Why Neville Hobson Hates The Word ‘Influence’, And Other Observations On Social Media
Welcome to the first entry in a shiny new blog series we’re starting called ‘The Synthesio Sessions.’ Every couple of weeks we’ll talk to influential people in the social and digital space, be they bloggers, authors or senior decision makers in brands, to get their take on how social media and social media monitoring should work for brands, and the challenges they have seen and faced in their years of experience.
The first lucky person to take the hotseat is leading UK blogger and podcaster Neville Hobson, who has over 25 years’ experience in public & media relations and marketing communications, and is a thought leader in digital communication for business. See the edited interview below – and look out for the full interview in downloadable podcast form, coming soon!
1. What are your recommended top 3 best uses for social media monitoring? Why should brands listen to social media?
1. Listening or monitoring helps you to know where conversations are occurring that matter to you. There are lots of conversations going on, but which ones do you pay attention to? There’s no way of knowing that without the intelligence which you glean from monitoring.
2. It lets you understand what content your customers care about. If you listen to what your customers are talking about as part of your listening activities, you will understand what they connect with best.
3. It’s about knowing who is defining your brand, and whether they’re for or against it. Monitoring and analysis of the data you collect will help you answer that question. There’s a good 15 or 20 others out there we haven’t mentioned, but these 3 would be a good starting point.
2. Who do you feel should ‘own’ social media monitoring in business / which departments (if any) have owned it in social media monitoring companies you’ve worked for?
The average Joe, as in the everyday user in an organisation, needs access to ‘monitoring lite’ for want of a better way to describe it… the bar charts and line graphs that enable them to gain a basic knowledge on what they’re doing. This is not dependent on department or function.
That leaves what I call ‘depth monitoring’ which is a specialist task that requires an individual or team with significant analytical skills. This means the ability to analyse huge amounts of information against particular objectives you’re trying to achieve, and provide the answers in ways that everyone can understand. The ownership of that depends on individual organisations. This could be Marketing, a structural function like HR, maybe customer service, or even Legal. It all comes down to business objectives.
3. What’s your most hated social media buzzword?
I definitely have one – ‘Influence’ – because it’s so stupidly non-defined by those who use it a lot. Now everyone uses the word influence, and they define it differently. Equally, people often use the word influence and don’t know what it means, or otherwise they think they know what it means – just a Klout number, which is dumb, frankly speaking! I keep hearing people use it in ways that don’t make sense.
4. Which social platform are you most active on personally, and which do you feel provides the greatest value for brands? (Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Pinterest etc.)
The one I use most personally is Twitter. I find the way in which I connect with people on it suits the way I do things. I’ve been on Twitter since 2006, from the beginning.
The value depends on what you want to achieve, how you want to use it and what measurable goal you’ve established. In the case of Facebook for instance, an example is Coca-Cola’s global page with 52 million likes. Is that the greatest value to them? It’s impossible to answer that unless they disclose the answers to those points. Hence I can’t give you a specific answer for that as it does depend on all of those things.
5. What’s your favorite example/use case of ROI in social media listening?
There’s one example that comes to mind that involved Thomas Cook, the package holidays company, and a much smaller company called Lowcostholidays.com.
On Thomas Cook’s Facebook page, a fan, whose name was also Thomas Cook, posted a tongue-in-cheek message saying that due to the ridicule he’s received throughout his life about his name, he thought it would be only fair that Thomas Cook compensate him by giving him a holiday. It got a lot of positive attention from people recognising it was a great opportunity. And what did they do? They replied back to him refusing, with a comment that looked as if the person either was clueless about how to use the medium, or totally missed the potential.
Someone at Lowcostholidays.com then replied to this on the Thomas Cook page by offering a weekend in Paris for him and a friend – and he repeated it ad infinitum across his social networks and beyond. The firm has gained a lot of buzz and their name gained prominence in searches. That’s a terrific result from a very simple act of listening and paying attention to mentions of their competitor, and converting that instantly into an advantage through a humourous response.
By contrast, Thomas Cook looked like the frumpy old grandmother of an older generation that didn’t want the kids to have any fun – they missed a huge opportunity.
6. What do you feel are the biggest challenges with social media listening solutions right now, and what would you love to see as the next big innovation(s) in listening?
I think one of the many challenges is getting all the right information from monitoring, to the right people at the right time in the organisation. What I’ve observed in organisations using these tools, is when you put someone in front of a tool like Radian6, they’re overwhelmed because they don’t know what to do with all the results. Insights are no good unless you can do something with them, and then that means getting them to the people that need it.
Hence the rise of companies like Synthesio offering not just the software package but the services that go along with it, providing the interpretation of the data that helps companies that don’t necessarily have those resources themselves. Those that get it right, be it big enterprises or small to medium sized businesses, are going to do well.
The next innovation should be about making a business genuinely a social business. All of the ways in which we conduct ourselves in our business lives, the ways in which we use channels to connect with each other, those are behavioural things. Social media and the elements that support your use of it such as monitoring are part of that structural change needed in the organisation. It’s the mindset shift in that we engage with people this way as a matter of course, both internally and externally. In the enterprise of the future all the departments are connected socially.