It’s not what’s said, it’s what’s read – social media monitoring and Google

Today I have been talking a lot about social media monitoring, both with my colleague Jacqui and online with Jed Hallam and this has got me thinking about one of the biggest elephants in the social media monitoring room: the big G…  Now there is a lot of conversation online about Google and their role in social media and real-time search, many ask “when will Google make a social media monitoring tool” or similar questions, but this is really the wrong way to look at it…

To delve into (what is in my opinion) the right way to look at it let me talk about my housemate Jon, he recently brought a new phone, as someone who works on a well known mobile brand I watched this process carefully, Jon was influenced by a number of factors, he spoke to friends and people he deemed knowledgable, he looked at stats online and he read reviews on review sites, blogs an forums, just the sort of data you could find and monitor with a real-time search tool like Radian6 or Scoutlabs right? So great, except for one thing: Jon didn’t use real-time search, or a blog search tool, or twitter or anything else to find these reviews, he used google, he typed in “reviews of phone A” in and he read what came up, mostly from the results on page 1. Jon is an average 24 year old, he is quite a techy without being a geek, but he doesn’t use twitter and when I asked him he was vaguely aware of Google blog search but had never even heard of Technorati.

Lets then look at my Mum, she follows a similar process when booking holidays, she figures out where she wants to go from friends, personal preference etc. then she hits the web, finds a good deal and looks for reviews, how does she find those reviews? Well aside from 1 or 2 sites she trusts (tripadvisor for example) she googles the hotel for reviews, again: mostly from page 1. My mum is an older lady, a late adopter and in no way a techy, she doesn’t know or care about real-time search.

But the plot thickens: neither of these individuals rate a review equally, they have very sophisticated bullshit filters and very sophisticated interpretations of what a review means. Both commented they would rate a review less useful if it has poor grammar or spelling or if it was from someone in a foreign country (my Mum explained: Americans may have different expectations of service so she takes their harsh reviews with a pinch of salt).

But my key point here is that Google is still the gatekeeper to a large percentage of all of our interactions with social media reviews  as people in the industry who “live and breathe” social it is difficult for us to get this but: only 7% of the US population use twitter and, from my research, very few people know of or really care for real-time search (Jon described this as “not necessary, a view of someone from a few days ago is as valuable as someones today”). I mean, ask yourself this: what do you do when you research a product or brand? What do your friends do? Hands up if you said google it – I’m going to bet it’s 70%+, even despite the fact readers of this blog will be mostly socially savvy people.

So what does this mean for brands and for social media monitoring? Well in one way nothing: real-time search still has value, it is important for all sorts of reasons from crisis monitoring, proactive customer service etc etc. But let’s not get hung up on it. For the average customer looking for product reviews and UGC their only “social media monitoring” tool is google. So make sure you know what comes up when you put your product into google, and phrases like “product x review” or “hotel y review” or other phrases.

Also, research and know your consumers “bullshit filters” who or what do your key target consumers trust? What turns them off and what resonates with them? Maybe we need some real research to find out?

But don’t forget the big G!


4 responses to “It’s not what’s said, it’s what’s read – social media monitoring and Google

  1. Like it Tom, another elephant in the room is Which magazine, and also moneymadeclear. Each of these pull in daily users in the hundreds of thousands in the UK. I know that I have regretted not choosing a which best buy on a number of occasions, and have never really been let down by the functional, no-nonsense, good value products they tend to choose. Certainly banal emotions expressed by half-witted people that I don’t know have very little effect when I’m making a big purchase. As recently advised by BBC click, I ignore the best and worst reviews.

  2. Thanks for the comment Andy, I should also say, Jon (as mentioned above) purchased a hoover on the stregnth of it being a Which best buy and going against advice from a friend and a salesperson! – Those little stickers can still sell product!

  3. Agreed. An organization should always be aware of their real-time search results. Tools are necessary when an organization implements a social meda/online communications strategy and when manual data gathering becomes too time consuming that an organization has no time to analyze or act on data.

    Lauren Vargas
    Sr. Community Manager at Radian6

    • Thanks for commenting Lauren 🙂 I agree, tools (like Radian6) are often neccessary, for a variety of reasons. my point here is, don’t forget about how your customers find their info!

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