In my last post, I talked about the importance of knowing your audience.  As a marketer, you really can’t know enough about the people who use your products or services.  Social media makes listening to your audience’s concerns, wants, and needs very simple.

But you have to actively listen!   Why?  Because this can make or break your company.

I’ve already established that giving customers what they want, by engaging and interacting with them, and providing content that is relevant to their lives are keys to marketing success on social media.  Let’s look at what happens when a company fails to do just that.

Case Study: Orkut

Launched in 2004, the Google-owned social networking site Orkut rose to stardom rather quickly, most notably in Brazil.  Within its first year, it boasted over 1,500,000 communities consisting of users who were looking to connect with people for a variety of reasons.  Some were looking for classmates, others friends, and still others joined or created communities for coworkers, schools, or neighborhoods.

Orkut remained on top in Brazil until it closed up shop in 2014.  So what happened?

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Branded Social Experiences

From a design standpoint, Orkut appeared to be doing things right. Their website had a clean, sophisticated interface that was easy to use. It also allowed users to rate their friends, turning the experience into something of a friendly competition.  This gamification feature really pulled users in and keep them engaged.

The problem for Orkut came when the ceased to listen to their users.

In Brazil, where Orkut really had its market, 77% of social media users prefer online shopping. They expect brands to engage them via social gaming and online video.

Orkut failed to adapt to the preferences of their audience.  Instead of improving their website’s functionality, they ignored it and were eventually replaced by other culturally appropriate platforms.

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The Take-Away

In order to stay relevant to your audience and to keep them engaged, you have to listen to them and change with them.  Thankfully, social media provides marketers with the tools they need to do that.

By listening to your audience, you gain valuable insight about your customer’s experience with your brand.  There are two ways to do this:  via participant listening or unobtrusive listening.

Participant listening means joining a group and studying it as if you were a member.   With this approach, you’re actively engaging with consumers and asking them for feedback.  But not everyone will tell the company directly their real thoughts or concerns.  This is where unobtrusive listening comes in.

In unobtrusive listening, you act as a detached party.  You’ll need to seek out conversations about your brand in other places and see what people are saying to each other, not to the company. Thankfully, a lot of social media sites have this functionality built so that marketers can search for conversations based on keywords and phrases.

Orkut could have kept its place on top had it been listening to its audience and adapting to their needs.  What are your thoughts on this?  Is there anything else Orkut could have done better?

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