"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Only that's not fair to the hammer. A blacksmith can use a hammer to make a nail—or a hinge, or a piece of sculpture. A jeweler can use a hammer to make a gold leaf. A hammer drives the chisel of the stone carver. OK, there are different types of specialized hammers. The point is, some very similar tools can be used for very different purposes by different specialists. Online monitoring tools are like that, too.
Last Thursday, two online monitoring companies held simultaneous webcasts. Makes it tough on the schedule (what was wrong with all the other hours last week?), but it was interesting to see the different topics chosen by companies with similar services.
First up (because I had to pick) was Mining the Blogosphere, with Umbria's Howard Kaushansky and Brains on Fire's Geno Church. They painted a picture of blog monitoring as a near-real-time market research tool for marketers. Two examples stuck with me: a CPG company measuring online buzz to determine that a competitor's product launch was failing, and BoF gauging before-and-after visibility of Fiskars for a word-of-mouth program.
Cymfony's Jim Nail, meanwhile, was hosting The Changing Face of PR, where social media were discussed as one of three big trends affecting PR (the social media section starts at 40:30, if you want to skip ahead). There were some pretty clear expectations that blog monitoring is at least partly a PR function, and some very interesting data points from the 2006 PRWeek/Cymfony Corporate Survey (PDF):
- Over 40% of respondents listed "developing a media relations program for new technologies (e.g., blogs, podcasts, RSS, etc.)" as a top-of-mind media issue for 2007 (#5 on the list).
- But 62% don't have a strategy for responding to blogs today, and regular blog monitoring is not a habit for most companies:
- 25% don't monitor blogs for mentions of their companies at all.
- 34% monitor blogs less than weekly.
- Only 16% monitor blogs at least daily.
- Blog monitoring serves multiple purposes, but the majority cited buzz tracking and reputation management as their goals. Over 40% also cited competitive insight, customer understanding, crisis prevention/detection, and awareness of developing brands as additional goals.
I don't think any one functional group is going to have an exclusive claim to a company's social media activities; it affects too many functional areas for that. The idea of my social media relations suggestion is that someone needs to be the point person for getting the company up to speed in social media and coordinating its responses to the issues that emerge.
It's certainly interesting to see the same topics from the perspectives of different functional groups. I think it's about time to go get the IT perspective.