You can’t go too far in the digital era if you aren’t aware of what your loyal and prospective customers think about you. Ignoring what people are writing on social channels can cost you dearly because you’re missing out on incredible market research that can transform your business. Social listening allows you to understand your audience and create marketing and customer support strategies that meet people’s expectations.
By using social listening, you can actively pay heed to your target audience on social networks. You can do it at scale and use insights about what customers are saying about you and your competition to make proactive decisions.
By Alister Esam
What is social listening?
Social listening is keeping an ear out for conversations about you, your industry, and your competition. In the digital realm, this refers to analyzing mentions and trends around your brand on social networking sites. It lets you gain insights and valuable market research that you can use to make informed decisions about your products, marketing strategies, and customer service.
Social listening tells you what the discussions around your brand are, along with how and where they’re happening. It isn’t just measuring the number of times your brand is mentioned on a particular network but also an endeavor to gauge the social sentiment around your brand. You can use the data, and the high-level perspectives gathered from it, to improve your content strategy and outpace your competition.
Social listening tools allow you to understand the bigger picture. You listen to people discussing your brands in real-time and drive real business growth.
Why perform social listening?
Social listening gives you access to user data that can optimize every part of the customer journey. Having such valuable and credible information at your fingertips can be game-changing. Here are a few areas of business that social listening can greatly enhance:
- Brand health: social listening can identify how well your brand delivers on its promises and the public’s perception of it. This ensures that you can craft a brand voice that resonates with your target market.
- Competitor intelligence: you can use social media to keep an eye out for a competitive brand’s performance. It also tells you where you fit in the marketplace.
- Campaign analysis and event monitoring: social listening can gauge how effective your campaigns and events are with customers.
- Allows market research using limited resources, making it a cost-effective data collection process.
- Boosts social media engagement rates: you can engage with customers looking for solutions that your products could provide. Social listening tells you which conversations you can add value to.
- Avoid crises: with social listening, you can immediately track an unhappy customer or if a whole batch of your products has left customers unsatisfied. You can use your company phone service to call for a change of item or offer discounts to avoid further customer dissatisfaction.
- Improves your social commerce abilities: social commerce is selling your products and services on social media. Social listening can fill your social commerce conversion funnel. When you identify conversations, you can contribute to solving people’s problems with your products or services. Customers are bound to appreciate it and move down the funnel.
Social listening preparation
You need to know what people are saying about you and if enough people are talking about you. Follow the steps below to create a social listening strategy that can propel your business workflow platform to success.
The first step is to identify what you want to achieve from social listening. Choose from the following goals to have a clear direction of what you need social listening to do for you:
- Increase customer acquisition and discover new opportunities to gain leads.
- Gather information about whether the market is accepting a new product that you’ve launched.
- Gather information about where you stand in the market against your competition.
- Identify who your customers are and create a customer persona to improve your targeting strategy.
- Gather customer feedback using a hosted PBX solution or through other channels.
- Gather information about the number of people talking about you so you can ascertain brand awareness levels.
- Find keywords related to your industry to use for the search engine optimization (SEO) of your web content.
Identify the type of data needed
Once you have a clear idea of your goals, you need to set parameters for data collection. You need to define exactly what data has to be collected through social media and create checklists for it.
You can start by making a list of keywords associated with your niche. This will help track competition and let you know what the popular conversations in your industry are. You should also create guidelines on dates so that you know how far back in time you need to go to look for relevant information. Another major data set is direct conversations around your brand name, social media handles, and product names(s).
Track competitors’ brand names, handles, and industry buzzwords. Even tracking hashtag campaigns, keywords, and the names of key personnel in your organization can give you access to important conversations.
Let’s assume we have a B2B business that deals in enterprise communication systems. We wouldn’t just track our brand name but also the products we offer to find out what people’s concerns about them are. Our social listening tool should tell us what people on Twitter are saying about VoIP phones. We can also gather data on team chat features that customers want, but no one provides.
Other information that this business needs to gather can be gleaned from good business process management software, including popular names of competitive businesses that offer the same products.
Part of your strategy should also include creating templated responses against insights gathered from the data. This could include how you will respond to positive and negative comments. How can you turn a conversation about your competitors in your favor? How can you get a hashtag with your brand name trending?
