Just because they aren't nearby doesn't mean you can't listen
You can never fully understand your target market until you listen to them and one of the quickest and most effective ways of doing this is with online monitoring. By tracking a range of online sources you can see what people are saying about your business as well as getting a greater understanding of the types of product they're after. This then allow you to tailor your brand's online presence to reach those who are in the market for your product or service, when they need it most.
Know your brand's reputation
It's surprising how many firms are unaware of what is being said about them both online and in print which can lead to reputational damage in the short-term and business failure in the long-term if not addressed. By getting online and scanning as wide a range of sources as possible you will get a clear picture of how your company is viewed by existing and potential clients. Understanding what your brand means to people is the first step in developing or changing your firm's perception in future and with the rise of social media communities this is only going to increase in importance over traditional channels.
Keep tabs on the competition
You should never underestimate your competitors. By having an understanding of your rivals' reputations, comparing them with conversations around your business, you can create a detailed picture of the industry and where you sit, before putting plans in place to outmanoeuvre your competitors and stay one step ahead.
Understand who is important
Brands must be persuasive and the key to this is understanding who in your industry has the power to do the influencing on your behalf. By understanding which media outlets, bloggers and key commentators have real sway you can target your PR efforts accordingly to maximise the likelihood of influential endorsement and with it improved brand appeal.
It's all about sentiment
They say that it's more important to understand how something is said than what exactly is being said and the same applies for online conversations. Whether your brand gets 10 or 100,000 mentions a day it's important to quantify how many of these are positive, negative and neutral to provide an accurate snapshot of how your brand is perceived by the public. By understanding the current sentiment towards your brand you can then make the necessary changes to appeasing those who are unhappy as well as turning those who are already pleased into brand ambassadors who will work on your behalf to help spread the word about your company and help you grow in future.
Spot risks and stop them becoming reality
It's much harder to build a brand online which has suffered a number of negative comments, especially with the ease of sharing and so it's worth proactively planning for issues which could result in negative comments about your brand to ensure that they are at best avoided altogether and at worst kept to a minimum.
It's impossible to stop comments both positive and negative, however monitoring and knowing as soon as possible allows you to asses, step back and decide how best to handle the situation to minimise the negative impact.
Large firms have fallen foul to the likes of backfiring Twitter campaigns and poorly considered blog posts, so put the time in to plan for problems to ensure they are kept to a minimum and won't stunt your brand's growth over time. Remember, once something is up online it can be extremely difficult to get rid of.
If you have any social media monitoring queries you'd like Richard to answer then tweet @SpotterLive.