Michal Sadowski is founder and CEO of Brand24, a social listening tool used by over 2,000 clients, across 80 countries.
He is a mentor at the Startup Weekend and Founder Institute, author of the bestselling book “Social Media Revolution”, and awarded with a “Best Co-Founder” prize in The Next Web Startup Awards 2013. He was also the Web Summit Conference 2013 People’s Stage winner.
When you started Brand24, what specific industry challenges were you looking to overcome, and what obstacles is Brand24 seeking to surmount today?
The major challenge was, and still is, to expose a huge gap between a quality and price in media monitoring space. If you want to learn what people say about your company online, you either use a free, unreliable, unautomated tool, or you use expensive enterprise-level solutions costing thousands of dollars a month. Our goal is to provide reliable, automated media monitoring for an affordable price. We want to popularize engaging customers online.
Jeff Bezos has been quoted as saying, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” In today’s online landscape, do you think this is true, or is there a way that companies can control (or at least influence) their image in a meaningful way?
88 per cent of your future customers Google you before making a purchase. This is why companies have to listen and manage online conversation related to their business. It is possible to control online image, at least to some extent. We can react to online mentions, and manage both happy and unhappy customers, before they turn into detractors.
A brand’s reputation and its social media activity are intrinsically linked. What social channels do you feel are most important for small businesses, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Unfortunately, I have to say it depends on the type of business we’re talking about. That is, the top social media channel for most hairdressers is Instagram. For restaurants, the major source of valuable insights might be Yelp or Tripadvisor.
There are more and more reviews published on Facebook pages. All those channels have one thing in common: reaction time. Quick reaction obviously makes an unhappy customer less likely to turn into PR crisis. Engaging a happy customer makes him so much more likely to turn into brand promoter/ambassador. Unfortunately, only a handful of companies understand the benefits of engaging their customers online. Less than five per cent of businesses using media monitoring use the data to engage customers.
When people think about social listening tools, they often think about reputation management, and user engagement. What are some more creative, unique, or unusual ways that you’ve seen Brand24 used to amplify how consumers feel about a company?
Social media monitoring makes it possible for you to leverage data to launch innovative marketing campaigns. For instance, a pizza franchise decided to use Brand24 to find people who had been tweeting about pizza cravings. Once they found some hungry pizza fans, they tried to pinpoint the location of their tweets, so they could deliver some free pizza to their workplaces. Obviously, everybody was thrilled to get a free snack, based on their social media activity.
Another cool example of this is a social media campaign called the Snickers Hungerithm. They created a ‘hunger algorithm’ that uses web monitoring to monitor moods online. Whenever online anger would go up, the price of Snickers bars would go down – amazing stuff.
Social media has created a bit of a dissonance among a certain percentage of users
who feel that saying extremely negative or hurtful things is par for the course. How
should brands approach particularly hostile comments, or “trolls” online?
I feel like companies need to turn into their own worst trolls. I know it sounds weird, but it really works for us. I mean, any message we put out there, we analyze to see if there is any potential to criticize us. Then, once we know the potential criticism, we address it. We start our own conversation preempting troll actions. Anytime we share our success, we underline there is still a long way to go for a company like ours. We show modesty. Quite often, we troll ourselves. It makes it difficult for proper trolls to add anything meaningful to a discussion. So it’s really killing two birds with one stone. We underline our modesty, and prevent trolling at the same time.
Another good practice I can recommend is to be thankful and civil while engaging trolls. I had dozens, maybe hundreds of discussions that started with a hostile message from one of the social media users. Despite the hostility, I reply in a kind, understanding way. In the vast majority of cases, a kindness is met with kindness. Often times trolls revert their position, and suggest they had no bad intentions in the first place. In many cases, I manage to turn trolls into promoters. I know it sounds naive, but kindness plus responsiveness, can go a long way. Most people just want to be heard and replied.
I strongly recommend reading “How To Win Friends And Influence People” by legendary Dale Carnegie. It is by far the best tutorial on how to deal with other people, including trolls.
In your opinion, what is the number one thing a social media manager should be doing with the insights uncovered from social listening?
The major application for insights collected via media monitoring/social listening is to improve communication with customers, or improve the product. Through data, you learn about your customers and why they like or dislike your product. A sushi bar manager can learn about people loving his salmon, but hating teriyaki sauce. An online store can learn why people choose them over a competitor. Applications of the data are truly endless.
What do you think is the next piece of social media monitoring puzzle that will help
brands better manage their perception online and engage with relevant audiences?
Education. Most companies use “Google+Interns” mix for media monitoring. Needless to say, this is not the optimal solution. Small and medium business owners have to learn about two media monitoring aspects:
- This is not a product for Fortune 500 companies only. Not anymore. Customers research online reviews for companies of all sizes.
- They can afford it. Media monitoring tools used to cost thousands of dollars per month. Over years, technology has become much more affordable with tools that offer reliable results and usable dashboards for fifty dollars a month. Media monitoring is becoming a must-have for Fortune 5,000,000s.
What business-focused features do you find lacking in today’s social media ecosystem, and how do you think this could be resolved?
In my modest opinion, the biggest challenge for social media ecosystem is anonymity. We need to become accountable for what we say online.
What tips would you give to marketers to help them improve their social media monitoring tactics and skills?
Start engaging people talking about your company online. It is an immensly powerful experience, and will qucikly lead to your company gaining brand ambassadors who are ‘The Holy Grail’ for any marketer: Ambassadors who will promote, or even defend your company, across the web.
What are the right questions to ask when you are doing an audit, to determine if you should be doing more social listening?
You can use any search engine to check if there are any reviews related to your product or service. If you find some, there is likely to be more.