Social listening is a process where you keep track of the mentions or queries about your brand on social media channels, and then analyze the data to gain insights about your brand, products/services, competitors and/or industry. Those mentions or queries could take the form of news articles, Yelp reviews, tweets, blog posts, Reddit comments, Quora questions or any online message or conversation that is relevant to your company.
Many large, global brand have built dedicated teams focused solely on social listening. Some have even built command centers—dedicated rooms with multiple screens and workspaces for staff to monitor, engage and manage social media conversations.
While global brand have the advantage of time, resources and budgets to dedicate to social listening, it’s not just a big brand tactic. Social listening can benefit brands of all sizes.
Here are some of the top reasons social listening is vital for your business.
1. Reputation Management
This is one of the primary reasons successful businesses use social listening. Reputation management involves monitoring and managing social media content about your brand, often with a focus on the negative sentiment. If done well, reputation management improves your credibility and makes the trust in your brand stronger.
2. Competitor Analysis
Social listening allows you to track what your competitors are doing—are they releasing new products or services? what types of messaging are they using? what specials or promos are they offering?—and what is being said about them online. This can help you learn from their successes and failures, identify weaknesses or gaps, master techniques they use to gain and retain customers, and generally stay a step ahead.
3. Product Feedback
With a close follow on social listening, you will learn what customers have to say about your product. It’s great to learn what they love, of course, but the real gold is found in what they don’t love. I’m not talking about the haters that rip your brand apart because they forgot to measure and it didn’t fit, they left a package out in the rain for days, or simply because they were having a bad day. I’m talking about the constructive criticism that allows you to make improvements to your products or services. Things like—the material is scratchy, the instructions were confusing, or there weren’t enough pockets (bonus tip to anyone creating women’s clothing—we want more pockets!).
You can also gain an understanding of how your customers are actually using the products and what problems they solve. This information can help guide targeting, messaging, content and imagery, promotional calendar and other marketing initiatives.
4. Product R&D
Along with product feedback, you can use social listening to identify new feature sets for existing products, complementary accessories, and entirely new products that your company can manufacture and sell.
5. Customer Service
More and more customers are using social media to contact businesses when they have questions or complaints. By actively listening online, you can locate these questions to provide superior customer support across channels. You can also pinpoint those complaints, and take quick action to show concern, resolve the issue before it turns into a major crisis.
6. Lead Generation
Use of social listening helps you find new potential customers and clients. Focusing on non-branded keywords and hashtags relevant to your brand, or even competitive keywords and hashtags, can allow you to reach new audiences who may be interested in learning about products.
For example, if you sell standing desks, listen for people talking about sitting at their computer all day or back pain issues. If you sell dog life jackets, find folks discussing taking their pups for a swim for the first time. If you sell adventure gear, listen for those talking about vacation planning. Next step could then be to engage with these folks by providing a list of the top 10 benefits of standing desks, link to a current sale on dog life vests, and local travel guide, respectively. Being relevant, personal and helpful can go a long way to earning new customers.
7. Influencer Marketing
Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of brand promotions and advertisers—tuning out, using ad blockers, distrusting brand messages. But it’s different with friends, family members, or those we don’t know personally but know to be actual hooman beings. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from others, even if they don't know them.
That’s were influencers and brand ambassadors come in. They can provide a (seemingly) more genuine, more honest and more trustworthy endorsement. And with social listening, you can find those folks who are already propping up your brand on their own. By working with them influencers directly, you can leverage that authenticity to expand reach and create bonafide messaging.
Social listening is an integral process for brands of any size, helping to improve customer service, product development, brand reputation and marketing efforts.