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Social Media Marketing
Published Date:
April 12, 2024

Everything You Need To Know About Social Listening

People talk, that's how ideas propagate. Do you know what else spreads around through people talking? Your brand's name and identity. Around 62.3% of the global population talk and discuss opinions and thoughts about your brand on social media.

What if you could listen and respond to these online conversations about your brand? What if you could learn what people love and hate about your brand? That's what social listening can help with.

What Is Social Listening?

Social listening is the process of monitoring and analyzing online conversations about a brand, industry, and audience. Do not confuse social listening with social monitoring; social listening involves following online conversations about your brand to find relevant insights. You practice social listening when analyzing digital talk across social media channels, forums, or review sites. Then, you use these powerful customer-led insights to shape your marketing strategies and deepen customer connections. 

Social listening lets you understand your target audiences' sentiments, needs, and challenges. The benefits are many; from knowing how your product does against a competitor to understanding what makes customers like or dislike your brand.

Taco Bell had once used its social listening strategy to respond to customer feedback. When it noticed a wave of tweets voicing dismay about the nacho cheese sauce in its quesadillas, it reformulated the recipe and used social media to announce the cheesy upgrade.

Why Is Social Listening Important?

Social listening is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it steers you away from making assumptions about your brand image. Instead, you listen to what actual users of your product or service say about it on social media. 

Let’s understand why social listening is so important for brands in more detail:

1. Helps you Understand Your Target Audience

Social listening is like having direct access to your audience's collective minds—a window into their thoughts and perceptions about your brand, services, and messaging.

When you understand the root causes of these sentiments, you can address gaps, course-correct, and shape how your brand is perceived. You also gain a competitive advantage and have the headroom to shape your content and messaging in a certain way and align your products or services better with customer expectations.

Netflix upholds a perfect model of social listening. On social media platforms and review sites, Netflix's internal teams monitor discussions about shows and movies. You can frequently catch their official social media handles interacting with fans and the general public. For the streaming giant, social listening likely influences its decision to renew shows for newer seasons or develop originals that speak to certain audience wishes.

2. Assists in Monitoring Your Brand's Reputation

No matter how loved, every brand will encounter challenges at some point. And social media, with its bullhorn effect, can amplify even a minor issue into a full-blown crisis. While a handful of disgruntled comments might seem like background noise, a sudden spike in negativity is a clear warning sign. 

You peek into the online situation through social listening tools to pinpoint the cause of trouble. 

Is it a product malfunction, a disappointing customer service experience, or an insensitive marketing campaign? You will have the room to craft a targeted response that best addresses consumer concerns. This can also be a great opportunity for a new marketing campaign.

During the 2016 US presidential election, Bernie Sanders' campaign used social listening tools to track sentiment around his candidacy. It allowed his team to identify issues that echoed most with voters and tailor their messaging accordingly. Social listening helped them identify the solid support base that propelled Sanders throughout the primaries.

3. Propels Your Followers Into a Growth Engine

Social media is more than just a one-way street for broadcasting messages. And your followers aren't just a cheering section; they're a prime target audience that already enjoys what you offer.

By providing them with insightful content backed by social listening, you're more likely to convert your followers into qualified leads and, ultimately, happy customers. After all, it's far easier to build on the power of a budding and passionate community rather than starting from  scratch.

Massive gaming and media giant, Hoyoverse, has been informally using user-generated content  in the form of cosplays, videos, animations, and more to extend their consumer base through social media. 

They even organized prizes for the streamers and content creators who generated the highest viewerships in their UGC events on social media. Recently, they have taken it a step further by planning to create a dedicated UGC platform within all their networks. 

What Is the Difference Between Social Listening and Social Monitoring?

Terms like "social listening" and "social monitoring" are often used interchangeably.

Social monitoring is the process of tracking mentions and conversations to see what people are saying about you and responding to those messages that directly concern you. Social monitoring is essential for customer support. It helps respond quickly to questions, fix issues, and keep the audience happy.

