The best feedback about your brand comes when consumers speak with other consumers, success in 2013 for brands means listening even harder to the online conversation.
I recently attended an industry event in which a Twitter hashtag was projected onto the presentations being given throughout the day, to encourage discussion among those attending the event or viewing it streamed online.
As I was keen to socialise the event, and at the same time put across my thoughts and observations from the presentations taking place, I tweeted/sent LinkedIn updates to my networks throughout the event, always including the event hashtag.
I noticed there was someone who was re-tweeting me throughout the event, as well as adding as much commentary as I was; it was clear this person was also at the event. From their Twitter profile picture I was able to quickly identify the person in the room (the dodgy haircut and flamboyant shirt in their picture, which they had also elected to wear at this event, was an easy indicator).
As the presentations carried on, and both our commentaries continued at the same pace, it occurred to me that during the intermissions/networking periods of the event, I would introduce myself directly to this person, as there was clearly some common ground. Besides their questionable fashion sense, when the natural and opportune moment came for me to introduce myself, I quickly reconsidered, and simply let the person walk by; this got me thinking (after the event) – is this the same for consumers when interacting with brands?
In a face-to-face scenario, people find it difficult to relay their true impressions, opinions, likes/dislikes, sentiment or indeed even enter into discussion. In an online environment, with no distractions, but still interacting with a brand or other consumers in a direct fashion (anonymously or as a known user), you are more likely to give a true response.
As a brand, observing the peer-to-peer dialogue you get in brand groups/communities, you are able to witness discussions that are a product of true opinion, perhaps in part as a result of the diminished social/personable restrictions that face-to-face interaction can sometimes evoke.
The point? If you really want to understand what people think of you, your brand or product, switch the conversation to an online forum, and put your ear to the monitor. Encourage and galvanise P2P dialogue. Monitor this from a distance or become actively (and objectively) involved. Understand the wants, needs and feedback from these open discussions, roll with the punches, improve the negatives, and emphasise the positives.