There is no need to say that the use of Internet and social media has increased incredibly fast and have become one of the most important aspects of people’s life. With an average time spent online of six hours per day in 2014, it is an undeniable fact that Internet plays a major role in every day life. About 30% of the time online, is spent on social networks, like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Besides that, another 15% of the online time is spent on micro-blogging, like Twitter (Mander, 2015). When taking Facebook as the example, the reason for using this social network has changed over the years as well. Where Facebook first functioned as a platform to share your personal activities with friends, it has changed in to a new online environment for businesses as well. Companies increasingly use the online network for marketing purposes and clients use it as an online service desk at the same time. In terms of customer engagement, it is important to have a high level of interaction online and to get to know your customers in a different way. This could be achieved by applying the theory of social listening.
As customer engagement is all about building relationships with your customers it is extremely important to know your customer and to know what the best way would be for approaching them. To get the complete customer profile and to build intensive relationships, it is important to know the customer not only as just a “buyer” of your product, but also as a person and to understand the context he or she is living in (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). As Gerard Wolfs explains in the book of Peelen and Beltman (p. 202, 2013), the key of building a relationship with your customer is to get to know the story behind the event or purchase. Understanding why a customer bought a particular product is more important than just the fact that he or she just bought that product. There should be a balance between the objective data, such as the demographical, monetary and frequency statistics and the subjective data that explains the emotional elements of the purchase. This emotional intelligence becomes more important than just the statistics itself and the only way to understand these subjective aspects is by listening to your customers.
Social listening relates to using social media to listen to your customers and collect the subjective type of data. This for the reason that customers share a lot of personal information on these platforms. At the moment a company shares a post, people start to react and ‘tag’ friends and a high level of interaction takes place on the Facebook page. As social listening is about monitoring and analyzing these digital conversations, it is important to follow this interaction and to get involved in these conversations to be able to get a better understanding (Griffith, 2016). For the tour operating industry, social listening is very important as well as your goal is to improve the customer profiles for marketing purposes. An example of a company that has a high level of interaction on social media is the Dutch travel company SRPRS.ME. Every time they post something on Facebook, they provoke reactions and comments from potential customers. People start talking about where they would like to go, with whom they would like to go and in some cases even when they could go on holiday. All this personal information is valuable for the company, in terms of getting to know your customer in a different way than just from a ‘buyer’ perspective. When people tag a friend and say: “Let’s go on a broke holiday in October”, SPRS.ME can use this information for personalized marketing. This is the key of social listening and therefor extremely important in the modern society with the increasing use of social media.
Another tour operator that definitely listens to its customers is Footprint Travel. The interaction on their Facebook page is not specifically high, but they actively reply to comments of their clients. Besides gathering data of their clients, they also try to make them aware of alternative products and take the opportunity of social interaction for commercial goals, but all in a friendly way.
Source: Footprint Travel Facebook (29 September, 2016).
Griffith, G. (September, 2016). Get to know customers better by monitoring social media sentiment. Retrieved on 28th September, 2016 from http://raconteur.net/business/get-to-know-customers-better-by-monitoring-social-media-sentiment
Mander, J. (January, 2015). Daily time spent on social networks rises to 1.72 hours. Retrieved on 28th September, 2016 from https://www.globalwebindex.net/blog/daily-time-spent-on-social-networks-rises-to-1-72-hours
Peelen, E. & Beltman, R. (2013). Chapter 5, Customer Knowledge Strategy. In E. Peelen, & R. Beltman, Customer Relationship Management (Vol. 2, pp. 93 – 116). United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.