This is a re-post of an article that I had the honor of writing in www.cio.co.ke in response to Sunny Bindra’s article within the same publication.
As a follow up to our exclusive interview with Sunny Bindra titled Social Media: Should enterprises pay heed to #TwitterBigStick?, Dennis Mbuvi talked to Muthoni Maingi, who disagrees with some of the view’s in the interview with Bindra.
Muthoni Maingi, a Brand Strategist and Director at Deviate Brand Strategy, Management and Media . She also owns two online magazines, a digital signage property and sits on the board of an upcoming women’s information technology and creativity hub. She is currently also co-organizing a web and app business competition this year. You can follow her on Twitter @NonieMG.
She believes that brand reputation is broader than social media, or even a few Twitter hashtags. Here is what she has to say on the matter.
Many Kenyan companies are looking into how better to manage their online brand reputations. Out of this, the idea of tagging sentiments, positive or negative, to hash tags was born from some notable Kenyans. However, the online world in Kenya is not limited to Twitter. In fact, it is a small fragment of the Kenyan online scene falling at number 8 – in a study carried out in 2011- in terms of popular sites visited by Kenyans.
What you need to be asking yourself as a brand manager is whether manpower should be dedicated to monitor a hash tag, which is popularly used on the eighth most popular platform. That has brought about complaints that vary from overlapping drivers to bad customer service in restaurants, especially if you manage, let’s say a paint company.
“I disagree with those seeking to push hash tag monitoring as key aspect of online positive and/or negative sentiments. Let’s begin with the idea that people had no voice and were not able to complain and be heard before a hash tag existed. This is false, people have been complaining and giving thumbs up in droves in the online space from its existence. They have been doing it in forums, corporate Facebook pages, and their personal blogs and on Twitter way before the hash tag came along. The problem, however, is that most companies were not employing tools that allowed them to listen to collective online complaints and praise.
This is where one could say a hash tag that curates complaints and praise collectively comes in, right? No. For a brand to manage itself efficiently and to provide better CRM, it should not dedicate effort to monitor a hash tag which essentially is noise. It’s not every day that someone will complain about you; why follow noise on other brands and misbehaving drivers that have no relation whatsoever to your paint company?
But this is looking at it from the business side of things. What if you were a consumer that wished to voice your complaint? In all honesty if a brand is not online and not bothered with managing their online reputation, well they won’t get to know about your complaint and address your issue.
It is understandable that with the rise of social media such as blogs and social networks-which are more than Twitter and Facebook- there is fueled interest in sentiment analysis for brands, as it has allowed consumers to voice their opinions at a fast and, sometimes, viral rate. However, monitoring all online space is better done with sentiment engines, as any reputable online brand manager will tell you.
A sentiment engine aims to determine the attitude of a speaker or a writer with respect to some topic or the overall contextual polarity of a document. The attitude may be his or her judgment or evaluation, affective state (that is to say, the emotional state of the author when writing), or the intended emotional communication (that is to say, the emotional effect the author wishes to have on the reader). The beauty of a sentiment engine is that it can be trained to monitor words that may escape it as well. For example, if you are a snack company, you can have it tag obvious related words such as crisps, Nairobi, Kenya, as well as those that are indirectly related e.g. fry, frying, potatoes, macripo (sheng) etc. Another key point that all brand managers will appreciate in terms of efficiency is that sentiment engines sweep the entire Internet, and are not limited to a particular site. They also help you cut through the noise directed at other brands, or if you wish they can monitor complaints and praise of your competitors too. And yes they will pick up online comments made on hash tags on Twitter.
With regards to better service for consumers, your best bet is to make as much positive or negative noise on the brand, on whatever online forum. If they are online and listening, they will see it and if they’re good at brand management, they will respond accordingly. However, the key is in getting more businesses online and allowing them the tools to serve you better. If they are too busy monitoring a hash tag, they’ll miss out on your complaint in your blog for example.
As businesses look to automate the process of filtering out the noise, understanding the conversations, identifying the relevant content and appropriately putting it into action, it is a great option for them to look into the field of sentiment analysis. A lot of these tools can be found online and the beauty of it is that there are a large variety of them, which are free and would work amazingly well for small businesses; such as Social Mention, Google Alerts, BoardReader and Viral Heat. However, if you do have the budget, getting a tailor made one/ or a paid model one for you is a good idea. One can look at companies such as Open Calais, Lexalytics, Text Analytics, and Rapide UK for this.”