Nissan’s Loud and Clear Lessons in Social Listening

By: Jerry Ascierto

February 17, 2017

When it comes to social listening, it can be difficult to cut through the noise.

While many analytics tools attempt to measure sentiment—to quantify how positive or negative a social media post or engagement is received—it has proven to be an elusive metric, even for a brand as big as Nissan.

“It’s something we struggle with,” says Bryan Long, Nissan North America’s senior manager of social media customer strategy. “Sentiment is a popular term with executives because it has meaning, but it’s a very difficult thing to calculate with any accuracy and really nobody has that down.”

Yet, one of the most common mistakes organizations make when setting up a social listening operation is in drawing far-reaching conclusions from the analytics, instead of concentrating on each individual interaction.

“One big misconception is trying to model the information in social media into something you want it to be, instead of listening to what the customer is saying and fixing the problem presented to you,” says Long. “The customer experience comes one person at a time.”

Long, who will speak on the panel “Social Media Monitoring That Informs Your Business” at the upcoming Social Shake-Up, May 22-24 in Atlanta, provided a few other lessons Nissan has learned in its social listening efforts.

The Write Stuff

Long has found that the most important skill set for a social listening team member isn’t necessarily a background in customer service. Talking to customers over the phone or face-to-face requires a different discipline than doing so online.

In short, social customer care is all about the importance of the written word.

Nissan North America, senior manager of social media customer strategy, Bryan Long

Bryan Long, senior manager of social media customer strategy, Nissan North America

“Hire the best writers you can find,” he advises. “We’ve tried to convert people from various call centers, people that are experienced in customer satisfaction, and they just can’t make it in terms of writing. You need a unique and thoughtful talent—it’s all about the way you respond, and understanding that you’re not just responding to one but 1,000 customers.”

Within the Hour

Social listening isn’t a part-time job. While a metric like sentiment may be difficult to grasp, paying close attention to tools that monitor what people say about your brand is critical day and night.

“We’re constantly watching because you never know when something might pop,” Long says. “It’s about understanding that at any moment, things can get out of hand.”

Customers generally demand a one-hour response time, a key performance indicator that has remained fairly steady over the last few years. But that expectation may not remain so steady going forward.

“My sense is that’s going to change and continue to decrease,” Long says. “At some point in time, customers will demand a quicker response.”

If you don’t have an immediate response—if a customer’s issue requires research—it’s important to let them know a response is coming.

“We’ll get back to them to say that it may take another day to find out,” he says. “Just the fact that you said that is the important thing.”

Learn more from Nissan’s Bryan Long at The Social Shake-Up, which will be held May 22-24, 2017 in Atlanta. Brand communicators from Coca-Cola, Dunkin’ Donuts, the Atlanta Hawks, Arby’s and many more will speak on a breadth of topics from content marketing to measurement to Snapchat strategy.

Facebook Preferred

About 80% of Nissan’s social media volume is found on Facebook and Twitter, with the remainder split between Instagram and YouTube and to a lesser extent, Snapchat.

But while it has a very active Twitter account, the company primarily focuses on Facebook to provide more individualized service. That way, customers feel better about providing personal information—a telephone or VIN number, for instance—without it becoming public to the brand’s more than 700,000 Twitter followers.

“It’s a much more personal approach, and an easier conversation to have on Facebook,”


Follow Bryan: @TBryanLong

Follow Jerry: @JAscierto

At The Social Shake-Up