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Social listening is when a business follows (and adapts to) its customers’ sentiments on social networks.
With over 4 billion users, social media platforms are like continually updated data hubs. The average internet user spends over 2 hours daily scrolling, liking, commenting, or sharing interesting social media posts. They also ask questions and complain about brands (and industry trends) on social media.
So marketers want their eyes on these platforms.
What are people saying about the brand? How about the product? Or the industry in general?
And most importantly, what do the customers want?
Keep reading to understand social media listening, its importance, and how to execute social listening projects.
Social listening (or social media listening) involves assessing what your audience says about your brand, product/service, competitors, or the industry on social media channels, online forums, communities, and blogs. The goal is to incorporate the customers’ feedback into your product or service and, ultimately, adapt to the customers’ expectations.
At the most basic level, you assess your social media pages, posts (what people say about your business), and hashtags surrounding your brand. Then you can take corrective or proactive action.
Beyond following conversations about your brand, you can listen to conversations surrounding a topic of interest. So you’d track hashtags and keywords in that topic. You can do that manually (using filters), but a social listening tool will make the process easier and cleaner.
A social listening tool is an application that automates the process of tracking and analyzing social media data. It’s indispensable in extensive or ongoing social listening projects.
Most social listening tools have a dashboard where you quickly view the total number of mentions, overall brand sentiment (positive, neutral, or negative), total likes, etc. Plus, you can respond to mentions directly from the tool and view any history with the customer and their influence (total followers).
There are stand-alone social media listening tools like Brandwatch and Brand24, but some social media management tools like Hubspot and SproutSocial have social listening features.
Social listening is a combination of the research process and the corresponding actions that your teams take. It starts with a research objective. Then you collect data from relevant conversations on your social networks and analyze this data to inform business decisions.
For example, Uber uses social listening software (Brand24) to listen to what drivers and riders say on social media networks daily. They track “Uber” mentions in online conversations (Facebook, Twitter, online forums, blogs, etc.) and the subsequent growth in their social media channels (likes, shares, comments, and reach).
While working on a new app, they aim to understand how their users use the older version and if there is anything that they would add or remove.
After analysis, the social media data reveals frequently requested features, unsuccessful features, and those that need further modification. The product teams then incorporate these insights into the new app.
“As soon as we introduce a modification, we know which parts of it are greeted with enthusiasm and which need more work…” Uber’s Marketing Lead in Central & Eastern Europe, Krzysiek Radoszewski.
He admits that the company sees the value of social listening daily, evidenced by its happy customer base. As for the ROI from social listening efforts, Uber estimated a 100% increase in Uber-related discussions, a 90% growth in likes, and 250% more shares.
The company also applies social listening to other campaigns like their worldwide Uber Ice Cream campaign:
“Thanks to social listening, we were able to satisfy the needs of riders & drivers worldwide… The action had a direct influence on our business results, with an 11% increase in new users, and a 7% increase in the average number of rides per user.” – Krzysiek Radoszewski.
Social listening helps you understand your target audience better. What do they want? You can use social insights to understand your customers’ interests and build personas. Real-time brand monitoring also helps to identify brand advocates and catch a crisis before it blows over (e.g., resolving an irate influencer’s complaint).
Let’s dive deeper.
As we’ve seen in Uber’s example, you can use social media intelligence to improve your product/service.
Before modifying something, see what your audience says about your current product (track mentions and hashtags). What features do they like or dislike? What do they wish that your product could do?
Besides understanding the social sentiment about your brand, you can identify emerging trends in the market and jump on them before your competitors. Like how Netflix innovated Netflix and Chill socks.
When you understand your audience better, you can then strategize your content marketing campaigns to better speak to their pain points. You can even discover an untapped market.
For example, Tylenol’s social listening project revealed that knitters get a lot of headaches. They noted that most mentions of “headaches” and “migraines” came from knitting communities and forums. So they shifted their SEO and marketing strategies to target this new market (knitters), which increased their website visits.
Social listening also helps you spot influencers and take the chance to shine. For example, a complaint from a Twitter user with over 20k followers has more eyeballs. So if you see it in real-time, you’ll get in touch and resolve that issue quickly.
Southwest Airlines (one of the United States’ major airlines) uses social listening data to solve customer complaints quickly. They have a team monitoring their social media feeds and responding to concerns in real-time. And every department can view the screen showing these feeds.
A single tweet from an irritated customer once got a slow-moving ticket line to move in 7 minutes.
A senior rep saw the tweet and inquired about it on the ground. After a few calls, he discovered a break schedule miscommunication. So they immediately sent more agents to the ticket counter.
Social monitoring is part of social listening.
Social media monitoring involves gathering/noting social media analytics, like the number of brand mentions, post shares, comments, and engagement. It alerts teams when events that require action occur — for example, responding to a customer’s question after a Twitter mention.
But social listening digs deeper into the “why” behind the analytics reports. So while conducting a social listening project, you’d read the comments to know the brand sentiment online. Then improve your product or service to match the customers’ expectations. Or use the data to optimize your business strategy.
If you conduct social listening daily, you need to follow your customers, set aside time every day to listen (browse through your posts, hashtags, mentions, etc.), and stay alert for opportunities to shine (like when an influential user tweets a request or complaint). You’d also go beyond keywords related to your brand; listen to industry-related mentions and your competitors’ mentions.
But if you’re launching a one-time social listening project to improve a KPI, follow the tips below.
What’s your goal for gathering social data? The goal will guide the keywords you track, the tools you use, and the angle of the analysis.
For example, Uber had two objectives. While working on the new app, they wanted to understand:
So they listened to conversations about Uber’s features and incorporated the feedback into the app’s features.
Develop questions about business performance that will help you achieve the objectives. These are the questions that your data analysis team will answer after the project.
Some common social media metrics include:
Marketers can use these metrics as part of their campaigns to inform business KPIs.
|Business KPI||Social listening metric|
total number of mentions, reach (how many people have seen your name)
How much market share you hold
share of voice (your brand’s visibility measured against your competitors)
brand sentiment score
engagement, number of leads
Social media listening tools will collect the data and generate social listening reports, but it’s up to your data analysts to derive actionable insights from the report. The analysis team will collect the data and analyze each metric to answer the business questions. You may also have data scientists in your team to predict future market trends.
If you want to know how people perceive your brand online, how successful your social media marketing efforts are, how your compare against your competitors, or how the industry is changing, start a social listening project.
It will involve tracking (and learning from) mentions, hashtags, and other keywords to inform marketing decisions, product development, and other strategic decisions.
Rather than a one-off project, social listening should be a daily routine to gather real-time feedback from your customers. You’ll spot opportunities to shine (e.g., emerging trends), catch a crisis before it erupts (e.g., resolve an influencer’s complaint quickly), and improve your customers’ experience/satisfaction.
Social media data can reveal an opportunity or a problem. But it’s up to the business to collect the right data, analyze it, and use the insights. The tips above will help you create your social listening strategy, but if you need more help, get a consultant on your team.
By Jessica La
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