If Your Business is Still Using Comment Cards, This Post is For You

Do you really think comment cards still work? If so, please let me lead you into the new millenium…

In the past, companies have relied on a number of research methods to determine what customers think about their brand.  Restaurants used comment cards at the table, which ultimately got mangled, torn, or destroyed by splatterings of food.  I wouldn’t dare touch them, but I’d call my friend to tell them how great the new restaurant I tried was…

Funny Comment Card
Is this really what you want?

More recently, those comment cards have become  online surveys that your waiter reminds you to complete for a chance to win a free dinner.  Don’t know about you, but I forget about it by the time I got home.  But I may tweet or post to Facebook how upset I was at the service….

Bigger organizations would  (and still do) select customers for in-person focus groups, which usually came with a cash incentive for the customer ($20 and up) to participate.  The problem with that?  If you know the company is paying you to give your opinion, the opinion is more likely to be more positive.  Moreover, since the focus groups consist of multiple participants, the participants begin agreeing with each other, even if they wouldn’t agree with the opinion in a one-on-one situation. This phenomenon is called “groupthink.”  And yes, we all do it.

One of the many great things about social media is that you can see exactly what customers are saying about you,  in real-time, without the bias of an incentive or groupthink.  Consider the following:

“I love Marcella’s!  I hope my husband takes me their for our one year anniversary.”


That’s an example of a fairly common tweet or Facebook post that you may see from a friend.  But for Marcella’s, that’s important insight.  It tells Marcella’s that a customer sees their restaurant as a special occasion restaurant.  If Marcella’s continues to monitor and this is a common sentiment – “Marcella’s = Special Occasions”,  it may be worth their while to take a look at their marketing strategy.  By the way, Marcella’s is one of my favorite Columbus, OH restaurants….call me. 🙂

So how do you get started with this fancy social media monitoring? Some companies purchase pricey social media monitoring tools, such as SM2 by Alterian, or Radian6.   They’re extremely powerful and have their merit, but with price tags in the thousands, these monitoring tools are too pricey for the average small business.

Social Mention

The good news is, there are free tools out there that any business can use to test out the waters of social media monitoring. I like IceRocket and Social Mention.  They’re basically search engines for the social space, no need to download any software. Both of them have pros and cons, but with a few quick tips, you can begin your social search.

Social Search Engines Aren’t Like Google

If your brand has an ambiguous name, like Marcella’s, the search engine doesn’t know that the Marcella’s you’re looking for is a restaurant in Columbus, and not a person who’s about to have  the party of the year that everyone’s talking about on Twitter.   The results are strictly in chronological order, so sometimes finding the gems requires a little digging. Take a look at the search results for Marcellas on IceRocket…can you spot the relevant info?

IceRocket Search Results for Marcella's
There are a few entries related to the Restaurant – Businesses have to see through the noise

Think Like Your Customer

This is similar to the above point: in the world where Google can predict what you meant to search for, it’s easy to forget the voice of your customer.  If your trade name is “Phil’s Shoes and Socks”, don’t just search for that term, search for “Phil’s Shoes” or “phils shoes” or “phils socks.”  Or maybe they simply call it, “phils.”  Consider every variation of your business’ name to ensure you’re capturing all of the conversation.

Spy on Your Competition

If your Phil’s Shoes and Socks, you may want to check out how “Sharon’s Shoe Warehouse” is doing.  With social media monitoring, you can…and no one will know!

Look at what consumers are saying about your industry, in general

It’s winter, and Phil from Phil’s Shoes and Socks wants to know what people are saying about winter shoes.  He wants to know what products he may need more of or what he may need less of.  Or maybe someone needs a recommendation on warm winter shoes.

Phil would be a fool to not respond to this post with a recommendation

Save some money, do your research and you’ll keep your current customers happy, and hopefully get a lot of great new prospect.

If you’re a small business owner who’s already doing social media monitoring, what tools do you use? Have you found success with your monitoring efforts?

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