Social Listening: What It Is, Why It’s Important and How To Do It
By Jamie Birt
Updated October 28, 2022 | Published October 27, 2020
Updated October 28, 2022
Published October 27, 2020
Jamie Birt is a career coach with 5+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.
As a business, it's important to understand how your audience feels about your brand, products and services and perhaps, most importantly, what they say in reviews, on blogs and social media. By using social listening, you can adjust your branding strategy to make sure your company is providing what your audience needs. Social listening allows brands to be successful and have a positive sentiment among their customers online.
In this article, we explain what social listening is, why it's important, give a list of steps to practice social listening and provide important tips and tools to help you do it.
What is social listening?
Social listening is paying attention to what others say about your business, product or competitors online and then analyzing the results to understand why they are making those comments. Social listening is a crucial part of audience and marketing research. It often is used alongside social monitoring. Monitoring lets you know “what” what people say by tracking and responding to website comments. Listening allows you to know “why” your audience is making these comments.
Read more: What Is Social Media Marketing?
For example, social monitoring shows your brand is getting great scores for customer service. Social listening lets you know comments center around a particular location that goes out of its way to help customers. This shows that store employees’ actions reflect the company’s commitment to serving its clients. In return, you can recognize the team’s hard work, perhaps rewarding them with a bonus or prize, and use this as a motivational example for other locations and teams. It’s a win-win situation since customers are satisfied, employees are recognized and your company has proof of its success.
Why is social listening important?
Social listening will help you better understand what your audience thinks of your organization and your brand. With this insight, you can amend and optimize your branding, customer service and even, products or service.
You can use your knowledge from social listening to help create campaigns, deliver appropriate and interesting content, provide important educational pieces, understand your competitors' advantage and select brand ambassadors.
Here are some more reasons why social listening is important:
You'll know exactly how customers feel instead of assuming. When you have this information, you can properly use your marketing and operations budgets to make sure you're providing what a customer needs. When you assume, you may be wasting precious money, time and other resources on campaigns and strategies that may not work.
You can prove your brand's growth. Social listening tools can help you see the rise and fall of certain sentiments about your brand. You can then use other metrics and specific tools to attribute these peaks and valleys to something specific. For example, you may see a rise in positive sentiments after a product launch and be able to prove that your brand's new growth is because customers were happy with your product.
You'll be able to form a deeper relationship with your customers. Customers appreciate when brands form genuine connections with them. They want to know that your brand listens to what they have to say, understands how they feel and wants to do something about it. Customers are looking to their favorite brands to answer their questions and provide real (and, sometimes, valuable) responses to comments.
Your customers can help you come up with solutions. Customer complaints are critical because, with them, you can determine what you can do to make your clients happier and more loyal to your brand. For example, social listening may find that customers are frustrated because the live webinar you host fills up quickly and they have a hard time getting tickets. With this information, you can find a way to help your customers still receive the information by either recording the webinar for them to watch later or providing them with your presentation.
You have built-in content. Because social listening shows you what others are saying about your brand, you may find content from your customers to use in your own content marketing calendar. User-generated content is an important piece of any content strategy because you can show organic pictures and videos of a customer using your products.
Read more: 5 Steps of Content Strategy
How to perform social listening
Follow these steps to get set up and perform social listening:
1. Create and update your social media profiles
If you have not already done so, make sure that you have a solid social media presence, by creating profiles where your customers might be and engaging them with interesting content. While your overall marketing strategy may not allow for a presence on every single platform, be open to joining those where your customers exist once you perform some social listening.
2. Choose a social listening tool
Basic social listening tools will let you connect your social media profiles and track a set number of keywords or hashtags. Some are free while others must be purchased. There are also more advanced tools that will not only search and track for branded mentions and specific keywords but will also allow you to reply to customers, run comprehensive reports and identify trends.. Do some research to find the best social listening tool for your needs and your budget.
3. Identify your keywords
You may already have keywords in place, but there could be opportunity for more. The more you pay attention to what customers are saying online, the more sense you'll have of the keywords and jargon they are using to communicate about your brand or the industry you serve. You can then use their same language when you're developing content as a way to connect with them. As you form your keywords list, you can search for these same keywords to conduct even more in-depth social listening.
