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What Exactly Is Social Listening?

Social listening is the practice of tracking social media networks for mentions of your brand, competitors, product, and more. It is a crucial (and often overlooked) aspect of audience research for B2C digital marketing.

Social listening is not to be confused with social media monitoring – which is essentially keeping track of metrics such as:

  • Brand mentions
  • Relevant hashtags
  • Competitor mentions
  • Industry trends
As well as collecting relevant data on these metrics – great for things like monitoring ROI or A/B testing campaigns.
 
But when you actually take action in response to the data you collected you officially begin the process of social listening.
 
So in essence: social monitoring tells you what, and social listening tells you why.

Why Is Social Listening Important?

Imagine you own a corner-shop bakery. One day, as you’re putting out a fresh batch of cookies you overhear two customers chatting about your baked goods.
 
“I love the selection here,” one says. “I could smell those gingerbread men before I saw them!”
 
“I’m not too mad about the cupcakes though,” another one replies. “They’re a little bit dry, and the icing could be more buttery.”
 
You can’t help but wonder. Is this how everyone feels about my cupcakes?
 
So, you ask around to get more feedback. You start listening and making changes based on what people have said. And within a few weeks, there’s a line around the block to try the best cupcakes in town – at your bakery! All because you implemented a proven brand method. You engaged with your customers to find out what they want: social listening.
If brands and marketers don’t listen their audiences, they won’t connect with them – at least not easily.
In too many instances, we guess instead of listening. This means we end up making tactical decisions instead of strategic ones.

Benefits Of Social Listening

1.Improve on Your Social Media Strategy

If you are serious about utilizing the social sphere as a marketing effort, social listening will be beneficial to you. Finding out what people are saying about your brand or within your industry is essential to staying relevant.

Determine your brand’s social landscape by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Which social networking conversation is most common?
  • What is the tone of the discussion?
  • What are the most common topics people affiliate with your brand?

2.Gives You Access to Industry Insights

As you embark on your new social listening journey, it’s important to “listen out” for conversations within a general context in your industry. Don’t just focus on ones about your business or selected competitors.

Ask yourself broader questions when monitoring industry conversations:

  • What are the typical reasons for unhappy customers in your field of work?
  • Is there a need or desire for a product or service that is not available?
  • Are there any frequently discussed topics your brand can use as a communication tool?

Getting feedback about your industry might surprise you. These insights are often the most interesting and valuable for developing your business strategies, as a whole.

3.Track Your Competitors – Benchmarking

Social listening tools are a great way to benchmark your brand against competing brands. Measuring the amount of conversations about your brand to your competitors is essential. Consumers tend to rely on what other people have said about a product or service before deciding to buy. If your brand has no reviews or relevant mentions, then people may look for another company that has more online chatter centred around it.

But, social listening is more than just monitoring what consumers say about your brand. It is within your best interest to know what people say about your competitors. It provides valuable insights into where you fit into the market. As well as keeping up with that competing brands are up to in real-time. Are they launching new products? Are they running new marketing campaigns?

All this knowledge is beneficial and relevant to your brand. Social listening allows you to find out about new opportunities and complications as they happen, so you can plan and respond accordingly.

4.Manage Your Brand’s Reputation

In the social age, it’s the customers that determine conversations about a brand, product, or industry. Many brands are discovering the best practices for managing customer issues on social media.

Active social listening allows your brand to pinpoint potentially harmful discussions and diffuse them. Social listening is invaluable for developing a brand reputation strategy and deciding how to navigate interactions with customers online.

5.Grow Your Customer Base

The social sphere holds many opportunities for expanding your reach to new customers. Think about it like this: your followers aren’t just customers, but also everyday people who enjoy your content or discovered your profile. These are the people you should be targeting.
 
Inbound marketing stresses the importance of creating engaging, useful content that provides value. This attracts them to your brand and means you won’t have to overwhelm them with intrusive ads. It’s so much easier to nurture content viewers and followers into leads, and ultimately conversions than to approach people at random.

Social Listening Tips

  1. Listen everywhere
  2. Learn from competition
  3. Collaborate with your team (including those not in the social media department)
  4. Roll with the punches (changes)
  5. Take action (otherwise this isn’t social listening!)

That being said, the best place to start is by monitoring keywords. Here’s a list of important keywords and topics to begin monitoring right now.

  • Your brand name, products, and handles (take common misspellings into account)
  • Competing brand names, products, and handles
  • Industry trends
  • Your slogan and competitors’ slogans
  • Names of significant people in your company and competitors’ companies (CEO, spokesperson, etc.)
  • Campaign names
  • Branded hashtags
  • Unbranded hashtags relevant to your industry

Give the People What They Want

Identify what kind of content your followers and other social media users enjoy. Study their posts, shares, hashtags, and photos. Now, you can create relevant content that speaks to them, draw them into your brand, and finally to your checkout point. Focused social listening enables you to keep your finger on the pulse and ultimately tailor your products or services to what the people want.

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