Social listening does all of this, and goes deeper to understand the "why" behind the chatter. With social listening, you're not concerned with just your brand. Instead, you aim to understand your target audience by monitoring conversations, trends, and the latest happenings in your industry, brands, and any topics concerning your brand.

Why Does Social Listening Matter to Businesses? 

Using the insights derived from monitoring online conversations can help you gain invaluable knowledge about your brand perception, consumer expectations, and market dynamics. Let's look at  why integrating social listening into your business strategy is essential.

Informs the Decision-Making Process

Access to comprehensive data on consumer behavior, industry trends, and competitor activities equips you with the necessary intelligence to make informed business decisions. These insights are guiding principles for developing targeted marketing campaigns and refining product strategies.

Look at the following tweet, where customers discuss which CRM they should choose between Zoho and Hubspot. There are several replies, each giving the company information regarding what their customers truly value, what they think each product excels at, and what areas it is weak at. Using this sort of data, you, too, can make user-centric decisions in the future.

Gives You Competitive Advantage 

You gain a competitive edge by staying attuned to positive sentiments and areas for improvement within your brand and its competitors. This proactive approach enables you to capitalize on opportunities swiftly and address challenges effectively, thereby maintaining a leading position in the market.

Generates Influencer Marketing Opportunities

Identifying and collaborating with influential figures in your industry amplifies your brand's reach and credibility. A study in the Journal of Marketing found that a mere 1% increment in influencer marketing expenditure led to a nearly 0.5% surge in engagement. 

By reallocating their budgets according to the study's findings, brands could witness a remarkable 16.6% escalation in engagement rates. Partnering with relevant influencers enables you to engage with a broader audience and drive heightened levels of engagement, ultimately bolstering brand visibility and reputation.

For instance, if your business is sports-oriented, you must stay updated with the most prominent influencers in the sports space. Without social listening, you would never know you need to contact people like Joshua Patterson or Travis Burke. There are a ton of people who take the words of their favorite influencers as gospel truth. Tapping into that will yield you magnificent results.

Ensures Brand Protection

Real-time monitoring of online conversations enables swift detection of potential crises or negative sentiments. Promptly addressing unfavorable feedback or misinformation safeguards your brand's reputation and maintains consumer trust.

A very poignant example comes from Nijisanji's public relations management. They are a VTuber/idol company that manages online talents. Recently, their audience has taken extreme heat from them due to certain malpractices. They are criticized for being tone-deaf and unable to communicate with the viewers. They receive many tweets attacking them daily and have done nothing about it. It is an excellent example of how you don't handle brand protection.

Through social listening, you would be aware of such concerns happening in real-time and be able to tackle them promptly.

How To Build Your Social Listening Strategy

Crafting a robust social listening strategy is imperative for any business. By effectively leveraging social listening, you gain insights and unearth growth opportunities. But there are specific steps you can take to lead to eventual business growth. Let's examine them in depth.

Step 1: Define Your Business Goals and Primary KPIs

Social listening can do a lot for you. We have already discussed its myriad purposes. But given so many choices, it often becomes easy to lose focus. That's why the first course of action should be to define what you want from your social listening initiatives.

Ask yourself: What do I want to learn from social media listening? What avenues or platforms do I want to explore?

Step 2: Choose a Social Listening Tool

Theoretically, you can conduct your social listening activities by sticking your face to a computer screen for 24 hours. However, not only is that highly improbable, but it is also virtually impossible to go through the vast amounts of data that social media generates regularly. 

This is where social listening tools come in. They are your go-to solution for conquering the social listening strategy. Competent platforms like Highperformr can analyze a mountain of data from multiple platforms on the web. Plus, they have powers like metric calculation, trend spotting, auto posting, and uncovering the hidden gems in social conversations.

Most social listening tools aren't exactly free, but the good ones are worth their price. Do your research and pick a tool that matches your objectives and your team's budget. Here's what to look for in a nutshell: a tool that tracks tons of channels, assesses everything in sight, lets you customize your listening experience, and plays nicely with your existing setup.