4. Know your competitors
Part of social listening is understanding how your audience and potential customers feel about your competition. This can give you a valuable advantage to developing products, services and other offerings to earn your customers' loyalty or acquire the business of others who may have connected with your competition in the past. You can understand what your competitors are doing to earn customers or what you're doing right that makes you stand out from your competition.
5. Monitor other important items
Along with keywords and your competitors, it's important to monitor:
Your brand name and individual social media handles
The name of your products and services
Common misspellings of your brand and its offerings
Your company's executives and other important members of your leadership team or those who the public may be familiar with, such as your public relations manager
Hashtags you've developed
Hashtags your customers use often in connection with your brand and what you sell
Buzzwords often used in your industry
Your company slogan
Your marketing campaign's name
6. Meet with your team
A part of social listening is monitoring what's being said online and then creating action plans from the results. Develop a schedule for how often you'll perform social monitoring so you can have a standing meeting on the calendar with those in marketing, operations or other important departments. The group can analyze the results of social listening and monitoring reports and decide what the company can do to improve upon their current online sentiment, earn the loyalty of even more customers or address a problem.
Tips for social listening
Keep these tips in mind when social listening for the best results:
All departments and levels of your company can benefit from the sort of information that social listening provides, so collaborate as much as possible. For example, your marketing team may perform social listening but needs the customer service department to step in and answer an inquiry. If you work for a bank and your customers have a lot of questions about the home loan approval process, you may need your lending team to craft the valuable blog posts and emails that you know customers need.
Listen everywhere you can
Customers may post about your brand anywhere online, from social media platforms to review sites and even comments on blogs that write about industry news. Make sure to monitor as much as possible so you aren't missing key information. Once you have identified where customers are talking about you, you'll be able to create content there, organically interact with the customers using the platform and create an advertising strategy that can increase your sales and profit.
Make necessary changes
Through regular social listening, you'll be able to see when your brand's sentiment changes from positive to negative. Social listening enables you to take quick action when this happens. Be ready to address any issues you see by understanding why the customer base feels the way they do and revisiting your strategy so you can make any corrections you must to have a happy customer base once again.
Keep track of patterns and trends
A large part of social listening is gaining the insights you need so you can give customers what they want and avoid the things they don't want. Over time, you'll be able to establish patterns and see trends that can help your strategy in the future.
Identify your organic brand ambassadors
Your brand ambassadors are those who naturally mention your brand and its offerings, and are influential in their purchase because of how passionate they are about your brand. If you identify these individuals, you may be able to develop partnerships with them to produce even more content while rewarding them for their loyalty.
Engage in conversation
Social listening may seem one-sided, but consider how much more effective your customer strategy will be if you use social listening to regularly engage with your audience. By joining in on the conversation, you may be a key part of keeping it going, which can provide you with even more information about your customers.
Related: How To Become a Social Media Manager
Top 10 social listening tools
Below are 10 highly rated social listening tools that will help you “listen” for comments, posts, tweets and reviews of your company’s brand online. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this alphabetized list are affiliated with Indeed.
AgoraPulse: This tool lets you identify influencers within your social media audience and mentions of your connected accounts.
Brandwatch: Brandwatch focuses on consumer intelligence and trendspotting solutions. It offers analytics, data visualization audience understanding.
BuzzSumo: Primarily a content analysis tool, BuzzSumo lets you comb the web for any content that carries your branded search term.
Hootsuite: Social listening is part of its social media management platforms. It has an entire subsection, named Hootsuite Insights, dedicated to social listening.
HubSpot: This social listening tool lets you write, schedule and analyze your social strategy while monitoring specific keywords for activity.
Keyhole: This social media tool lets you automate posts, track keywords and hashtags and follow brand mentions across blogs and new sites.
Mention: The Mention platform scours more than 50 languages to monitor brand mentions and specific content for new trends.
Oktopost: Easy-to-use formatting lets you discover content ideas, streamline approvals and schedule posts across popular social media platforms.
Sprout Social: This social media management platform offers a single hub for social media publishing, analytics and engagements across all social profiles.
Tweetreach: Tweetreach produces reports on the reach of conversations on Twitter and based on specific hashtags.
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