stay on top of your industry, you’ll need to find a way to create a news feed that helps you see where things are headed. Consider using a service like Feedly to make it simple.
The perfect example of an entrepreneur doing this is WordStream founder Larry Kim.
In mid-2018, good ol’ Larry sold Wordstream for $130 million and went on to create MobileMonkey, a company focused on building Facebook Messenger chatbots. His company is already helping revolutionize the way some brands do marketing, and it’s pushing some amazing results in the chatbot industry.
Why did he do this? Because he saw that marketers had a need for a platform enabled them to market via mobile chat and decided to act on it. And it was his familiarity with the trend that he says lead him to take the leap:
“I’m very excited about chatbots and AI, and there are some really interesting applications of this technology in marketing. I want to be one of the leading companies bringing this to market.”
Without Larry taking the time to listen to the pulse of the industry and root out these trends, there would be no MobileMonkey. And while the marketing industry is notoriously chatty, which makes monitoring it a little easier, the same tactics could be applied to any industry to glean real-time insights into what’s making your customers tick.
Another area that it pays to invest in with brand monitoring is customer sentiment. This is an assessment of whether your customers are happy with you, mad at you, or neutral.
If that sounds simplistic, it’s because it’s supposed to. Simple data is often the most unmistakable way of showing us how our brands are doing.
And this isn’t just a made-up metric. Businesses like the popular budgeting SaaS YNAB blatantly put this in the signature of their support emails:
This lets them track how their support team is doing and gives them direction about where they can improve in the future.
If you want to your own customers’ sentiment, look into using a tool like QuickSearch. It will give you a simple readout of positive and negative sentiment and can even let you compare yourself to the competition.
This helps you collate the performance of anything online that can change public perception of your brand, including your social posts, emails, infographics, blog articles, or even press releases.
Your brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are others just like you out there, and sometimes you gotta do some stalking to see how you measure up.
Brand monitoring can help you glean what the competition is up to and what they’re doing to try to grow. For the most part, you can employ the same tactics you’d use to keep track of your own brand. Keywords, social posts, and influencer mentions are a great way to keep tabs on what the other guys are up to.
This might feel a little shady at the start, but this type of approach can lead to some seriously positive results. In one rather interesting case, a developer was able to rank his site in only 12 days by using his competitors’ keywords and backlinks as a benchmark.
If this sounds good to you, you’ll want to look into using some of the dedicated tools that help you do more than just monitor social media. Paid tools like Alexa and Ahrefs can help you track backlinks, search results, and other bits of information that allow you to see when and how your competitors are edging you out.
If competitive SEO and organic traffic are important for your business (and let’s be real, they definitely are), then you may want to consider looking closer at this type of service.
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If you’re not already monitoring your brand online, now is the time. The Internet isn’t getting any smaller, and people aren’t going to rely on it any less in the coming years. The modern consumer wants to know what your brand has to offer them, and they’re going to turn to what other people are saying about you to find out.
Inaction now will only make it harder to start (or recover) when you do start in the future.
And you will start—it’s just a matter of time. But the best time to start is now.Even if you don’t like what you hear, you can start shaping your brand image based on real information and insights that pave a path toward improvement. And when you’re equipped with this kind of information, you’ll be primed for growth and ready to tackle whatever comes next.