Listening to consumers: How Marketers Can Leverage Consumer-Generated Media

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An interesting whitepaper on - How Marketers Can Leverage Consumer-Generated Media

An interesting whitepaper on - How Marketers Can Leverage Consumer-Generated Media

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  • 1. Listening to Consumers 101 How Marketers Can Leverage Consumer-Generated Media Melissa Davies Research Director, Healthcare Nielsen’s Online Division October 2008
  • 2. Listening to Consumers 101 Table of Contents Market Context ........................................................ 2 ........3 Case Study: CGM Provides an Early Alert ...........................4 Getting Started ........................................................4 This whitepaper is provided by The Nielsen Company for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed as regulatory or legal advice. Readers should consult with and obtain the advice of their company’s marketing, regulatory and legal
  • 3. Market Context: The Empowered Consumer The roles of consumers and corporations have changed significantly since the rise of the Internet. YouTube is only the latest manifestation of a broader trend: consumers have the ability to voice opinions about products and brands, and there is now little standing in their way. Consumers have come to expect that boards, blogs and online groups. A companies can and should listen to their recent Nielsen survey found that 73% ideas, requests and questions, and that of online U.S. adults actively participate companies will react to this input. A broad in consumer-generated media (CGM) in range of traditional companies—including some form. Nielsen Online’s BlogPulse Purina, Mattel, American Airlines and service tracks the creation of blogs—at Comcast, to name just a few—have this writing, there are more than 91 can companies do to change this dynamic quickly learned the importance of million identified blogs, and more than and open a door of communication with listening and responding to consumers. 80,000 of these were launched in the today’s empowered consumer? The Companies are being held to increasingly last 24 hours. Social media is an easily answer to this question is complicated, high standards set by organizations that accessible forum for nearly anyone who but one thing is clear: marketers have a excel at listening and responding, such has an opinion and would like to share it. lot to gain by listening to the social media as Zappos, Geico, Starbucks, Southwest conversation that is already taking place. Airlines and others. These companies are Companies today face an increasingly setting the bar not just for their direct difficult challenge: how to communicate competitors, but for all businesses that with consumers in a way that encourages serve consumers. trust and engagement, in an environment where companies’ statements and actions Consumers who feel they are not being are routinely dissected on the Internet for heard will turn to other channels to share the entire world to see. As consumers take opinions and express frustration. Many an increasingly proactive and vocal role, choose the Internet—and specifically marketers and brand managers now must social media sites including discussion navigate new and unfamiliar waters. What 2 Listening to Consumers 101
  • 4. The Challenges and Benefits of Listening There can be no doubt that packaging and have had some hands- allows researchers to avoid respondent on experience with it. Consumers often bias by studying the full scope of creating a listening culture turn to the experiences of others within consumer feedback—the good, the bad presents a challenge for many the online community for answers to and the ugly. This can be a humbling companies. In certain corners their questions or help with product experience, and in some cases brand knowledge. Understanding the questions managers will need to brace themselves of corporate America, a that typically come up can inform for what they will learn. However, many “listening as liability” mindset the language used in brand packaging marketers believe that a proactive has prevailed. inserts, Web site content, marketing approach to learning about issues being and more. What’s more, these consumer discussed is preferable to reacting to Many companies are intimidated by the experiences are logged online and visible an issue already snowballing within procedures that must be put in place to others—including potential new consumer discussion. for logging consumer feedback, seeing customers who are considering your that it gets to the right place and, most product. Understanding the questions and Expand the feedback base importantly, following through. But if we challenges that are associated with your The sheer number of consumers who are can move past these challenges, there product can help you address any issues participating in online discussion creates are some very real benefits that can be that may emerge as deal-breakers for an opportunity to collect data from a realized by tapping into social media potential future customers. much larger sample than is often possible as a resource for better understanding through survey or focus group research. consumers. Following are just a few Learn about examples of the learning opportunities social media research presents: consumers’ experiences Answer questions using the product the brand team didn’t Understand Is the packaging hard to open? Is the think to ask battery life shorter than consumers consumers’ questions expect? How does customer service Even the best survey instruments cannot Consumers who are new to a product uncover the answers to unasked questions. measure up to competitors? This type often have questions about how to use But if consumers are talking about issues of feedback can quickly bubble to the it. In many cases, these questions may outside of what is expected, listening to surface within online discussion. not occur to the consumer during the their online discussion is a great way to buying process, but only after they have learn about the topics that are driving taken the product home, removed the Avoid response bias that conversation. Having this knowledge Overcoming respondent bias is a can inform brand strategy or help shape challenge of market research. Following traditional market research efforts to consumer conversations that are naturally further explore these consumer issues. taking place in the online environment 3 Listening to Consumers 101
