Listen. Listen to the market. Listen to your customers. Understand what they’re saying.
It’s a lesson straight from Business 101, and yet… We often see companies talk our ears off with no consideration for either the reaction they receive or the constructive feedback after a big public failure. ‘Out of touch’ is what we call them.
Well, you’re not like other companies. You know it’s important to read the room. The best thing to add to your marketing arsenal is social listening. Regardless of your industry, you can’t afford to throw every single idea you have on the wall and see what sticks. Guessing has no place in your marketing strategy.
Commerce should be a two-way conversation. Keep your ear to the ground and use social listening as a tool to stop predicting and start directing. Social listening enables you to gain deeper understanding of your customers, competition and market, and helps you act on that knowledge.
I hear you ask; Haven’t I been doing this all this time? I have social media pages. I keep track of my interactions. Yes, and you should. If we’re being honest, it’d be irresponsible, if you weren’t on at least one social platform (though really, you should be on more than one). That’s the absolute bare minimum any company should do, but all this falls into the concept of ‘social monitoring’ – an essential task, but one that skirts the surface level.
There’s a fine line that differentiates social monitoring from social listening:
What you should take away from the concept of social listening is that you gather metrics on your overall performance today and analyse them in order to lay foundations for an overarching media and product strategy. As such, you couldn’t ask for a better source of insights and valuable data.
Social listening is employed in two phases – Monitoring and Analysis.
The Monitoring Phase follows your current social media protocol – pool all available data from your social media platforms be they Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, all or a mixture of some of these. However, you complement this base data with data for your competitors, their products and campaigns, and industry-relevant keywords for a deeper understanding of the market and your place in it.
During the Analysis Phase, this data undergoes thorough examination to extract valuable insights on your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the market. Additionally, you size up the direct competitors and what your target audience truly wants. It’s through these deep insights you gain the strategic advantage to reposition your brand and orchestrate successful campaigns in the future.
Social listening taps into the full potential of your brand online through a comprehensive analysis of the attitude towards your company in real time. Listening answers the questions; “Why do people see my brand the way they do? What do they like about my products? Why doesn’t my campaign hit the ground running?” Once you gain this understanding, you’re in the position to step back and observe the bigger picture (all the components working in sync) and maneuver within the system in such a way that you grow your market share, improve brand reception and increase product sales.
Social listening generates key insights and foregoing this type of media analysis leaves you bereft of the tools that can push you to ahead of the pack. There’s a lot you can improve on through active listening such as adaptability and resilience in a highly competitive environment.
Once you master the power of social data, no challenge is too big for your brand to overcome.
Let’s dig into all the superpowers social listening unlocks.
Never sleep on your competitors. Yes, we promised we’d discuss how to weaponize data in your favor, but we also want to remind you of the strategic value in tracking your competitors. What your competitors do and how customers receive them has just as much impact on your market share.
Remember! Forewarned is forearmed.
Social listening reveals further utility as a way to track new releases, scandals, praise and new campaigns, so you can act accordingly. If you’re ramping up activity for major announcements or a product launch, you want all eyes on your brand. Social listening identifies openings for you to solely take the spotlight.
Gain better footing with your customers. Have a feel as to where the winds blow and navigate all social interactions with grace. Social listening empowers you to truly grasp the attitude towards your brand. It’s useful when things are going great and it’s priceless when you make a social misstep. By virtue of being on the Internet, you’re bound to fall into hot waters every once in a while.
The Internet is quick to turn any error into a full-blown scandal, so never lose sight of the conversation and control the narrative through social listening. A mea culpa is always appreciated. With a better view of customer frustrations, you’re quick enough to mitigate the damage and address the issue.
A good relationship with your customer base secures return sales, but learning of industry openings through monitoring emerging trends reveals brand new horizons. Social listening accesses trends in their early stages. Hashtags and industry discussions are a gold mine in noting market shifts and fresh opportunities. New niches reveal themselves in real time, and you’re able to reposition your brand and products accordingly for maximum profit. It’s all about moving in step with developments before any of your competitors have caught wind of the change.
Social monitoring fails in one crucial aspect - it doesn’t take strategic action on feedback coming your way whether it be praise and concern, or complaints and requests. Social listening, on the other hand, prioritizes the value of authentic interactions and employs a strategic approach for the improvement of your social standing with your customer base. In the same breath, social listening quickly identifies people, who regularly engage with and discuss your brand positively on social media. Organic brand advocates generate continuous interest from the public for your brand and you should collaborate with them on a consistent basis.
Everything we’ve touched upon builds up to one big process – managing your brand on a macro level. Social listening results in an in-depth study of your customer base.
What are the products they buy the most and why? What are the products that fail to grab their attention and why? How do they feel about your brand overall? Where do different conversations take place? The longevity of your brand depends on the answers to these questions.
Not one brand has thought they know better about their popularity only to collide with the harsh reality they’re not as well liked. Social listening walks you through critical steps of managing your brand so you understand conversations, address issues, strengthen what works, act on insights and earn a better market position.
Have we gotten you on board with the benefit of social media listening? (We assume you are!)
In that case, it’s time to set up your tool and reap the benefits!
Not all tools are created to deliver the same service and you need to know what you need a social media listening tool for in the first place. The market booms with options, each with its own focus and strengths!
How do I possibly choose? Don’t get consumed by analysis paralysis. It’s not uncommon for a company to use more than one tool.
You’d think what matters most is the platform you’re most active on, because that’s where you have most customer interactions! That’s only the first step. Branch out your focus to platforms you use less or haven’t even considered.
After all, the way people talk about a brand on Twitter is wildly different in tone and format than a conversation happening on YouTube or feedback left on a review site. Industry discussions are also held on multiple channels. Much like you use RSS readers to stay on top of trade press and news, social listening extends your attention to social media platforms.
You’ve identified your listening channels. Now what… What are you listening for?
The basics are all there – your products, your brand name, your social media handles. If you’ve paid attention, you would know you should add the same for your chief competitors. Beyond these initial filters, go as broad as you wish – industry keywords, hashtags and even names of experts and C-Level executives in your company.
Keep in mind. What once was relevant might not make sense to listen for in the future. You have to be adaptive to shifts in conversations and emerging trends.
This is the final stage. Once all your tools have been set up, collect data and notice any changes in your feeds. In the early stages of listening, you’re documenting the attitude towards your brand, your competitors’ brands and the current state of your industry.
With a baseline established, the next stage would be to notice changes and through deeper analysis discover a favorable course of action from here on. Social listening best works when in tandem with traditional marketing strategies. The possibilities go as far as your imagination.
Can you identify and recruit brand ambassadors to represent your brand and increase natural sales? What campaigns have a higher success rate based on the identified needs of your target audience? How can you improve your communication with customers? What’s the best way to approach big shifts in your industry? What are the lessons to be learned from your competitors’ success and failure?
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