You should also take the following elements into account when choosing the right tool for yourself:

  • The platforms that the tool monitors
  • Goal-oriented features
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Reviews on trusted sites like G2 and Capterra
  • Customer support solutions

Step 3: Pick the Right Keywords, Topics, and Hashtags to Monitor

Pick the keywords, topics, and hashtags you want to focus on. These are the guideposts for your social listening strategy. You want a mix of relevant keywords for your brand and industry. This way, you'll snag the social information that matters most. The key things you need to focus on when choosing keywords are as follows:

  • Your brand name
  • The name of your product or service
  • Hashtags that are relevant to your business or industry
  • Campaign-centric hashtags

Get creative with it and try to insert relevant and often-searched keywords. To get started, you can use multiple SEO review tools to get a list of keywords.

Step 4: Choose What To Listen to Through Your Monitoring Project

Start by making a list of what you want to hear about. You can use the following categories to get started with your monitoring project:

  • Brand name
  • Social media handles
  • Brand hashtags
  • Relevant topics
  • Industry-specific keywords
  • Product/service names
  • Campaign slogans

You can keep adding to that list, but remember not to overdo it. Listen only to things that genuinely affect your business growth.

Step 5: Identify Your Primary Channels

Identify which platforms and channels have the highest traffic relevant to your social listening initiative. While LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are popular choices, there are many other platforms, communities, and forums where discussions happen.

Step 6: Make Good Use of Social Listening Data

Once you have amassed enough data, it's time to implement it. We have discussed a few ways in which you can also use the data.

  • Identify the most popular and relevant influencers within the framework of your product. You can also find bloggers and content creators like the one below discussing business topics, including extremely niche ones. Read their content to understand the pulse of the general audience.

  • Keep track of negative sentiments and respond accordingly. Look at McDonald's trying to contact a customer complaining about the food delivery service, not the fast food chain. Yet, they took the initiative to do what they could to resolve the situation. Your customers remember stuff like that.
  • Keep a close eye on your competitors' social media content and audience engagement to glean valuable insights into their strategies and performance.
  • Maintain your brand image and take care of any potentially confusing developments. 

Look at Webflow jumping in to clear any confusion one user may have had regarding unreleased features. Such prompt issue resolution is the gold standard in social listening.

  • Extend your social listening efforts beyond mainstream platforms to explore niche online communities, forums, and discussion boards where potential customers engage. For example, if you're a food delivery service, tapping into discussions on food forums or Reddit communities can provide valuable feedback and ideas for improving your service offerings.

Step 7: Keep Refining Your Social Listening Initiative

By following the above steps, you have now crossed the threshold of social listening. It is time to use this data and other KPIs, such as sentiment, influencers, popularity, engagement, and more.

By utilizing your KPIs, you can analyze sentiment and trending topics to refine your strategy. Based on insights, you can take decisive actions to reinforce strengths and capitalize on opportunities. Additionally, you should manually track popular mentions to stay informed and engaged in your industry's critical conversations.

Social Listening Tips

Let us look into some tips to squeeze more out of your social listening strategy.

  1. Generate Leads From Disgruntled Customers from Competitors: Consumers complaining about your competitors on social media can be an excellent opportunity to pitch your products. One way to do this could be by searching for [competitor name]+ a negative word such as not, can't, or frustrate. Target these customers to a demo or free trial of your own.
  2. Collaborate With Influencers: Effective social listening can help identify influencers whose domain matches your services. Collaborate with them to promote your product to their target audience, which, in turn, is similar to yours.
  3. Respond to Customer Feedback: This is a no-brainer, but it helps customers best. Thank them for their appreciation, and promise to work on feedback.
  4. Harness a Multi-Channel Listening Strategy: Always look for new forums, communities, and social media channels apart from the popular ones. You never know where people discuss you.
  5. Create a Customer Persona: Analyze user-profiles and conversations related to your tracked keywords to develop detailed buyer personas. Then, put detailed information about them into a spreadsheet to understand your social audience.
  6. Plan Your Social Listening Workflow: Decide upfront who monitors, responds, and analyzes your social listening information; it will go a long way toward setting you up for success. Early planning also ensures you squeeze every drop of value from that data. 

