As any business seeks to better understand customer needs and behaviors, it’s no secret that Social Media has opened more doors to CRM opportunities than ever before. Last week while reading a recent marketing blog, I was amazed to observe that the writer failed to suggest the current trend of social networking as a frontline method for creating a relationship with customers.

Like never before Social Media is providing a colossal platform allowing us to hear what our customers are saying. It is quickly becoming one of the best ways to engage a customer and gain valuable insight into their experience with our products as well as those of our competition. Are you listening?

This explosive technology could permit any business to identify competitive threats or opportunities through information that might not otherwise be detected without listening to thousands of customers. Historically, formal focus groups were utilized as the most common means of collecting this data in-person from the end user. Perhaps one could imply at this juncture that social media is quickly becoming the new focus group.

Consider for a moment that while traditional focus groups draw in customers to discuss their experiences, so are Social Networks providing the same information. Is there really a significant difference? The value of a focus group depends largely on quality of questions posed to the participants with all the biases that are incorporated into a question. The main disparity is that social media presents a very public review of a product or company’s benefits and even shortcomings. However, we must not ignore the exponential numbers of consumers who are vocalizing this valuable data. It is often more candid than any focus group could provide.

Getting connected with them is just part of the solution. Connecting & engaging within these social mediums is relatively easy part. Nevertheless, just like any other ‘marketing” effort, its success is not realized without measurement. Therefore, the opportunity exists in figuring out what to do with the unstructured data.

Fortunately there is technology available to “interpret” this valuable data. Utilizing a multi-dimensional analysis, we convert various forms of feedback into an actionable plan then we take it one step further. We are examining customer ratings across the market of nearly 20,000 products. Many of the companies who have attempted their own translations had to invest very significant amounts of money into text mining implementation projects that allow handling feedback about only their own products. With more than 1.4 million reviews, our database can deliver satisfaction scores from real world consumers about your products as well as that of your competition.

Self help author and motivational speaker, Robert Kiyosaki, was quoted last year as saying ‘I am a bit old to focus on social media now but I spend an average of two hundred thousand dollars monthly through hired employees or consultants on social media, online reputation etc’. While the use of social media as a marketing tool is still in its early stages, let’s not ignore this novel opportunity to act on customer feedback.