Lisa Liu
Lisa Liu

Customer Success

April 27, 2021

Gone are the days where consumers had no say in the products and services they receive from brands. Thanks to social media giving everyone a voice, research shows that 47% of social media users reach out directly to brands to complain.

Imagine you own a bar, business is great and you get customers often. You create an ad inviting people for happy hour, 2 for 1 cocktail, then you see a comment ‘I would have come for beer but your cocktails are too watered down'.

You wonder if that was an isolated comment or if there are more who share the same sentiment.

The 'Haters will hate' slogan doesn't apply in business because the haters [read consumers] will jump ship to go love on your competitors.

Social listening helps you track, analyze, and respond to any mentions of your brand so you're no longer wondering how many people feel a certain way, you have exact numbers.

We take a look at the importance of social listening, tools to use, and how to set it up.

Why is social listening important?

social engagement

Numbers set social listening apart from all other marketing strategies. You'll no longer be guessing and making tactical moves but strategic ones.

Here are a few more reasons why social listening is important.

  • Engage with customers – The golden rule in customer service is that “customer is king” and through engaging with them, you make them feel valued. This royalty treatment gets you loyalty.
  • Manage crises – Catching sentiments in real-time puts you ahead in terms of crisis management as you're able to respond and resolve issues more efficiently.
  • Tracking competitors – As Simon Kemp puts it, “you wouldn't walk to a party and only join conversations about you” Social listening enables you to learn if and when your competitors launch new products or campaigns and how consumers feel about their brands.
  • Problem areas – Paying attention to consumer sentiments allows you to know what works for them and what doesn't. This in turn helps you create targeted marketing campaigns.
  • Acquire new leads – Social listening helps you develop relationships with potential customers through three steps: Generation, Nurturing, and Conversion.
  • Discover influencers – You get to know who is already speaking positively on your brand as well as who holds sway over consumers.
  • Cliche as it may sound, “listen before you speak” is the theme of social listening, and knowing what to listen for, is the first step of setting up a social listening plan.

Choosing relevant keywords is key. Going by the above example, a bar owner isn't listening for the same keywords as a fashion line.

Some of the most important keywords to monitor from jump are:

  • Brand name and handles
  • Product names including common misspellings if any
  • Competitors' brand names, products, and handles
  • Company slogan as well as those of your competitors
  • Buzzwords in your industry
  • Names of key people in your and your competitors' organizations such as CEOs
  • Campaign names and keywords
  • Branded hashtags including those of your competition
  • Unbranded hashtags that are still relevant to your industry

Social listening tools

social listening tools

Keywords and topics evolve. Conversations shift in the blink of an eye on social media hence the need for social listening tools. These help in learning words used when people talk about your industry or brand.

Here are a few popular social listening tools.

  1. SOCIALHOSE (free social listening for 1 feed, plus analytics)
  2. Google Alerts: get notifications of web mentions (no socials)
  3. Hootsuite: best known for social media management, but also offer some basic social listening
  4. IFTT: allows you to automate notifications

Who can benefit from social listening?

  • B2C brands – Find out what is being said about your brand and use the research to build tailored marketing strategies.
  • B2B brands – You still need people even when selling to businesses. Social listening helps you find out what decision-makers like CEOs are interested in and how to interact with them.
  • Governments – Track the success of campaigns by finding out the reach of your message as well as sentiments on how it was received. You also get to understand demographics as well as get feedback on any recently rolled out policies.
  • Charities – Identify regular donors and tailor your promos to the conversations they have online. Brand monitoring also lets you know of any negative sentiments about your organization.

Steps to creating a social listening strategy

social listening steps

Choose a social listening tool

You can choose from any of the above listed.

Determine your goals

Most brands choose social listening with these aims:

  • Monitor the industry to stay up to date. If you don't know where to start, look at some of your bigger competitors' social accounts and see what they are talking about. In B2B, take note when your competitors cite their own accolades by research groups and that issue reports on your industry.
  • Discover social media audiences to inform target market strategies. Find out who the top influencers are talking to and about your competitors' brands.
  • Run analysis to understand consumer sentiments. For example, when Lil Nas X released his Satan twerk video, we were able to instantly capture the sentiments.
  • Keep an eye on competitors' products and marketing tactics
  • Know what content to share based on trends. Monitor popular hashtags in your industry and track themes and emerging new hashtags.

Build strategies based on your goals

It's understandable to want more followers, more likes, more mentions, more signups, more everything! In order to achieve optimal performance, we have to carefully design our strategies around our goals.

Our goals will also have to be aligned with business objectives such as increasing brand equity or turning loyal customers into brand ambassadors.

Goal Metric
Followers, retweets, shares
Likes, mentions, comments
Signups, clicks, scrolls
Sentiment analysis, response time on socials, testimonials

Choose your source of data

Understand where your customers are in order to pull the right information. This varies greatly from industry to another. For example, if you are in the restaurant business, chances are, your customers engage with your brand on Instagram and/or Facebook. But, did you know that people are also talking about your brand on Reddit?

  • Linkedin – You can customize posts and send them to people based on their jobs or location.
  • Facebook/Instagram – Helps with interactions, especially for B2C brands.
  • Twitter – Due to Twitter's conversational style, conversations are constantly happening. Research shows that over two-thirds of Twitter users influence the buying decisions of their friends and family.

Create a theme or topic

Social listening analytics themes

Pull and find relevant data by building specific queries. Look into keywords, hashtags, mentions of you and from you, etc.

Optimize your topics

You may often get a variation in keywords that you weren't looking for. Choose specific terms to filter this. For example, it could be that you're looking for “Building in Public” using the hashtag #buildinginpublic. Running analytics can reveal similar hashtags under Themes, such as the even more popular #buildinpublic.

Track results

After creating topics, collecting data, and creating strategies, measure efforts through analytics.

Some questions to ask are:

  • What was the reach?
  • How many clicks did your post get?
  • Any new followers?
  • What is the engagement rate?
  • Speed of engagement?

Cut, continue, expand

Upon analyzing your success, you will figure out what works and what doesn't. Don't be quick to throw out anything that did not work; you may need to employ it again once you've gained more social listening experience. Meanwhile, build on the strategies that have worked.

If you wish to listen

Departments such as customer service and campaign management will give insight into common talking points and important metrics.

Together you can build a checklist of useful data that you need to achieve your social listening goal.

Identify where your audience talks about you but don't limit yourself to one or two social listening platforms as the content and attitude vary per platform.

You may feel like you can do it all, monitor platform to platform, eyes glued to the screen. This is, however, very time-consuming and you may miss some things. There are too many sources and voices therefore you need a social listening tool.

Create clear strategies and join conversations either through organic engagement or paid advertisements.

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