Social Listening

Dear Doctor Digital, what is social listening? Is it that thing Google does on your phone when it's sneakily eavesdropping so it can sell you stuff on Facebook?

Doctor Digital Says

It sure sounds like it could be a new form of eavesdropping, but social listening is what the cool kids call social media monitoring – listening to what is happening in and around your brand and market niche. As so many simultaneous conversations are happening on multiple channels, having an active listening strategy means that you are not only staying abreast of your brand, but of the wider industry and trends. Measuring what is happening in your brand will inform where to target your spend, and give you a clearer roadmap of what is and isn’t working in how you are using your social channels.

So how do you get started with creating a social listening strategy for your business? Firstly you have to have social channels, but let’s assume you are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Medium, Snapchat or a combination of the main social channels for business. As social media has matured in a business sense, more and more organizations have become aware of the benefits of social listening, but if you haven't started your own listening program as yet, here are some key tips to set you on the right track.

Tools: Social listening tools help you to monitor the conversation and there is a vast range and diversity available from free entry level like Hootsuite to the more complex deep analytics you can extract through. Head to this breakdownof what’s available in 2019 to help find the right tool for you.

Strategy: As with most activities, a key first step is to align your social listening actions with your overarching strategy to maximize your performance. Here’re some of the common uses of social listening, around which you’ve got to build your strategy:

  • Market research
  • Lead generation
  • Customer service & reputation management
  • SEO

Knowing what you are working towards will define all of your efforts going forward, as you'll be able to choose the right keywords to monitor, brand terms, interactions - each element will help inform your process when viewed from the right perspective. Social listening tools enable you to monitor social media channels as well as news sites, blogs, and forums. Here is where you can nail your market research, with a much bigger and more diverse amount of voices than you get with surveys and focus groups that tend to be people you already have touchpoints with (although of course these are valuable too). The information you obtain through social listening also comes direct from the users, and isn’t biased by the questions asked or by the person’s wish to be nice and polite. Of course, each research method has its own benefits, so it’s optimal to use all methods available to you when it comes to engaging with your audience.

Identify your target audience: Often, knowing who your actual customer is is more difficult than it sounds, because the image you have in your head of your ideal customer may not match the reality of those who will actually buy from your brand. Creating a persona is a start, but this can be deeply enriched with some real life data to correlate your assumptions.

To start to prove your hypothesis, once you have chosen a social listening tool, enter your brand name (and any possible abbreviations and misspellings) and the brands of a couple of your main competitors (also add any possible abbreviations and misspellings). You will find mentions from people that use your product and/or the product of your competitors. You can then analyze what kind of people they are in terms of demographics, psychographics, location, preferred social media network, and so on – and what they are saying about your product.

Lead Generation: Social listening isn’t usually thought of as a lead generation tool but its highly effective. Not only do you have visibility over your evangelists, you can also see who is talking smack about you, and about your competitors. This is a surprisingly rich lead generation opportunity to reach out to those customers and offer them better deals, alternate deals, or find out what you could do better or differently to get them back as customers. You will need a fair amount of humility in this work, as it’s hard to see your beloved brand being trashed, but keep calm and listen on, as the effort is definitely worth it for the insights.

Another opportunity is to find people who are looking for products like yours on social channels and then reach out and scoop them up with your charm and product market fit. A simple starting point to help find those potentially interested in your products is to search for keywords such as “looking for product X”, “any recommendation on product X”, “can anyone recommend a good product X”, etc. It’s best to have as many search variations as you can think of, to make the queries as specific as possible, you can use what is known as a Boolean Search.

Customer Service: Customer service is the most common use of social listening, driven by customers using social media as a way to communicate their questions, desires, and complaints to a brand, and since so many brands are on social media, it makes sense for people to assume that those brands will be on social media, tuning into their comments.

This is an interesting behavioral transition and one you need to understand. You can look to how Facebook is developing Messenger and Whatsapp to assist businesses to have real time chats with customers to see that the assumption you are ready and waiting to communicate is happening right now. If you're using social media for customer service, users don’t want to wait, and expect a response to their social media queries within an hour of posting. It can be a challenge to meet these metrics, however it does pay off - research shows that customers who receive quick, effective responses on social media are likely to recommend the brand to others. Of course when people are positively mentioning your brand, reward and acknowledge them to keep the love coming.

Social SEO: Finally, social listening - or really, online listening more broadly - can also have SEO benefits when used the right way. Where customers are mentioning you without a link to your website or social channels, this is called linkless mentions. Where we know that Google bots value seeing the traffic flow to and from links, the linkless mention also has value in pushing up your ranking as you are seen as current and relevant. It makes sense to find relevant discussions and influencers, grow the number of mentions online, and facilitate people talking about your brand. When you do find linkless mentions, you can reach out and thank them and ask for your link to be added or potentially to stitch up a two way deal – rad!

Creating an optimal social listening strategy isn’t a simple task, but it can be a hugely beneficial one when used well. Hopefully these tips will help you build an optimal social listening strategy for your business in 2019.

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