Meet Katie the Grumpy Canadian, a 20-something resident of the Canadian Maritimes, and denizen of YouTube.
A disgruntled Bell Aliant customer turned thankul.
True to her pseudonym, Katie uses her profile on the Google-owned social media site as a megaphone for her consumer complaints.
She’s placed her crosshairs of customer angst on violence in media, the Ontario Court of Justice, and even YouTube itself. But her video blog took a different tone when addressing the service of her ISP, Bell Aliant.
“I’m giving kudos today because Aliant sent me an e-mail. I’m assuming it’s because of my first rant on here,” she says.
The Halifax, N.S.-based company had previously been skewered on Katie’s video blog due to technical difficulties getting her connection up and running.
But when it was notified of the video by Radian6, the online reputation company that Bell Aliant was trying out, Bell Aliant took action to resolve the matter.
“It’s a really good example of being able to resolve a customer situation that we became aware of online and were able to direct appropriately within the organization,” says Isabelle Robinson, public affairs manager at Bell Aliant.
Katie changed her tune from outrage to gratitude after a simple e-mail offering to help resolve her issue.
“Aliant, you do care,” the not-so-grumpy Canadian says, “I take back what I said, thank you. Good for you guys for actually going back and looking at what people say.”
Bell has now been a customer of Radian6 for six months. The Fredericton, N.B.-based company is taking a unique approach to its online reputation service.
The Web-based dashboard system it offers clients provides hard metrics that nail down where on the Web conversations are occurring about a brand, not to mention the volume and tone.
Cutting through the nebulous nature of social media conversations and getting a grip on how a company’s brand is being perceived in the social media world is quickly becoming essential, a communications consultant says.
Listening to the conversation is no longer enough – smart companies engage, says Michael O’Connor Clarke, vice-president of Ottawa-based Thornley Fallis Communications that specializes in the integration of social media with public relations.
“Any company – large, medium, or small – should be figuring out how to interact with their customers online and how to engage with them,” Clarke says. “If they don’t do that, they should be prepared to see their business change for the worse.”
The Radian6 dashboard displays its metrics in customizable widgits.
The Web provides opportunity for businesses to hear conversations they weren’t privy to before, he adds. What neighbours used to talk about over the backyard fence is now broadcast for the world to see on blogs, social networking sites, and the like.
By providing tools that listen to those social media channels, Radian6 aims to help clients “determine what’s being said, who’s saying it, and then go out there and engage in conversations about your brand as they’re taking place,” says Chris Ramsey, vice-president of business development at Radian6.
The company provides a Web-based dashboard that clients set up themselves. Once the dashboard is tuned into what to look for on the Web, it is updated every 15 minutes thanks to a social media crawler that scans social media sites on an ongoing basis.
Customizable widgets on the dashboard allow a client to tune into a new conversation whenever they like and immediately get results back.
Beyond finding the discussions around a company brand, the service also offers metrics to help cut through the white noise and determine the most significant conversations.
“Take a blog post that says ‘I love this new laptop I just got’,” Ramsey says. “If there were 100 comments but only 25 unique commentators, that’s an important ratio because it means people are actually having a conversation there.”
Aside from offering absolute values on the number of comments made about a post, the page hits, unique visitors, and the number of other Web sites linking to it, the dashboard also adds up all the metrics to come up with a score out of 100 to rate the influence of one conversation.
At Bell Aliant, the service has become an extension of the company’s interactions with customers, Robinson says. As PR manager, she is the company’s main user of the software, and has used it to turn the Web into a two-way channel to talk with customers.
She has a list of Search terms and is able to go into the dashboard applications and easily track or monitor any references to the company.
“There’s a lot of conversation happening and you really need a tool that makes it easy for you to get down to the core of what’s out there and what you can tangibly monitor.”
The tool allows users to drill down to content based on geography, or type of influence and volume of activity, she adds.
Robinson uses a top 10 list as a snapshot to see where the most popular conversations about Bell Aliant are taking place on the Web. This helps her hone in on the important conversations, as opposed to one-off mentions of the brand.
“That’s the difference between having a tool and just going online and trying to do something yourself using a Google search,” she says.
Robinson also has the option of classifying conversations based on their tone – as positive or negative. This is done by selecting thumbs up, thumbs down, or neutral icons from a “sentiment classifications” menu.
Bell Aliant has long practiced tracking what is said about its brand in traditional media. Now Robinson has added Radian6’s dashboard to her daily tabulation of references made in newspapers and on television.
Companies are beginning to understand that social media is a new channel that deserves equal attention compared to traditional media, Radian6’s Ramsey says. By applying metrics to that space, they are allowing companies to track it the same way they track references in mainstream publications and broadcasts.
The two-year old company is finding it easier to convey the value of its services these days.
“We don’t have to explain it nearly as much as we did six months ago or a year ago,” he says. “The level of awareness is increasing at a pretty good clip right now.”
But buying a slick dashboard doesn’t mean a company will suddenly become a savvy new media player, Clarke says. Companies need to research what their objective of online engagement should be and figure out what sort of activity in that space would fit its corporate culture and brand image.
“The tools are just one step in the overall process,” he says. “They come when you’re already pretty deep in to the process.”
Radian6 sells its services on a subscription basis, Robinson says. A company can create multiple profiles for the dashboard that is hosted by the Radian6 servers.
Clarke commends Radian6 for its pioneering initiatives in reputation management.
“They’re the first people to have thought it through well enough to implement social media metrics in a simple way and make it meaningful. “They’ve got the most complete product so far.”
The company counts several big names among its clients. That includes Moosehead Breweries, Network Solutions and Dell Inc.
Perhaps with a few more company’s attention turned to the Web, there will be less grumpy Canadians and more satisfied ones.