Set up your social listening tool
Social listening is a job that needs you to reach out across multiple social networking sites. You need a tool that has that reach and can get the data you’ve decided you need. There’s no way you can do that manually, so choose a social listening tool that does it for you.
Your social listening tool can help you keep your ear to the ground and monitor conversations, mentions, hashtags, and keywords. Choose one that has a dashboard that allows you to respond to mentions directly.
Ideally, you should be able to get data and extract actionable insights from the tool. It should identify meaningful trends and patterns for you to help gauge your real brand sentiment and position in the market. Choose a tool that works across maximum social networks and even on ad accounts to use social listening for Facebook and Instagram Ads.
Social listening isn’t limited to social networking sites. It extends to calls through VoIP phone service, blogs, videos, news, and review sites. Therefore, your social listening tool needs to monitor and analyze these as well.
Analytics and reporting
Set up a standard procedure for reporting and analytics. Once you have the data you need, you need to define what needs to be reported and how often. Ideally, you should pair your social listening data with your social media analytics. Find out if actions taken through social listening increase your clicks, reach, leads, and engagement.
This should give you a good sense of what’s working for your social listening strategy and whether the data you’re gathering and the actions you’re taking against it are proving to be fruitful or not.
Learn how to use social listening to find opportunities
Social listening provides reliable information about your brand’s footprint. While we have sorted out the strategy, here are a few best practices to ensure you’ve got your ear at the right place and your finger on the pulse of your industry:
Track every social channel from one place
The reason you need an excellent social listening tool is primarily that there are so many social channels. All your data can’t be scattered in multiple places; otherwise, it will never be coherent. Social listening tools bring all the data, like your mentions on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, into one place. They cast a wide net to ensure that you don’t miss out on any critical information, and you don’t have to switch between platforms either.
When you start out with social listening, you would have a little idea of which networks are important for you to monitor. To have a definite idea of which social media networks are key for your brand, you need to ensure that your social listening strategy includes all social media channels. Once you figure out how conversations vary across channels and which ones are important for you, you can focus your energies on the right ones.
Find key conversations related to your brand or service
Once you know where your customers are spending their time online, use social listening to discover market trends. Find out what your customers talk about and what they read and share. You need this information to understand your market and find out what your average customer is like so that you can create the right social media marketing strategy to attract them.
Limit your social listening efforts by geography, especially if you have a local business. If you have an email management software business in Chicago, conversations about the email management industry in Germany wouldn’t concern you and will skew your data.
Identifying threats on social media
Social listening can let you know what trajectory the market is taking. It can help you recognize potential threats before they impact your business, especially in the case of disgruntled customers who take to social media to vent. Before their public complaint gains traction, you can use social listening to cater to their concerns. Brands need to have a strategy and a rapid incident response team to counter negative narratives on social media.
Social listening improves your products
Social listening is perhaps the best way to get raw customer feedback about your products and services. Customers are in their element on social media. When they write reviews online, you can easily gauge what real people who use your product think about it.
Once you collect social information and understand the sentiment around your brand, you can use that to improve your offering.
Keep an eye on the competition
As much as everyone in your industry is secretive about their market research and insights, with social media, it’s all an open book. You just need to have the right tools to read it. With social listening, you can learn as much about your competitors as you can about yourself.
You can get a sense of your share of the market, learn about your competition’s shortcomings, and learn how you can use that to your advantage. You can also keep an eye out for any new product launches. If your goal is to outperform the competition, social listening is your best bet.
Find influencers and brand ambassadors
Social listening helps you uncover trends, so it’s natural it would also help you discover who the most influential people in your audience are. Some social listening solutions have an affiliate marketing template and tool to help you identify the top sharer for your keywords or which content creator has the most influence in your niche.
Influencer and affiliate marketing are great for building customer relationships. Businesses that find it difficult to organically be part of customers’ conversations online can partner with influencers to initiate conversations around their brand. With social listening, you don’t need to trust anyone or anything but your own data to decide who to hire to be your brand ambassador.
The data you obtain from social listening is a gold mine for your marketing, product development, and customer support teams. Social listening is a powerful method of gaining insights into consumer behavior. You learn about your audience and also understand how you can impress and retain them.
Choose a social listening tool that has an instructional design model so you can quickly become a pro at using it. Social listening can help you identify meaningful opportunities and improve quality lead generation. Follow the tips above and ensure you take action against the insights you gain from social listening.
This article originally appeared in CustomerThink.