Tim Shier, MD of Online Reputation Management specialists BrandsEye, says companies stand to gain tremendous advantage if they’re able to anticipate market changes by identifying online trends.
It’s easy for brand managers to feel swamped by the plethora of new online platforms, tools and trends that emerge almost daily from the ether but that suddenly demands the attention of the internet audience, and by extension, the brands themselves.
If it isn’t the new internet phenomenon Pinterest that’s on everyone’s timeline, it’s the release of 60 new Facebook apps, or Google’s integration of social media into its search results. Where does it end, when can brand managers sit back and say: OK, I’m on top of it all, I can sit back now. Probably never.
The good news is that these shifting goal posts are moving at the same speed for anyone involved in online brand management. However, the extent to which they move and degree to which brands need to realign to stay on target can be minimised.
Online reputation management
This is achieved primarily through Online Reputation Management (ORM) tools that help organisations actively monitor and manage their online brand, and also get a sense of market sentiment and trends. The open nature of social networking provides real time access to any number of search terms, conversations and individuals from which a wealth of information can be drawn.
Savvy online brands do this type of monitoring and measurement on an ongoing basis to help direct campaigns or activities, and do so successfully. Truly forward-thinking organisations, however, have harnessed the power of ORM tools to gather insight beyond only their brand or industry to identify trends that might allow those goal posts to shift just that little bit less.
By monitoring competitors, allied industries or related fields, it’s possible to identify emerging trends that a brand could turn to its advantage. For example, a financial institution may not be able to shift a general negative sentiment towards the industry, but it may be able to address a specific gripe – such as reducing queues with a little better planning, or even staff training.
Here are some pointers on how to identify trends and learn from others:
- Start broad, then narrow it down
Identify the market segments or industries you wish to monitor for conversations or sentiment in order to gauge prevailing attitudes or areas of interest. By tracking these, it’s possible to get a grip on what is happening and identify influential audiences or individuals. Your search and tracking can then be targeted to the exact audience that meets your immediate needs.
- Improve your response time
The most effective way to use the data gathered is to look for trends that either support of refute your marketing or business assumptions. Quick and effective business strategy decisions can then be taken based on the potential demand resulting from the identified trend.
- When is a trend a trend?
Market sentiment, in itself, is not a trend. The indicator to look out for is a shift in that trend. This could be manifested in changes such as more influential people talking about an issue or brand, or conversations shifting to another geography. These insights provide valuable information that brands can use to preemptively adjust their strategy to take advantage of these changes. An important caveat to adapting to these ‘trends’ is that the business must refrain from a knee-jerk reaction and consider any changes based on all business data, not only online insights.
- Learn from your competitors
One of the advantages of being able to monitor open forums such as social media is that a brand can learn from competitors’ campaigns and activities about what works and what doesn’t work. This could significantly reduce the brand’s investment in market or even product research, while enabling it to adapt its strategy based on real market data.
The fundamental lesson for business leaders and marketers is that they no longer operate in isolation from the marketplace and that the Web 2.0 revolution presents more of an opportunity than a threat. Progressive organisations that have embraced this reality are reaping the benefits from this by using that to help them keep those shifting goalposts firmly in their sights.