Published On: Sat, Mar 27th, 2010

Why Organisations Have to Monitor Social Media

Why do organisations monitor traditional, but not social media?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself recently. A lot. It’s a given that all businesses worth their salt employ some form of media monitoring service, however at present too few are listening to what is being said on social media platforms.

I appreciate that in the present climate, organisations need to be able to demonstrate value for money and there is still work to be done to convince senior management of the impact social media can have on corporate reputation. So please let me present the argument why organisations can’t afford not to be listening. If your reputation matters to you, then read on.

Better targeted communication
Social media monitoring let’s you understand where the conversations around your brand are taking place. Lot’s of companies hear the latest buzzwords and decide they must have a Facebook page and they must have a Twitter account.

Whilst, these are undoubtedly useful platforms for a lot or organisations, there are many examples of companies diving in without any research or strategic thinking to support this leap of faith – beyond pointing to the generic popularity of the said platforms. I put it to you: how can an organisation have an effective social media presence if they don’t have a full understanding of where the conversations around their brand are taking place?

Essentially, social media monitoring is about listening to what is being said and on what platform, then considering what will be the best strategy to engage this community or in some cases it may be appropriate to step back and create and manage a platform for the community elsewhere.

People will be talking about your organisation online, so it pays to participate in these conversations and build relationships with potential brand advocates. You may be surprised to find an online community of advocates talking about your brand that already moderates itself. Such communities represent a tremendous opportunity. Too often organisations do not know where these conversations are taking place beyond Facebook and frankly, they are missing a trick.

Issues management
The relative anonymity of social media coupled with the volatility and group-think associated with crowds means that issues can quickly spiral out of control. There are many examples of stakeholder rants turning into sustained attacks, causing untold reputational damage. Generally, social media conversations are more polarised and emotive than traditional media, so effective social media monitoring allows organisations to recognise a potential issue and nip it in the bud. It is an invaluable opportunity. Another consideration: it is the height of arrogance to dismiss individual conversations. These people are existing or potential brand advocates and they have more credability and yield more influence that many organisations appreciate.

Customer Service
By carrying out social media monitoring organisations will hear where people are talking about their brand. If there are conversations relating to customer service, an organisation that undertakes social media monitoring is well placed to intervene and resolve these issues. In my experience people are normally bowled over by this level of customer service and a potentially unhappy consumer can be turned into an advocate. In addition, these people are also likely to talk about their positive experiences online.

HR policy
Disengaged staff will often post (anonymously) online about their workplace grievances. By monitoring these conversations companies can gain a greater understanding of genuine HR issues, as dissatisfied staff may be reluctant to participate in work based surveys. These findings can potentially have big implications for HR policy and subsequent corporate reputation. Again, effective social media monitoring allows organisations to monitor issues log before they turn into a crisis.

Staff will often speak out online

Social media monitoring has the potential to impact upon much more than just one specific business function, indeed many of the conversations will have implications across a range of teams encompassing PR, marketing, customer services and HR, to name but a few.

I would caution that companies which ignore ‘average Joe’s’ conversations do so at their peril. Within their own networks these ‘average Joe’s’ are viewed as impartial and more credible when discussing a brand. Essentially, word of mouth by an advocate is infinitely more credible than any owned or paid media channels (check out the Forrester report for more info).

Every good conversation starts with good listening.

Before undertaking any social media activity organisations need to listen first and talk second. Two ears, one mouth and all that.


About the Author

- Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at and Chief Quaffer at .

Displaying 4 Comments
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  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by bencotton: Why Organisations Have to Monitor Social Media:

  2. Alex Talbott says:

    Hi Ben,

    Nice article! I wondered whether you have come across any examples of good and bad strategic planning for social media in the public sector?

    I completely agree that people jump into social media without thinking it through, and a couple of examples of what not to do and what to do would be really useful.

    Hope you’re enjoying the new job!


  3. Ben Cotton says:

    Hey Alex,

    Great to hear from you. Have a look at Sandbox for some good examples of social media being used by the public sector. Many of the cases highlight how social media can be utilised to make efficiency savings or improve service, as well as an effective communications tool.

    Simon Wakeman of Medway Council has an interesting take on how councils should use Facebook e.g. make groups of council run events and activities that people care about, rather than a generic Council fan page. The thinking being that people engage with council services not councils per se.

    Anecdotally, a barrier to entry may be the perceived levels of bureaucracy that the public sector has to deal with. From my experience, whilst people have generally been interested in social media, there have always been concerns about data protection and privacy, which in turn has led to people being overly cautious.

    In addition, whilst Twitter was widely praised for being an important emergency communicationstool during the snow this winter, it is important to recognise social media is best used as part of an overall strategy. Social media is not the correct channel to communicate with everyone. Far from it.

    P.S. the job is going very well thanks!

  4. […] to write a list of free social media monitoring tools after a previous post where I argued why organisations have to monitor social media. Admittedly, this post has been a long time coming, but as someone who uses a variety of free and […]

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