5 Ways to Use Social Media as an Early Warning System for Customer Issues

By Sue Brady

Social media is used in many ways. Among other things, people use it to share Warninginformation about themselves, catch up on what others are doing, and to find news stories they might find interesting. As a business, you probably use social media to let your customers know about your products, hear what they have to say, and respond to complaints that they might post.

But if you aren’t using social media to identify larger trends that might be affecting your business, read on.

How can you use social media to identify a train that’s barreling down the tracks, before it’s out of control? The simple answer is: trends.

There are many ways to keep track of posts about your brands.  Most companies these days have people responsible for monitoring social media so that if their brand is mentioned, they can immediately respond if necessary.  But by looking collectively at what is being said about your brand, and noticing spikes that are out of the ordinary, you can create an early warning system for your company.

Using social volume: Suppose that you typically see 35 tweets per day that involve your brand. If on any particular day, that number goes above 35, there may be something going on with your brand that has customers talking. You need to know what it is. It might be that your brand had a mention on the news, but it also might mean that there’s a problem and your customers are picking up on it and spreading that news. Or maybe it is exactly on the same day each week that your negative chatter increases. Is something about your product impacted by that day, ie you open your new barrel of coffee beans every Friday, and on Fridays thru Mondays you always have way more positive customer sentiment than on other days.  That might mean that you need a better method for keeping your coffee beans fresh.

Using keywords: The increased use of certain keywords in social media and in blogs can let you know of a developing trend.  You probably already track your brand in the social media space, but do you include word combinations that might indicate a problem?  For instance, are you tracking the mention of your brand with the word ‘issue’ or ‘sucks’?  Consider it! Understand how many negative posts you typically get per day, and if that number moves, immediately read what’s being posted to see if you can figure out why. Once you figure it out, you can fix what’s wrong and issue a statement to your customers that you’re working on the problem.

Understanding themes: By keeping a close eye on what customers are saying every day about your brand, you’ll be able to notice increases in certain areas and identify trends. For instance, let’s say you sell yogurt. On Monday, you see a couple of negative posts from customers in Maine about damaged cartons.  On Tuesday, similar complaints are coming in from Vermont. That could mean that you have an issue with your distribution in that part of the country. By seeing those posts, rather than dealing with them on a one-off basis, you can solve the problem by immediately shipping new product to that area etc.

Tracking your Overall Customer Sentiment: It’s important to understand if your customers are less happy over time (that is, complaining more). As in the prior example, it may highlight a specific area where you have a problem that needs solving.

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Monitoring your Competitors’ Social Media: In this case, you’re looking for an increase in mentions on a specific topic that’s relevant to your business, because it may also serve as an early warning for you. The key is to understand how the tone and topics of posts are changing, because they could predict a tidal wave of dissatisfaction that you’re much better off nipping in the bud if it’s going to impact your business too. Or, it could highlight an opportunity for you to fill a gap that your competitor is inadvertently creating with his own base of customers.

The good news is that you are not on your own. There are many social listening tools available. In addition to the list mentioned at the start of this post, there are many free tools that may provide what you need.  And you may need more than one tool to accomplish all of the necessary monitoring.

By coupling analytics with social listening, these tools will save you time, help you identify problems when they are still small, and identify trends before they lead to real issues.  The ultimate goal is keeping your customers happy. By tweaking your social strategy from reactive to big picture, you can do just that.

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