Social Listening Metrics

Okay, you're now actively listening to all the buzz on social media. But it’s neither possible nor advisable to keep deal with all that boatloads of data you gather through your social listening exercise. You must eliminate noise and juice the truly important info. That’s where social metrics come in to help. Let’s talk about social metrics that tell you what data to look at and how.  These key metrics may help.

Sentiment Analysis:

This metric unveils the emotional pulse behind mentions, indicating whether the sentiment is positive, neutral, or negative. Understanding this sentiment is paramount as it directly reflects how your audience perceives your brand, products, or competitors. 

For instance, if sentiment analysis reveals a surge in positive mentions after a new product's launch, it indicates a favorable reception among consumers.

Share of Voice (SOV):

SOV acts as a yardstick to gauge the prominence of your brand amidst online conversations within your industry. A higher SOV translates to greater authority and visibility in your niche. 

Let's say your SOV surpasses competitors during a specific campaign; it signifies that your brand is dominating the conversation and attracting more attention from the audience.

Social Media Reach:

This metric estimates the potential audience exposed to your posts containing specific keywords. Tracking social media reach is instrumental in evaluating the effectiveness of your social media strategies and assessing brand awareness across various platforms.  

For example, if your post showcasing a new product reaches thousands of users on Instagram, it indicates a successful outreach effort on that platform.

Non-Social Reach:

Beyond social media, non-social reach calculates the impressions generated by content featuring monitored keywords across the web. It offers insights into the broader impact of your brand or campaigns. 

For instance, if a blog post discussing your brand gains significant traction on external websites, it amplifies your brand's visibility beyond social media platforms.

Volume of Mentions:

This metric quantifies engagement and interest surrounding your content or brand. A higher volume of mentions suggests heightened engagement and indicates the resonance of your message with the audience. 

For instance, if a viral video campaign generates thousands of mentions across social media platforms, it signifies its widespread appeal and effectiveness.

Presence Score:

Presence Score measures the online popularity of your brand or topic at a specific moment. It aids in understanding the overall awareness of your brand or competitors within the digital landscape. 

Reputation Score:

This metric evaluates brand reputation based on sentiment and reach analysis. It provides insights into how your target audience perceives your brand, positively or negatively.  

If a sudden drop in reputation score coincides with adverse sentiment spikes, it signals a potential reputational crisis that needs immediate attention.

Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE):

AVE estimates the value of collected mentions by approximating the amount required for equivalent exposure through paid advertising. It offers a tangible measure of the impact of your organic online presence. 

If your PR campaign's AVE exceeds the actual advertising expenditure, this highlights its cost-effectiveness.

Earned Media Value (EMV):

EMV allows you to quantify the return on investment (ROI) from PR and marketing activities. It demonstrates the tangible impact of these efforts on achieving company objectives and KPIs. 

If the EMV attributed to media coverage surpasses the investment in PR activities, it showcases the effectiveness of your PR strategies in generating value for the company.

Conclusion

Social listening emerges as an indispensable tool, offering businesses a profound understanding of their audience's sentiments, needs, and preferences. But to truly harness social listening's potential, you need a comprehensive solution that empowers you to glean actionable insights and drive meaningful engagement across multiple platforms. 

Enter Highperformr, a leading social media management application engineered to deliver unparalleled analytics and publishing capabilities. With Highperformr, you gain access to cross-platform analytics, enabling you to track and compare metrics across various social accounts effortlessly. Its advanced features, such as Growth Funnel Analysis and Content Topic Analysis, equip you with the tools to craft impactful posts that resonate with your audience. 

Moreover, Highperformr doesn't stop at analytics; it streamlines your workflow with automation, allowing you to schedule posts, engage with your audience, and precisely shape your brand voice. Join the Highperformr community and see the magic of social listening with us. Sign up to Highperformr today for free!

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