Go to any conference, tune into any webcast, read any business article, and there’s an excellent chance social media is mentioned. It is quite simply one of the hottest topics in our culture today. One needs only to look at the recent events in the Middle East to get a sense of how profound a tool this has become culturally. It is noteworthy how consumers are fundamentally changing the mix of time they spend not only online, but also in their own lives – in favor of many different flavors of social media. What were websites are now Facebook pages; what were blog posts are now tweets; and who was reading a food critic review is now querying Yelp. What was a PC is now a mobile device, allowing us to send and receive information nearly every waking hour of the day. Everything is changing in how we, as a society, communicate.
Business models are, of course, profoundly affected. For example, new sites like Groupon are revolutionizing coupons, and companies such as Comcast are transforming the manner in which customer service can be addressed. This new approach represents the latest in a continuum of communications, flooding our lives with content via the Internet pipes that connect us all.
A recent Harvard Business Review study takes a look at the implications of this phenomenon. From understanding the topics consumers are talking about and where those online conversations are taking place to the sentiment associated with those conversations, it is a brave new world for business. The marriage of text analytics – whereby businesses extract meaning from free-form text found in all sorts of documents such as e-mails, Web pages, call center notes, etc. – opens up new possibilities for harnessing online conversations. Successful companies will need a keener sense of hearing this dialogue, as well as an understanding of exactly when it is best to insert themselves into the discussions. Your customers are already talking about you. Do you know what they are saying? Read on to find out how many other companies do.
Download the latest social media research from Harvard Business Review: The New Conversation