Just imagine the valuable business insights you could gain from being a fly on the wall while customers discuss you, your competitors and your industry. The intel gained would beat that of any forced focus group activity. That’s exactly the kind of business intelligence you can access when you implement a social listening strategy to track, analyze, and respond to online conversations about your brand and your industry.
How I learned the power of Social Listening
I first discovered the value of social listening when I started out as a social media manager – one of my early clients, Delay Repay Sniper (UK), help commuters claim back delay repay from late or cancelled trains. To try spark more conversations and engage with potential users of the service, I started monitoring some particular keywords on Twitter.
I started with words like “Delay”, “Train Delay” but soon realised that these were to broad and my stream was filled with mentions from around the world, so I closed in on the names of rail companies and more local specific words like “Delay Repay” “Victoria Station” “Southern Fail” and “Oyster Card” and I was there! – often engaging with commuters complaining directly to a rail company before the rail company’s SM team had got there. From there I engaged, showed empathy, listened and if the conversation was relevant, offered our DRS free trial – the results rolled in. I’ll have to write up a full case study on this sometime and include our tracked ROI on the efforts, but it’s safe to say that the results were great. Delay Repay Sniper is still a client of ours today!
So What is Social Listening?
Social listening is the process of monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors, product, and any other themes that are relevant to your business. The next step is analyzing that information for actionable insights. Those actions can range from engaging a happy customer to shifting your overall brand positioning strategy.
Why your business should care about social listening
To put it simply, if you’re not engaged in social media listening, you’re creating your business strategy with your eyes closed. You’re missing out on loads of actionable insights from real people who are actively conversing about you or your industry online and sharing their real thoughts, reactions and opinions —why wouldn’t you want to listen to them? In short, if you don’t care about social listening, you don’t care about your customers, and that’s just shortsighted. If you listen and respond, not only will you gain valuable insight but you will also build social trust.
Why social listening is so important
Engaging with existing and potential customers
This can apply to conversations that lead to new customers as well as making sure you’re in touch with your existing customers and their perception of you. This data is so important and yet so many companies and brands use Social Media as a loudspeaker – a place to speak/advertise, when the really powerful aspect of social media is that you can listen and learn – your customers are having these honest conversations online everyday, that’s quality data!
Most conversations about your brand online are not tagging you – therefore it’s important to go actively monitor what is being said and get involved in the conversation.
Find out how people perceive you in comparison to your competitors
Since you’ll be listening not only to what people are saying about your brand on social media, but also what they’re saying about your competitors, you’ll get valuable insights about where you fit in the customer perceptions of your industry.
You’ll also get great real-time intelligence about what your competitors are up to, so you can determine how to respond to new threats and opportunities.
If your company or brand is very big you may need to outsource a dedicated social media team / agency to keep up with this feedback, either that or hire the team in house. One thing is for sure – you definitely don’t want to be ignoring it!
Discover strategic wins or problems in real time
On which platform or which of your posts is getting the highest engagement?
If social sentiment about your brand abruptly changes one way or the other, you can dig into individual posts to get a sense of what you’ve done so right—or wrong. Remember, data always trumps opinion – learn to listen to the data and not make excuses or assumptions – the data is there to help you.
If listening activity is showing your current campaign to be very successful, take notes about elements of the campaign or strategy that you could carry forward and apply to future efforts. If things have gone sideways, review the social feedback for lessons that could prevent a similar misstep. And most importantly – if you’re mid campaign and your listening efforts are telling you that customers are not getting it or not resonating with the message – you can adapt and save it before it’s too late, or at least not place too much ‘weight on the step’ – lower the resources allocated to the campaign if all signs are showing that it will be unsuccessful.
Discover pain points in your industry and be the first to address them
By monitoring significant keywords related to your industry, you can start to uncover feedback and conversations people are having about products, services, and features that aren’t working for them—which you can funnel straight through to your product development team given a large enough sample size.
You’ll likely also find potential customers expressing frustrations that your existing products can already address. This can provide ideas for marketing campaigns to highlight features that people may not know about and better solve the end user’s problem.
Connect with the right influencers and advocates
Having a good feel for the social sphere of your industry will give you a sense of who the notable influencers are. These are important people to connect with, as they can have a significant influence over how their followers and fans feel about you—or your competitors.
You’ll also start to converse with key brand advocates—people who are already loyal to your brand and are singing your praises on social media. This is another group you should reach out to, stay in contact with, and look for opportunities to collaborate.
5 tips for getting the best out of your Social Listening:
Here are some key points to keep in mind to get the most from your social listening efforts.
1. Identify where people talk about you, not just what they are saying
You will quickly discover that the conversation about your brand, or your industry, is very different on LinkedIn or industry blogs than it is on Facebook. Maybe there’s lots of conversation on Twitter, but it’s ‘crickets’ on Instagram. This will help you pick what content should be used where and what kind of response you can expect.
2. Establish a ‘baseline’, then watch for changes
As you start to track and collect social data, you’ll develop a sense of what’s normal for your brand in terms of the amount of conversation and the overall sentiment/response. Once you establish a baseline, you can actively work to improve those stats. You can also keep an eye out for changes. Significant changes in mentions, engagement or sentiment are flags that overall perception has changed. You need to understand why this is, so you can adapt your strategy to ride the wave of positivity, or correct for a misstep and get back on track.
You can also measure your own engagement and sentiment against those of your competitors to get a sense of your overall place within customer perceptions of your industry.
3. Learn from your competition
You obviously never want to copy someone else’s strategy outright, but you can gain plenty of insight into what works and what doesn’t in your industry by listening closely to what audiences think of your competitors’ actions. Use the opportunity to learn from your competition’s mistakes and wins, not just your own.
4. Collaborate with content marketing, customer service, and product development
As described above, your social listening efforts will provide a wide range of information, from customer conversations and mentions that need to be responded to right away, to ideas about what kind of content marketing might be most effective, to potential ideas for new products or changes to existing products.
5. Examine what the data is telling you—and take action
If you’re not taking action, you’re just engaged in social monitoring, not social listening. Social listening is not just about tracking metrics, but about obtaining real insights into what your customers and potential customers want from you, and how you can better satisfy those needs and solve their problems.
Allocate time and budget to analyze the data you gather for patterns and trends over time, rather than just individual comments, as it is these overall insights that can have the most powerful effects in guiding your future strategy. You will need to collect from a relatively large sample size/timeframe before you make strategic changes so don’t be too reactive and try not to have an emotional response to the data your collect.
Social Listening Tools:
Now that you know what social listening is, why it’s important, and some of the key strategic points to consider, it’s time to look at the tools available to you. Basic social listening can be done inside any social platform without an external tool but it’s safe to say that using one really steps up the effectiveness.
Mention would be our go-to, it’s fantastic! That said, it’s always worth doing a bit of comparing to find what’s going to work for you, check out Growthsupermarket for great comparisons on these kinds of tools and services. Here you will see pros, cons and pricing of social monitoring tools and pretty much anything SEM/SEO related.