You’re sitting back, relaxing, as one of your social media experts is explaining that the number of times people have used your business name and keywords has skyrocketed. You swell with pride—but only momentarily. Because right after they show you that spike, they tell you that it’s not all good mentions, but a lot of complaints, negativity, and general dissatisfaction with your products.
You then understand that, while people are talking about you, they don’t really have anything nice to say—this is social media listening.
What’s interesting about this phenomenon is that a brand can get a pulse on how people are receiving their product because it’s being shared across social media, which is an open and transparent network. Here people are more than happy to talk about what works, what doesn’t, what’s stopping them from trying it out, and why they are addicted.
When viewed from an analytical perspective, business owners can gain so much information about how people feel about their brand and what comments they’re making, giving them free insights and assessments on how a product is being received in the real world through social media.
Social listening is at the heart of understanding audience behaviour and how they react and engage with your product. It also gives you an avenue to talk to loyal customers, understand their points of view, and gives you the ability to improve products or services or how you run the business. You are also able to listen in on your competitors’ channels to see what is moving, or not, in their circles to help give your marketing a strong direction or launch products where your competitors are leaving gaps.
What makes social listening so important is that it gives you the information you need straight from your customer. You get to understand how they feel, what they think could be better, and how you can reach your full potential as a business, simply by listening to what they have to say online.
What is social listening?
Social listening is the process of tracking online conversations around your brand, competitors, keywords, and other aspects of your industry to understand what people are talking about online.
By keeping an eye on these conversations, you can gain insights into what people really want from your business, or even your content. You can also learn more about how people perceive your industry as a whole, as well as what they see your competitors doing right (or wrong).
Social monitoring is different to social listening as it’s more hands-on. With social monitoring, businesses watch their social channels in order to respond to messages addressed directly to their brand, so they have high engagement and response times. Another factor in social monitoring is keeping tabs on keywords used by you and your competitors and how well they are performing. It doesn’t necessarily measure how an audience feels about you or what kind of attitude they have towards your brand (also referred to as brand sentiment), just how often your keywords get mentioned.
On the other hand, listening pays attention to keywords around the kind of product or service you have. Monitoring is checking the number of times you’re talked about or brought up, not necessarily why you get mentioned. Listening is when you dissect those mentions and diagnose them for how audiences feel about you.
Why is social listening valuable to your brand?
Paying attention to what people are saying online can make or break your business, because everyone is plugged in, glued to their phones, laptops, and other devices and looking out for online reviews and comments to help their buying decisions. One negative tweet or Facebook post about your product or service can easily cause a snowball effect, which can lower your image.
By tuning into these conversations, you’re able to quickly respond and appease your audience, giving you a chance to put a positive spin on things or make necessary changes to your product or service to get your brand to the level that loyal customers are asking for.
It’s more important than ever to be present online and have a brand personality. People love seeing the human side of businesses and social media is a great way to take your business to a highly engaging level where people want to share their experiences and connect with you and each other. If you are shy about posting online on a business level, it’s time to get over that and put yourself out there.
While brands used to be able to get away with not having a social media presence in the past, it’s almost impossible to operate a business now without using online platforms to engage with your audience. Get personal and see how your brand can be elevated, not just in popularity, but also positive word of mouth, gaining and keeping loyal customers and wider brand awareness.
Social media listening is valuable because you know where to allocate more money and effort in the long run, especially with user data that lets you find out what’s trending and what people want. It’s a great way to get a read on the market and know how well your products, or future products, are in line with customer expectations. If there are plenty of mentions of your product online but people are disappointed, you can use that data to improve your product. If mentions are low but people are happy, you can try better marketing strategies.
5 ways social listening improves your business
Social listening has become an emerging tool to best inform a business about how they’re being perceived. Here are five ways social listening benefits you.
1. Better customer experience
When you’re listening to your customers on a regular basis, you’re in a better position to respond to their concerns.
Over time you’ll start to notice trends and patterns in the online discussions around your industry and answer them before things get out of hand.
It’s also a comfort to customers to know you’re listening and that you care about their issues and opinions. If they have grievances they know you are there to hear them out and make changes so they aren’t disappointed again. It’s a great way to boost customer loyalty and keep everyone on your side. Would they purchase from a business that clearly doesn’t care about their concerns? It’s unlikely, so being patient and lending an ear can make all the difference.
2. Creating more targeted content
Instead of throwing all kinds of content at the wall and seeing what will stick, social listening will help you narrow your focus by understanding what your audience is looking for. You can easily diagnose social media conversations for what customers find engaging and what they think is boring and tailor your content to meet their needs.
High quality, target content can help improve customer engagement, generate more leads, and attract more traffic to your site.
3. Increase loyal customers
The more a business adjusts to accommodate its customer’s needs, the more likely it is that a customer will make repeat purchases. A customer that’s happy with your service might even spread the word about your business, widening your reach, or leaving positive reviews.
By listening to conversations around your business and industry, you’re in the best position to make your customers happy. Getting personal with your customers draws them in because they feel your brand cares about them and wants to give them the best experience. Once we’ve experienced something that brings us pleasure, we’re drawn to repeating it.
Loyal customers have a higher conversion rate compared to new customers. They’re 60-70% more likely to convert compared to the five to 20% of new customers because they already trust your brand and the risk for the purchase is significantly reduced in knowing that your service is top-notch.
4. Real-time understanding of how others see your brand image
Customers respond to what you do as a business, whether it’s a new marketing manoeuvre or the release of a new product. If your brand is particularly popular, opinions are bound to crop up on social media and you can observe those thoughts in real-time, allowing you to make immediate changes if needed, or broadcast new posts that are better matched to audience needs or product appreciation.
Social listening allows you to track brand sentiment to know right away how an audience feels about you and if they’re unhappy or not. This is so much more informative than numbers alone. While your product may be mentioned several times, that talk might be negative, so having big numbers isn’t always in your best interest. What’s more important, however, is what’s being said and that your brand sentiment is positive overall. Not all publicity is good publicity and some brands have fallen from grace because of it.
One example of this is the Victoria’s Secret “The Perfect Body” campaign where they were trying to uplift women but ultimately failed because the only women in the marketing images were Victoria’s Secret angels—size two and smaller. This implied that the average woman did not have the perfect body, leading to outrage and anger from the online community because of how damaging it was to women’s self-esteem.
And it wasn’t just online comments and reactions either. People began boycotting the famous brand and circulated an online petition reaching more than 30,000 signatures. While large numbers of people were mentioning them, in terms of brand sentiment, it only damaged Victoria’s Secret image.
5. Lets you observe what your competition is doing right (and wrong)
Social media listening has another angle as well: Listening in on comments people are making about your closest competition.
By monitoring the discussions around your industry, you can see what people are saying about other businesses that have similar products or services to you. You can see what other businesses are doing in terms of their product rollout, marketing and engagement and get customer opinions on what is working well and what they like (and dislike) about other brands. You can mirror and use social engagement techniques you like (and people respond to) as part of your own campaigns.
Social listening is an important part of measuring your business success, especially with so many people openly (and publicly) having conversations about products and brands. Rather than guessing what your customers want and need, social listening gives you direct access to their opinions and attitudes so you have a way to monitor and change approaches to meet expectations and demand.
If you’re not capitalising on social media listening yet, it’s time to start tuning in.