What’s the one tool all successful brands need? Are your listening?

A brand is representative of the source from where a product or service comes from. Over the years consumers have learned to associate a word, combination of words, tagline, logo and colors with their respective brands. A brand signifies a set of attributes. Leading brands spend a fortune to re-inforce these attributes, which are tweaked time and again to seek resonance with the ethos of their audience.

“Good advertising does not just circulate information. It penetrates the public mind with desires and belief” Leo Burnett

What’s the one tool all successfulAdvertisers are predicted to spend close to $600 billion worldwide in 2015. By 2018 they are expected to spend $194.5 billion on internet advertising. They will be spending all those billions of dollars to educate, stand-out and resonate.

With the dawn of social media, brands have been laid bare to uncomfortable and tricky situations. Over the last few years brands from sectors which were previously considered to be shy about opening up, have jumped on the social media bandwagon. Think of traditionally tight-lipped brands from telecommunications, banking, financial services, insurance, travel and hospitality. The constant onslaught of queries, opinions, criticisms & rumors have compelled them to be active on social media.

The information age that we live in is irrevocably dominated by social networks and smart devices. Brands are no exception to this change in status quo. Brands who are new to being ‘open’ have found themselves in unchartered territory. Whereas those who have turned social savvy are now reaping the benefits through engagement-driven content.

For most leading brands, it’s counterintuitive to ignore negativity directed towards them. The ubiquity of smartphones, high-speed networks and a variety of social networks means that: consumers are better informed and aware than ever. Social word-of-mouth is the order of the day, it is steadily changing advertising as we know it. Brands need to be particularly cautious of their social word-of-mouth. Is it good? Is it bad? Even the most well-established brands can find themselves in hot waters if they don’t pay heed to it.

Brands cannot feign ignorance in the face of a socially mature audience. For the lack of timely response, this audience is inclined to assume that you’ve heard them but continue to ignore. There is no bliss in such ignorance laden instances for brands. And as far as the audience is concerned, there is clearly no incentive for them to be loyal. Negative reviews, posts on complaint forums, funny memes are some of the ways they vent out their frustration. Anything that sounds even remotely scandalous can end up becoming viral fodder.

Social media has led consumers to expect more transparency from brands. It’s not just social media networks like Facebook & Twitter, but review sites, complaint forums, news sites and personal blogs that complete their social experience. A popular brand can find itself mentioned on any of these feedback avenues. It’s therefore important for brands to keep their ears to the ground.

To be successful across the digital landscape brands are required to listen and analyze not only their own conversations, but also the competition. Engaging, responding and disseminating content are other important activities for brands to conduct. Listening is the most important activity for which a variety of tools are available.

Through social listening, brands can not only soften the blows from social criticism but also turn things around. Listening is a great way of gathering business intelligence. It can be argued that traditional market research is slowly but steadily being replaced by social listening. Brands can uncover the most frequently raised issues and brand perception. It’s also possible for them to gauge the impact of their social media campaigns. Since brand conversations tend to be public, brands can track everything that is being said about their competitors too. If done correctly, there are a lot of actionable insights that can be gained through social listening.

Guest Post by Sundeep Dawale, Marketing Communications Head at KonnectSocial.com