Elaine Fogel

Why You Should Care About Social Listening

What the heck is “social listening?” Another marketing buzzword?

Well yes, it is! Ya gotta love marketing for all its new fangled terms and phrases that creep into our vocabulary.

I was a Tweetchat guest last week, so the subject is top of mind for me.  Here’s my definition:

Social listening is monitoring and/or responding to what others say about your organization, brand, or people online.”

Basically, it’s brand reputation management, customer service, and marketing research rolled into one.

Some experts say that social media listening is equivalent to social media monitoring, while others disagree. According to author, speaker, and marketing guru, Jason Falls, there are different definitions for these terms although he claims that neither is 100% accurate.

Jason Falls’ Definition of Social Media Monitoring:

Social media monitoring is the practice of using a social technology platform to notify you of a conversation so you can react to it. Someone says your name, the tool notifies you and you respond to the post. This is how 90 percent of companies use social technology platforms that offer indexing and notifications of when certain keywords are mentioned online.

This is a very basic use of the technology. It’s very customer service and reputation management-oriented. But it is important for most companies to use technology this way.”

Jason Falls’ Definition of Social Media Listening:

Social media listening is the practice of using a social technology platform to investigate what is being said in online conversations to learn, question, explore and glean insights to be more informed. It is a proactive practice.

You look at conversations around your brand or competitor to see how customers categorize or qualify each. Or you find conversations around your product category to see what improvements or feature sets consumers might be interested in.

This is an advanced use of the technology and one that few brands are leveraging. And frankly, almost none of the tools are equipped to do this well because of their keyword-centric approach. To do market research well, you need to focus on an audience, not something a certain group of people said.”

I like how Falls separates the “listening” from the “doing.” However, to simplify things, I have simply combined these two words into “monitoring and/or responding.”

So, why should you care at all about social listening?

If your business or nonprofit organization participates in social media marketing - including content marketing distributed via social media - then you need to care! What’s the point in sending out content and messages unless you interact and engage with others?

And, what’s the point in engaging with others unless you have an overarching strategic objective in mind related to sales, brand awareness, lead generation, registration, attendance, or other goals?

This is what marketing is all about: set strategic goals, develop the tactics, do the tactics, measure the tactics, and then tweak the tactics until your results improve or meet expectations.” (My quote)

It would be very difficult to measure your marketing tactics and brand reputation without ongoing research. Isn’t that why you use customer satisfaction surveys?

Social listening gives you the opportunity to review what people are saying, like the fly on the wall. No one knows you’re there, but you are!

How you respond and use the information you glean contributes to a positive brand reputation. And, let’s face it… a bad reputation is a killer for your business/organization.

Here’s how you can use social listening:

  1. To manage customer experience issues such as complaints, suggestions, and feedback.

    Using social media monitoring/listening technology tools, look for mentions to which you want to respond. Say thanks for suggestions and feedback whether positive or negative, and respond to complaints and problems as quickly as possible.

    Perhaps it’s unrealistic to resolve the issues immediately, but you send a strong message that you care when you continue the communication offline by email, telephone, or text. Don’t allow negativity to fester.

  2. To answer questions people have about your company/organization such as its products/programs, services, prices, events, etc.

    Questions are a gift! It means that prospects (or customers) have an interest. Don’t ignore these open doors to engage with them, build relationships, and maybe convert them into customers.

  3. To improve operational processes.

    Bring common complaints and feedback to the senior management team (or principals) for discussion. These represent red flags that operational processes may need to change and improve.

    This is where having a strong customer orientation is crucial. Do what’s best for your customers that you can manage efficiently, with or without expenditure (do the cost/benefit analysis).

    Empower employees to share ideas and develop new protocols, tools, or systems that resolve the issues. Test them through social listening again. It may take a couple of tries until the specific complaints evaporate.

  4. To monitor your competition.

    Choose selective keywords to watch what your competitors are saying and doing as well as what others are saying about them. The more you know what’s happening in your marketplace, the better you can stay on top of trends, customer demands, likes, dislikes, innovative ideas, and new products/services you may want to explore.

  5. To manage your online reputation.

    According to emarketer.com, “more than one-third of US internet users said they first find out about small businesses when researching online.” In addition to social listening, be proactive and ensure that you regularly use your main keywords to search what comes up. (Google Alerts can also help with this.)

    If you locate negative reviews or comments, see if you can respond to resolve them so people can see your customer-focused attention.

emarketer chart

  1. To find your influencers.

    The same survey uncovered that 35% of people find out about small businesses by word-of-mouth. Find who your online influencers are such as bloggers, reviewers, people with larger followings, and listen to them.

    After a while, engage with them and build relationships. Eventually, you may ask for product/service reviews or buy advertising on their sites.

  2. To learn more about your customers and prospects.

    Ideally, you researched who your customers and prospects are when you developed your marketing plan. Social listening gives you additional channels for ongoing research.

    Things change, and you may find that they prefer new or different places to get their information or hang out and new people or brands to follow. And, these are exactly the places you want to monitor. Research their interests and behaviors so you can better reach and market to them.

Which social listening tools should you use?

I am not going to reinvent the wheel here, as others have done a stellar job identifying them already. Here are two excellent sources:

Social listening tools and platforms review: Social Media Monitoring Ideas (from digitalreview.co)

46 Free Social Media Monitoring Tools (from DreamGrow)

Do you practice social listening? Do you have any best practices to share?

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