Imagine this: you’re in the back of an elevator at an industry conference, the door opens and three of your target customers step in. They’re talking about a major problem at their company and your business is a natural solution provider. You’ve been trying to get your foot in the door at their company for the last year, but can’t seem to gain any traction. Now, you’ve just learned a key insight that will enable you to shift your business pitch and finally land a meeting. This is the most basic, low-tech form of social listening: hearing conversations that are relative to your business, analyzing the conversation for insights, and then shifting strategy to better engage your target audience.
What is Social Media Listening?
In our elevator story, you got lucky by being in the right place at the right time. But what if you took luck out of the equation and could intentionally position yourself to hear what’s being said in your industry through public channels? That’s exactly what social media listening accomplishes.
Social listening, as defined by HootSuite, is a two-part process:
- Monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors, product, and any other ideas or themes that are relevant to your business.
- Analyzing information and applying actionable insights to shift sales and marketing engagement strategy.
How is Listening Different from Social Media Monitoring?
Different name, same strategy, right? Not quite. Social media monitoring focuses on metrics – engagement rate, mentions, retweets, etc. – to test campaign effectiveness and measure social media marketing ROI. Social listening takes this process one step further.
Listening implies an active process of paying attention to what someone else is saying. Analyzing this candid feedback can uncover needs, wants, problems and trends your business would otherwise miss.
My Business Already Does Customer Surveys, Monitors Yelp, etc.; Do We Really Need to do This?
Absolutely. Here’s the thing: Yelp and other industry review sites are a great place to track public opinion about your company and gauge brand affinity. At the end of the day, however, we all know that customers who are upset or disappointed about their experience are more likely to post online reviews. This can skew perception and make it difficult to accurately assess where your business stands in the marketplace. After all, if 97 customers are happy and 3 are unhappy, but only those 3 post reviews, it will seem like 100% of customers have a problem, not 3%.
Social media listening provides an added layer of nuance to your marketing and brand positioning that you won’t get with a Yelp review or customer survey. Major companies like Intel, H&M, and Ikea all use social listening to discover candid feedback that helps their business differentiate products and services from the competition. Here’s how:
- Identify new opportunities or strategic missteps in real-time. If social sentiment about your brand abruptly changes, you’ll be notified in real-time so you can take action to either capitalize on the positive bump or handle damage control before anything gets worse.
- Understand how customers perceive your business in comparison with the competition. With social media listening, you keep track of both what customers are saying about your business and what they’re saying about the competition, giving you key insights into how you stack up.
- Identify industry pain points. Use social media listening to track keywords or issues that are repeatedly referenced in social media conversations. How can your business better position itself as a solution provider?
- Identify influencers or advocates. Do you know who your natural social media brand ambassadors are? While it’s great to work with professional influencers, ambassadors already love your product and are promoting it without any compensation.
Next up on social listening, we’ll dive in deeper, including how to use your existing social monitoring platforms to mine key customer insights.