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What is Social Listening and Why Does Your Brand Need It?

November 22, 2017
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Social Listening

Your audience has a lot to say on social media.  But are you truly listening?

As you sit down for your post-turkey resbit this week, you'll likely have football on and your mobile device in hand. And although you don't want to work on your days off, it's not a bad idea to take that time to do a little research on behalf of your company or client...or social listening.

With over 3 billion global social media users, the sheer amount of conversations happening each day on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are staggering.  If you aren’t paying close attention to what your audience is saying, you are missing out on huge opportunities to grow your brand.

That’s where social listening comes in.  By tracking social conversations that are relevant to your brand, you can extract valuable insight that can be used to improve all areas of your business and help you retain a competitive edge.

Ready to harness the power of social listening?  In this post, we’ll cover what social listening is and why your brand needs it to remain competitive:

What is Social Listening?

Social listening involves more than keeping tabs on brand mentions and comments that people post on your page.  Rather, it includes monitoring social media conversations centered around your brand, products, competitors, and anything else that could provide relevant social intelligence for your business.

It’s important to point out that social listening is a two-part process.  What turns social monitoring into social listening is the analysis that comes after gathering your social intelligence.

For example, we can monitor brand mentions to gauge social media sentiment.  Of these brand mentions, how many are complaints?

Once we understand the general feeling behind these mentions, we can then develop a strategy on how to respond.  This entire process—from gathering of social intelligence to transforming it into actionable insight—is social listening.

Why Social Listening is Important

With social listening, you can manage brand mentions, specific keywords and phrases, topics related to your industry, and much more.  But why bother? 

Simply put, the more information you can gain from your audience, the better.  Hearing straight from your (or your competitors) customers opens the door to greater opportunities and can provide your brand with significant benefits.

Here is a quick look at some of the benefits we’re referring to:

  • Improve Customer Service
  • Anticipate New Market Trends
  • Avoid a PR Disaster
  • Boost Your Content Marketing
  • Retain Your Competitive Edge

Now that you have the quick and dirty, let’s dissect each of these benefits and get into further detail on how social listening can help your brand.

  • Improve Customer Service

It’s important to remember that social listening isn’t about solving one-off customer service problems.  Rather, it’s about seeing the bigger picture.

As a successful business owner, you are bound to receive a complaint or two on social media every so often.  But what if your brand suddenly sees a flurry of critical posts?

This is where monitoring customer sentiment comes in handy.  This is a type of social listening that monitors how your audience feels about your brand.  By noticing an increase in negative posts on social media, you can immediately get to the bottom of your customers’ complaints and fix the problem quickly.

  • Anticipate New Market Trends

To be the best in your industry, you need to be on the forefront of conversations and new ideas.  What trends are your customers talking about?  What are their current frustrations?

By employing your social listening skills, you can identify new and innovative ideas that are entering your market and develop products that align perfectly with these trends. 

For example, you might notice that your audience is becoming more concerned with sustainability.  You can use this knowledge to begin incorporating sustainable practices into your business model and demonstrate how in-tune you are with your customers.

  • Avoid a Public Relations Disaster

It’s not uncommon for big corporations to rely on social listening to monitor their brand’s image.  However, don’t think that your small business is safe.

The truth is that even small and medium-sized companies can lose control of their brand’s image. 

Just take this Oklahoma City restaurant as an example.  The owner of the restaurant put up a controversial sign on his bathroom stalls and it went viral on Twitter. 

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Needless to say, the owner was not prepared for the controversy that followed.

Some brands can’t come back from bad controversies.  To prevent a PR nightmare that is brewing, you need to have a social listening strategy that nips it in the bud quickly. 

  • Boost Your Content Marketing

Social listening primarily used for keeping tabs on your brand’s image, but did you also know that it can be used for content creation purposes?

Listening in on what your customers are talking about is an excellent way to identify and create content that they will find engaging and relevant.  For instance, you can use a tool such as BuzzSumo to discover which types of content are working well in your industry and then write engaging pieces that you know your audience will love.

This is also a great opportunity to address things that your audience may not understand.  By listening to social conversations, you can identify what confuses your audience the most and answer their questions through your content.

Storylift Tip:  Try breaking down complex information into an easily digestible infographic.  These are highly-shareable and are an effective way to attract backlinks.

  • Retain Your Competitive Edge

If we’re being honest with ourselves, there is a lot that we can learn from our competitors.  To capture a greater share of the market, you need to keep tabs on them at all times.

Social listening is a key part of this.  By tracking and analyzing how customers feel about your competitors, you can identify potential threats in your industry.

For example, let’s say that you notice a smaller competitor has a significant amount of positive customer sentiment.  Although they may not be a threat now, the favorable conversations surrounding their brand is causing them to grow quickly.

With this knowledge, you can then form a strategy designed to outpace your competitors, boost your own customer sentiment, and solidify your place in the market.

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Tools for Social Listening

As you can see, there is a lot of data that can be collected through social media.  So now you may be wondering: which tools will you need to monitor and collect this valuable data?

Choosing the right social listening tool comes down to your budget and personal preference. While some marketers prefer tools that monitor a specific channel, others want a robust tool that tracks conversations across social networks, blogs, and forums.

To make things easier, here are a few helpful social listening tools and which businesses they are geared towards:

Brand24:  Brand24 is a smart social media monitoring tool for businesses of any size.  Pricing starts at $49 per month and there is also a free 14-day trial for you to test out all of their social listening features.

Hootsuite:  One of the more popular social media tools for small and medium-sized businesses, Hootsuite allows you to manage all your social media marketing efforts on one platform.  This freemium tool has a variety of social listening tools and even lets you track the tone of voice being used for your brand.

Brandwatch:  For larger businesses needing a robust set of social listening tools, Brandwatch is a tool trusted by the world’s biggest brands.  Brandwatch is excellent at using data to identify potential threats and opportunities in real-time and provides instant audience insights for brands.

Digimind:  Digimind measures audience sentiment, allowing you to see whether conversation around a keyword or topic is positive, negative, or neutral.

Klout:  Marketers have mixed feelings on Klout due to its scoring system.  Still, it’s a decent tool for measuring social influence and insightful when combined with other social media monitoring tools.

Conclusion

Social listening is more than uncovering what is being said about your brand.  It’s about taking this valuable data and turning it into actionable insight that can drive future growth for your business.

Don’t forget to share your social listening data with the rest of your team, even those outside your marketing departments.  That way, you can create a better customer experience and drive positive results for your brand.

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