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What is Social Listening?

Three team members looking at a social listening dashboard

Right now, there are an endless number of conversations taking place on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. By paying attention to those that mention your brand, you can gain more insight into how it is perceived — along with insight into your customers themselves. That, in essence, is what social listening is all about.

What is social listening?

All told, social listening is largely a two-part process. First, you’ll need to monitor those public channels where your brand and industry are being discussed. Much of this will be dictated by your target audience. Older audiences tend to skew toward networks like Facebook, while younger audiences spend their time on sites like Twitter.

Then, you’ll need to analyze that information to find patterns in your brand’s overall performance. What do people consistently say that they like? What they don’t like? What are you doing well, and what could you be doing better? These are the types of questions you’ll be trying to answer. Social feedback tools are a great way to help to that end.

Social monitoring

Social monitoring involves identifying, tracking, and even responding each time your brand is mentioned online. This includes not only social media sites but also blogs, websites, forums, and more.

Social listening vs. social monitoring

Social monitoring is similar to social listening, but there are a few important differences. The former requires you to pay attention not only to what people are saying about your business but also certain products, competitors — even the entire industry. The latter is focused exclusively on your brand (or a particular product or service that you’re offering).

However, this is not a one-versus-the-other approach. By combining these efforts, you can gain valuable insights into consumer behaviors to allow you to take meaningful action to improve the customer experience moving forward.

Benefits of social listening

The benefits of social listening are plentiful. The insights gained through this technique can help deepen a customer’s relationship with your brand. If you know what they like and don’t like, you can address this at every opportunity. This leads to far greater customer engagement as well. Along the same lines, when you respond to customer feedback on social media — be it positive or negative — it makes them feel seen and heard. Social reviews, in particular, are critical to the longevity of a brand these days.

Social listening also makes it far easier to track brand growth over time. By paying attention to news cycles or feedback, you can begin to track certain events to see correlations between rises or decreases in sales, an increase in the number of followers you have, and more.

It also allows you to identify new solutions to existing or unique problems. Understanding your consumers isn’t just about making sure you’re doing a good job with your products in the present. It’s also about learning where their preferences may be headed so that you can get there faster than your competitors.

Finally, social listening allows you to increase both conversions and customer acquisitions. Again, the more someone feels like they’re being represented by your brand, the more likely they are to do business with you. That doesn’t just create new customers — it turns them into loyal advocates as well.

Essential tips to build a solid social listening strategy

When your business sets out to put together a comprehensive and effective social listening strategy, there are a few key elements you’ll need to keep in mind. Chief among these is the idea that you need to identify your customers’ pain points as early as possible to guide virtually every decision you’ll make from that point out.

What problem does one of your ideal customers have? How do your current products and services solve it? How could they be modified to help solve it even more effectively in the future? What are people saying right now, and how does that compare with your perception of the situation? These are all crucial questions to answer at the beginning part of the process.

You’ll also want to identify which keywords that you actually want to monitor on sites like Facebook and Twitter. This can involve a variety of techniques, like setting up Google Alerts for any news related to your industry. That way, breaking news items will be sent to your email inbox automatically. You may also choose to follow certain buzzwords related to your product on social media.

During this period, you’ll also want to address your current customer feedback process and improve upon it at every opportunity. There are always chances to eliminate inefficiencies from your customer feedback efforts — to respond to queries faster, field more questions, etc. Any such opportunity needs to be capitalized on at all costs.

Finally, you’ll want to use outreach to insert your brand as a resource for industry-related articles whenever you can. Essentially, what you’re trying to do is establish yourself as an authority — a knowledgeable, helpful resource that is to be trusted. Write guest blog posts for industry organizations and share valuable content on social media.

How to put a social listening strategy into action

In the end, remember that putting a social listening strategy into action is an iterative process. The more you learn, the more you can fine-tune the process and make your data collection efforts even more effective. Don’t think about this as a passive experience — one where you “set it and forget it.” See it for what it really is: a process that requires you to be as proactive as possible to understand where your brand is and where your customers are, and how you can build a proverbial bridge between those two.

Adding a social listening tool to your toolkit will help significantly to that end, as it helps wade through the “noise” of social media to cut right to the heart of the actionable information you’re looking for. At that point, all the insight and intelligence you need will be available right at your fingertips — all that is required at that point is for you and your team members to put it to good use.

Want to learn more about social listening? Download our brochure about online reputation management.