How to Make Your Brand Socially Intelligent
Social media has become increasingly important for businesses in recent years, but the question often remains, what do I do with all this data? For B-to-C industries like retail, hospitality, and food and beverage, the answer may be simpler than you think.
In order to be "socially intelligent," businesses have to understand how to extract meaningful insight out of thousands of online reviews from customers, and then know how to apply that raw feedback into practical insights they can use to grow market share. This process can be summed up in three key steps: listen, adapt and communicate.
1. Listen: Faced with sifting through millions of posts on Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor, OpenTable and more, the process of getting information that actually benefits your business can seem like a daunting task. The first step to transforming feedback into more loyal customers is to step back and really listen. Look closely at the trends in your data and ask yourself, "Where are we hitting home runs?" and "What areas of our business are lacking?" Then apply those learnings to your operations to make on-site changes that actually improve the guest experience, be it in customer service, menu items, décor, amenities or something else.
And don't forget competitive social intelligence. One of the main benefits of examining your own open social data is that the same information is also available to your competitors. Take a look at their reviews and see how you measure up. There's a good chance you can win over new customers by matching some of their successful offerings or promoting unique offerings of your own that are performing especially well.
2. Adapt: When Nando's Peri Peri, a fast-casual restaurant chain with 34 locations around the world, rolled out new Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in its Washington, D.C. restaurants, it was excited to be one of the first businesses in the city to do so. Its restaurant operators were less pleased. Bothered by the long lines and perceived customer confusion, they thought that people were unhappy and that the new Coke machines were never going to work.
After looking deeply at its unstructured data online, however, Nando's discovered that although a lot of the comments included a mention of the long lines, many were also followed by sentiments like, "The new Coke machine was so cool" or "it was worth the wait" or "you have to come here and check this out!" Management realized that with a few minor operational changes — e.g., giving water bottles to those waiting to use the machine for water — it could decrease the line and maintain what had become a great opportunity from a branding standpoint. Without examining the nuanced data, however, it likely would have given up on the machines and lost a unique component of its dining experience, as well as potential guests.
3. Communicate: Forrester Research reports that although 95 percent of organizations collect customer feedback, only 5 percent close the loop by making customers aware of the changes that resulted from their feedback. Make sure customers know that you're not just listening, but actually doing something with their feedback.
The team at Nando's lives and breathes this philosophy. It responds to every single customer that posts a review, whether it's positive or negative, to let them know they appreciate the feedback. In cases where a guest expresses dissatisfaction with an aspect of his or her experience, a manager will reach out with an apology and explain how they're addressing the issue. In many cases, that gesture alone is enough to make the guest revise their original review to a higher mark.
The other important aspect of communicating for brand intelligence is to share data across your organization. Social media isn't just for marketers anymore. The smartest thing executives can do is flag key trends in their feedback and share them with the rest of the business to inform everything from their growth strategy to their operations, sales, staff training and supply chain.
"We're all drowning in data but thirsty for meaning," said Burton Heiss, Nando's CEO. With the right approach, any company can take these steps to get real insight from a wealth of social data and be truly socially intelligent.
Susan Ganeshan is chief marketing officer of newBrandAnalytics, a social intelligence firm serving retail, hospitality, food and beverage, and health care organizations.