Eavesdropping on Social Media
Social listening, a type of media monitoring, allows companies to listen and participate in the social conversation around their brands. In the last decade, social listening has reached a more sophisticated level, with companies starting to find the usefulness of tracking comments and references.
“Software developers responded by building tools to meet the market’s needs and harness the potential of this new market,” says Lynn Gayowski, director of marketing at Agility PR Solutions.
These tools include HubSpot, Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Buffer, BuzzSumo, and Mention, among other programs. A search for “social listening tools” will reveal many sources, including those that also monitor review sites, blogs, and forums related to a brand in addition to social media platforms. Some are developed for smaller companies and may prove beneficial to an attraction of any size. Prices range from free to $179 a month, with an average of $50 a month. Once enacted, the software begins searching and analyzing comments that reference a business or industry.
“It involves mining thousands to millions of social media posts from users about key topics, and then using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze and categorize them by sentiment, emotion, platform, date, and even demographic or audience interest,” says Jaclyn Osterloh, account director with Sparkloft Media.
To make the most of the collected data’s insights, attractions should take action. For those who are new to social listening, set goals to achieve and see where those metrics stand today, suggests Gayowski.
“After that, just jump in,” she says. “Whether you opt for a free tool to start or take a more strategic approach with a paid platform, consistency is key.”
Basic stats to consider could be number of mentions, the sentiments of those mentions, and engagement rate. Then, make sure to reply to the mentions, Gayowski says. Attractions can reward helpful feedback, positive reviews, or suggestions for improvement with a coupon or special offer. Afterward, track the conversion rate of these promotions to monitor their usefulness. Instead of just giving a social media user’s comment a like, Gayowski recommends attractions offer a surprise, a discount, or even an animated GIF for their phone. That shows fans a brand cares about social media followers.
What is learned from social listening has a number of applications. For example, brands can gather insight into the keywords, interests, locations, and sentiment of potential new customers, says Osterloh, which can be used to target audiences more directly and appeal to the individual.
With the behavioral data uncovered, Osterloh says, companies can discern the kind of content the audience wants to see in social media posts.
“By integrating consumers’ wants and expectations into your planning, you’ll differentiate your brand from the competition and find opportunities to make more of an impact,” says Osterloh.
Through social listening, a company can understand its target audience, says Gayowski. The more learned about the audience’s wants, needs, and complaints, the deeper the understanding of how to speak to the people that matter.
The ubiquity of smartphones and social media has increased expectation for a speedy response. If a potential crisis is brewing, Gayowski says, getting in front of the story can mitigate the damage. Rumblings are usually heard first on social media.
“You also don’t want to miss a chance to promote a positive situation. If a happy customer story is going viral, a thoughtful response can be a big boost to your brand and strengthen relationships,” says Gayowski.
Social listening also allows for the discovery of a squad or tribe—the bloggers and influencers who can promote an attraction, she says. Monitor who writes about your attraction, your competitors, or the industry, and use this as a target list for pitching stories.
After quantifying the value of social listening efforts, companies can then build a public relations campaign or develop a new approach in communicating.
Gayowski recommends starting in small doses. When effective tactics are identified, go all in on those.
Since nothing ever stays the same, Gayowski says an attraction should continuously be watching, listening, and capitalizing on the opportunities that perform the best.
Handling Negative Feedback
The old adage says guests are more likely to post a critical review or comment than a positive one. Whether true or not, attractions have probably had to deal with negative feedback or will in the future.
Negative comments can be difficult to handle, but an attraction should respond, says Lynn Gayowski, director of marketing at Agility PR Solutions. Company representatives should put themselves in the shoes of the visitor before responding. For the guest, the experience didn’t deliver, and that is all that matters. Apologize or suggest an idea on how to make things right. If the experience was based on a misunderstanding, providing information may clear up the negativity.
“My own pet peeve is any apology that includes an ‘if,’ such as, ‘I’m sorry if we made you feel…,’” Gayowski says. “The customer has already said how you made them feel, so adding that qualifier reinforces that you’re not fully grasping the situation.”
Jaclyn Osterloh, account director at Sparkloft Media, says a brand should respond to negative comments, but advises an attraction also needs to attend to positive ones. Customer engagement can be just as important as customer service.
“The nature of social media opens businesses up to public scrutiny,” says Osterloh. “Today’s savvy traveler/thrillseeker trusts their peers to provide honest feedback, and they find this information on social media.”