MUMBAI: As more Indian consumers go online and join social networking sites, the head of PepsiCo India has stressed the importance of monitoring these in order to be fully aware of customer sentiment.

"We do digital listening at PepsiCo," chief executive D Shivakumar told a marketing conference. "We get brand-by-brand reports every morning – positive sentiment, negative sentiment, what are the issues etc."

Brand managers and those engaged in research and development are looking every day at what's being said online, he explained, "to make sure there is a sense of consumer sentiment".

The need to be cognisant of this had become essential, he claimed, as people increasingly discussed things online and trusted the communities they were involved in.

"Today the brand is no longer talking to one consumer, but two consumers are talking to each other, with the brand in between," he said.

And, in a passing reference to the Maggi noodle food scare, he warned that there could be a "volcano of commentary" on bad experiences.

Dealing with such problems could be difficult, not least in the timing of a response."Too early, may be no use and too late, again no use – you have to judge the pulse of consumers in social media and hence, all good companies need to do … digital listening every day," he stated.

The benefits of social listening, however, need not be limited to timely interventions when a problem arises; it can also highlight new opportunities and lead a brand in unexpected directions.

Tuomas Peltoniemi, head of Digital Arts Network (DAN) Singapore – an umbrella organisation for digital specialists currently working within TBWA – has described this as "marketing at the speed of culture".

That means, he told a Singapore conference earlier this year, emulating a start-up mentality – assessing insights, developing and launching ideas quickly, and measuring the response. "This cycle, if it happens on a daily basis, can bring us something pretty unique," he said.

He cited the example of carmaker Nissan, which issued a jokey response to a tweet by a popular Canadian electronic music DJ. This developed into a conversation that generated significant media value and attracted a new fanbase for the brand.

Data sourced from Financial Express, Exchange4Media; additional content by Warc staff