What is Social Listening? 

Most companies in today’s digital society know it’s essential to build a solid following on social media. More followers means more exposure to your brand its products. A large audience on social media brings higher rates of customer engagement, and a higher chance these consumers will make a purchase.

However, not all press is good press necessarily. The last thing you want is to develop an online reputation for the wrong reasons. Poor customer reviews, bad service, scandals, and other issues can cause negative social media mentions.

One negative mention can quickly become detrimental to your brand’s image, reputation, and inevitably, sales. For this reason, it’s vital that you continuously track your brands’ social media channels and look out for any red flags. This is where social listening comes in.

What is social listening? 

Social listening is the monitoring of your brand’s social media channels for any customer feedback and direct mentions of your brand or discussions regarding specific keywords, topics, competitors, or industries. The monitoring is then followed by an analysis to gain insights and act on those opportunities.

Social listening is a two-step process. You not only must monitor your social media channels, but you should also analyze that information and look for ways to put what you learn into action. Taking action is what makes social listening different from social media monitoring; it might be something as simple as responding to a happy customer or something as pivotal as shifting your overall brand positioning. Social listening aims to understand the root cause behind these online conversations and implements long-term changes as a result.

By performing social listening, you can improve your customer experience by interacting directly with customers, shifting your customer strategy to fit current needs. This helps mitigate any negative sentiment and reduce the risk of a PR disaster.

Why is it important?

As Netbase describes it, “Just like a healthy immune system is important to prevent the body from being easily susceptible to illness, social listening keeps your brand aware of the bigger picture. Instead of focusing on individual tweets and issues, you get an aggregated view that highlights trends and themes you can use to direct brand strategy.”

Here are a few of the benefits of social listening:

1.Gain an edge on your competition

Social listening isn’t strictly limited to just your own brand. It also is beneficial to understand what your competitors are doing and how they engage with their customers. This might reveal weaknesses in their product, reasons for you to improve your products, or even act as a gateway to win over a few customers. Consider monitoring conversations that contain the names of your top competitors on each social platform.

For example, McDonald’s may want to track conversations on social media platforms about Burger King. This would help McDonald’s understand some of the pain points of Burger King’s customers, which McDonald’s could then use in its own marketing messaging to speak more directly to that audience.

2. Engage with your brand advocates

Brand advocates are those who are sold on your product and stay loyal to your brand. They’re a subset of your customers who are most likely to talk about your brand online, whether it be for new product launches, an exciting advertising campaign, or negatively, a failure to meet their expectations.

Word-of-mouth marketing has shown to influence 74% of buyers in their purchasing decisions, so ensuring your brand advocates are continuously satisfied can play a major role in retaining and growing your customer base. When brand advocates mention your brand online, be sure to pay attention to what they have to say. As your most well-informed customer, their opinions can offer valuable insight into your current strategy.

3. React quickly to a negative mention

Mentionlytics reports that over 30 percent of company crises turn global in less than an hour. Failure to accurately monitor your brand mentions can quickly spiral into a PR disaster before you even notice the first tweet.

Take this recent incident between Kim Kardashian West and fast food chain Jack in the Box for example. Kardashian called the restaurant out on Twitter for “a serious complaint,” and although the cause of the tweet has yet to be revealed, it certainly sparked quite the conversation online. Consumers and restaurant chains alike quickly jumped on the stir, furthering the drama surrounding Jack in the Box in a matter of minutes. Without proper social listening tools in place, Jack in the Box wouldn’t have been able to resolve the problem as quickly as they did, as Kardashian West hadn’t even tagged the company’s Twitter handle.

3 social listening tips

When you’re ready to kickstart your social listening strategy, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Search outside tagged mentions

Just because a social media user doesn’t directly tag you in their social post, doesn’t mean they’re not talking about you. Be sure to get creative and search outside your tagged mentions. One effective way to do this is to use company-branded or campaign-relevant hashtags.

Hashtags are a great way to monitor customer sentiment, and they also serve as a way to organize conversations by a specific marketing campaign, product, or even an event. You can also use hashtags to spark a targeted response from your customers; use them for a Q&A session to elicit a bit of helpful feedback.

2. Scatter your social listening efforts

Don’t limit yourself to just one or two social platforms, be sure to extend your social listening strategy to as many as possible. You might find the conversation about your brand is very different on LinkedIn than it is on Facebook, or perhaps a ton of people mention you on Twitter but not at all on Instagram.

You need to know where people talk about you on the internet, and how those conversations vary across channels. This can help you to understand your different customer segments and how their opinions differ. At the same time, this will allow you to create separate and targeted campaigns for different social networks, which will allow you to better connect with your customers.

3. Gather and learn from data

Remember: If you don’t take action, you’re only engaged in social media monitoring, not social listening. Be sure to pull quantifiable and useful metrics you can use to make data-driven decisions in all aspects of your business. Social listening is all about gaining real insights into what your customers and potential customers want from you, and how you can better address those needs.

Analyze patterns and trends in your data, and note how they evolve over time. These insights can guide future strategies and help your business succeed in the long run.

Social media is one of the most essential tools for businesses today, but in order to make the most of it, you must learn to use social media from all different angles. Social listening is not only about what you can do for your customers, but what your customers can do for you. Make sure you use social listening to gather customer feedback and adjust your strategy based on their input. Your customers (and your bottom line) will thank you for it!

Author Bio:

Marie Johnson, contributor to Enlightened Digital, UX Designer and technology writer from New York City. If I’m not writing my latest blog post in my kitchen, you’ll likely find me strolling through Central Park, cappuccino in hand.

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