  • 5. Getting Started For companies ready to take a more affinity groups—making it easy for brand active role in the process of listening to managers to find relevant discussion Case Study consumers, but not sure where or how to too. Those concerned about the content A few months after the launch of start, the following steps can provide a of online conversations can start with a new prescription that used an roadmap to leveraging the digital space: a subject area different from what they innovative administration mechanism, work on. Online discussion boards are patients began reporting difficulties that were related to its adhesive Listen to the conversation public places, and members understand that any information shared there This advice may seem obvious, but application mechanism but not to the is publicly accessible, so reading the for companies wondering how to medication itself. The first accounts of information shared in these communities take advantage of the rich learning these experiences surfaced in online is not a violation of members’ privacy. opportunities in social media, this is the discussion forums four months before best place to start. There are many ways another media outlet picked up the Visit Wikipedia and see what to approach this important first step. story, and nine months before a information has been posted about major national media outlet reported the brand. Hint: Wikipedia entries Conduct an online search on the brand. on it. When the Institute for Safe typically include both an “article,” which Start by scrolling through the first 20 Medication Practices (ISMP) reported is often more reference-based, as well or 30 search results. How many of these on these difficulties, it cited messages as “discussion” that usually incorporates are written by consumers? The answer posted by patients and caregivers consumers’ input. Brand managers will may surprise you. Marketers reviewing from “several online message boards” want to be sure to read both. online search results should note that in its alert. these are the very same search results From the very first consumer- Check for consumer-created videos that consumers will find if they search generated messages on this issue, about the brand. From serious how- the same terms. patients and caregivers shared details to videos to personal stories and about their experiences, as well as testimonials to spoofs on anything from Head online to a discussion board tips and potential solutions for ways marketing to product functionality, many and start reading. Marketers could to work around the application marketers are surprised to learn how easily start with any of the large sites difficulty, such as putting the many product-themed videos (often that are home to industry-specific medication in the freezer briefly to brand-specific) are already online. For discussion—in healthcare, examples make it easier to apply. Ultimately, the many brands, snippets from news or other include WebMD or Revolution Health; pharmaceutical company marketing television coverage have been posted in in consumer technology, Howard the medication was able to go back addition to consumer-generated videos. In Forums; in automotive, Edmunds.com. to its manufacturing partner and work searching for online videos, marketers will Most discussion sites are organized to resolve the issue. want to search on both their own brands into smaller forums by subject area, as well as competitors. allowing consumers to congregate into 4 Listening to Consumers 101
  • 6. Those who are ready for a more broad- The Sheraton Hotels Web site see incorporated. The site also features ranging analysis (or simply do not (www.sheraton.com) has a form where a blog where Starbucks representatives have time to monitor the discussion guests can share their travel stories. share updates on ideas that are being themselves) may want to consider These stories are then featured on the explored further or that have already enlisting a third-party service, such as site’s home page along with photos been implemented. Nielsen Online, to provide this information. from consumers’ travels. Not all of these stories are related to a stay at a Sheraton In addition to launching a discussion Hotel—the site invites consumers to community (or instead of this approach, Facilitate the conversation share “the details, the sights, the fun and for companies that are not ready), there For companies already comfortable the tips that made your trip memorable.” are other options for helping to facilitate listening to the conversation, a next consumer discussion. step to consider is helping to build the Starbucks has received a lot of attention community in which consumers will recently for its My Starbucks Idea Web Go where the audience is. A brand team congregate. Several companies have site (http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/), might consider partnering with an existing already taken this approach. where consumers can share their own discussion site to sponsor a subforum ideas, discuss the ideas that have been for discussion related to its brand or In healthcare, GlaxoSmithKline hosts posted by other consumers and even vote product category. This type of community myalli.com, the Web site for its over-the- on which ideas they would most like to may benefit from the participation of counter weight loss product, alliTM. In addition to product information, how-to’s (in both text and video) and assessment tools to help consumers determine whether alli is right for them, the site also incorporates a very popular moderated discussion forum. As of late October 2008, the alli discussion boards boasted more than 275,000 messages written by nearly 235,000 registered uses, and the site is adding new users at a rate of 100+ per day. That is an incredible community of people supporting and encouraging one another to continue using the product—and an amazing opportunity for GSK to listen to its consumers. 5 Listening to Consumers 101
  • 7. a third-party moderator—someone Incorporate the voices of actual clearly identified as affiliated with or customers through personal stories representing the brand—who will take on the brand site. These could include part in the discussion, answer questions tips for using the product, customer and provide information, and generally success stories, personal milestones. Text keep an eye on what is being said. is the traditional format for these types of stories, but marketers may want to Provide materials that will help consider the power and influence of a consumers better define their needs, video in which a consumer tells his or her and make a more informed purchase own story directly to others who may decision. Depending on the type of have the same questions and needs. product, there are several options a brand manager might consider: for example, Allow and encourage consumers to healthcare marketers might provide a link to these resources from other Consider starting a blog. Although it brief questionnaire that helps patients sites. Consumers hungry for product may take time to research, gain approval quantify their symptoms prior to a information will actively share what they for and launch a branded blog, marketers conversation with the doctor. Automotive find with others. who raise the idea within their companies or consumer tech companies can provide may find that they are not alone in comparison charts for different models. Join the conversation thinking about leveraging this platform Marketers might also consider leveraging on behalf of their organization. There is Social media is here to stay. Web 2.0 CGM—perhaps by providing expert no doubt that launching a blog will take is a fact of life. Corporate blogging is a advice from a blogger who is known in work and planning—marketers who start reality—in fact, a survey conducted by the field, or by sharing relevant content now may just be able to make it happen PRWeek in early 2008 concluded that based on questions that frequently come down the road. 15% of Fortune 500 companies are up in CGM discussion. blogging. It may be hard to envision the possibility of a corporate blog within Share product information or how-to’s some companies or industries. But there in the form of podcasts that can be was a time when automotive executives downloaded from the brand’s Web site. could not imagine allowing a corporate This brief video format allows consumers blog—and today, both GM and Toyota to watch again and again and to take the have successful, popular blogs led by information along with them for viewing high-ranking corporate executives. at a convenient time. 6 Listening to Consumers 101
  • 8. Appoint someone from the brand For any company, taking steps to begin team to take an active role in listening to social media discussion can About the Author online discussion as an be a challenging task. But the potential As Research Director, representative of the brand. Under no rewards are powerful: companies stand Healthcare, Melissa circumstances should companies try to gain a better understanding of their Davies oversees a “stealth” approach—there is a high consumers’ authentic voices, their integrated Nielsen likelihood that this approach will be successes and frustrations, their actual Online research and discovered and the potential damage to experiences. Consumers can share in the analytics for the the brand’s reputation is great. In fact, benefits by having their voices heard company’s healthcare legislation enacted in the U.K. in May and their needs better understood. practice, which serves the top 15 largest 2008 makes it a criminal offense for a Many companies are already seeing the pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. as brand representative to falsely represent benefits of listening to—and, in some well as many other healthcare clients. In him/herself as a consumer in online cases, participating in—consumers’ online this role, Melissa has managed research discussion. Having a brand representative discussion. For other companies, though projects to study patient/consumer active in the online community creates the challenges in getting started may perceptions about multiple disease an opportunity to share information seem particularly steep, the potential categories, emerging and established about product developments or new rewards can be well worth the effort. treatments, and key marketplace issues R&D efforts, point individuals to helpful affecting the healthcare industry. information or other resources and Melissa joined Nielsen Online as a Senior provide answers or additional input when Analyst with BuzzMetrics, which provides questions (or misinformation) are shared. monitoring and insights based on online When this is done with an open, honest, consumer-generated media (CGM). straight-forward approach, members of the online community tend to appreciate the fact that a company cares enough about its consumers to meet them on their own turf. About The Nielsen Company The Nielsen Company is a global information and media company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and business publications. Recognized as an industry leader in enabling companies to protect and promote brands through the measurement and analysis of consumer-generated media, Nielsen BuzzMetrics uncovers data-driven insights culled daily from more than a million blogs and social networks worldwide. Nielsen delivers trusted brand metrics, meaningful consumer insights and real-time market intelligence to help marketers compete and thrive in today’s consumer-driven world. To learn more about how Nielsen can help with your listening strategies, contact sales.us@nielsen.com or visit www.nielsen.com The Nielsen Company 770 Broadway New York, NY 10003-9590 Copyright ©2008, The Nielsen Company. All rights reserved. Nielsen and the Nielsen logo are trademarks of The Nielsen Company.