What Is Social Listening & Why Is It Important? [+Expert Tips on How to Implement a Strategy]

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Swetha Amaresan
Swetha Amaresan


It's essential to build a solid reputation and following on social media for your brand to become a household name and attain a high brand awareness.

Customers on social media platforms where companies can use social listening

However, things aren't always so black and white. The last thing you want is to develop a reputation for all the wrong reasons -- bad service, scandals, and other issues can cause negative social media mentions.

Due to what can suddenly become a rocky road, it's vital to continuously track your brand's social media channels and look out for any red flags. That's where social listening comes in.

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By performing social listening, you can create the kind of content your followers actually want, come up with new ideas based on industry trends, improve your customer experience by interacting directly with customers, and continuously shift your customer strategy to fit the current need.

The Qallann Marketing Agency says, "People and their behaviors change. To succeed [on social media], you need to innovate, follow the data, and listen."

Social listening tip: Qallann Marketing Agency

Social listening is a two-part process, unlike social monitoring. Social monitoring merely does the former, keeping track of social media mentions and conversations. However, without the analysis and actionable responses, your brand cannot sufficiently meet the needs of its customers. Social listening finds the root causes behind social conversations and implements long-term strategy changes.

If you're still not convinced of the necessity of social listening, read the following list of reasons why it's so important.

4 Reasons to Start Using Social Listening

In general, it's important to come to these conclusions because it promotes a customer-centric mindset in your company.

Why is social listening important for brands?

Rather than making assumptions about what your customers want or need, you should hear exactly what they're saying. It's common for people to publicly share their opinions -- whether they be about the political state of our nation or about the latest meme -- so it's no surprise they do the same about the brands they interact with.

1. Customers like it when brands respond.

Customers want to feel heard on social media. According to research done by Sprout Social, 46% of consumers think that engaging with your audience on social media is what makes a brand best in class online.

In fact, being responsive on social media clearly makes a difference; after all, according to the Sprout Social research, "By prioritizing responsiveness and relevance on social, marketers can positively influence consumer behavior to benefit the entire organization." When consumers follow brands on social media, 90% are likely to make a purchase.

They want you to respond. But, it's more than that. It's about using social listening to thoughtfully craft responses that provide real value. Those are the kinds of responses that will elicit brand loyalty and increase customer retention rates.

2. You can keep track of your brand's growth.

Sometimes, brands face scandals or serious issues. Things happen, but even one incident can cause a wave of negativity to plague your social media. It's easy to ignore a couple of rude comments here and there, but it's troublesome if the negative ones seem to outweigh the positive.

This is a great time to use social listening. By analyzing the recent incident, you can do some research and see if the rise in negative comments has actually led to a decrease in followers, sales, or whatever metric you choose to investigate. Then, you can determine whether serious measures need to be taken in response, or whether it's simply a phase with no lasting effects.

3. You can discover new opportunities.

Often, your customers do the work for you. When many customers start complaining about the same problem -- or rooting for the same win -- it's a sign that's something to take note of and run with. Rather than simply monitoring these changes, you can use social listening to find ways to innovate on the changes.

For instance, maybe you work for a fitness center. Your customers have been sharing how frustrated they are about fitness classes filling up so quickly. There is an opportunity there for you to consider creating more classes, opening up more spots in each class -- which may require moving to larger spaces -- or putting a limit on how many classes any one individual can sign up for in a week. Any of these options may have pros and cons, but testing out different methods can relay important results and, hopefully, satisfy more of your customers.

4. You can increase customer acquisition.

Social media holds many opportunities for broadening your reach to prospects. After all, your followers aren't just your loyal customers; they're also simply people who enjoy your content or who fell upon your social media. These are the kinds of people who you should be targeting.

Inbound marketing highlights the importance of providing interesting, useful content that provides value to people. This initially attracts them to your brand and avoids you being forced to bombard them with distracting ads. It's much easier to convert your content viewers and followers into leads and, eventually, customers, than it is to approach random strangers and hope they'll be interested in your products or services.

Using social listening, you can discover the kinds of content that those who follow and mention you enjoy by viewing their posts, shares, hashtags, and photos. Then, you can accordingly create relevant content that matches their taste and will ultimately draw them into your brand.

1. Identify pain points.

When you begin the social listening process, it's important to see what's bothering your audience. You can use social listening to understand gaps in your industry or product.

Aleh Barysevich, an expert digital marketer, says, "Social monitoring and listening tools break down the sentiment, reach, demographics, and user behavior trends behind any phenomenon you want to research on social media."

After all, the best way to figure out what problem your audience has is to listen to them directly. On social media users often talk about their pain points. This will help you see if there's a gap in what your competitors and your own company are offering.

2. Choose strategic keywords and topics to monitor.

To get started with social listening, it's important to choose strategic keywords and topics to monitor. These will evolve as time goes on, but you can use social listening tools (examples below) to uncover which topics are being talked about across the internet.

For example, it's not only important to follow mentions of your brand, but also topics in your industry so you can engage in the conversation happening online.

3. Use it to improve your customer feedback process.

Of course one of the main reasons you get started with social listening is to respond to customer feedback (whether negative or positive). Social listening will give you an opportunity to improve your customer feedback process. Think about how you handle feedback and complaints on social media and then continue to iterate on the process.

4. Generate leads by following recommendation posts in your industry.

With social listening, you can engage with your audience. Barysevichadds, "You can use social listening, competitor, and hashtag research to find accounts related to your niche and engage them in the comments. Then, offer your expertise or start conversations discussing relevant topics."

For example, follow "recommendations" posts in your industry, and respond by offering tips, tricks, and recommending your product where it makes sense.

If these seem a bit conceptual, let's dive into the step-by-step process you can use to implement a social listening strategy.

Social Listening in Action

To really do a deep dive with social listening and see all of the reactions and brand implications, you need to take a look at your personas and business goals. Let's get started.

  1. Know your personas. Who are you trying to attract? What social media platforms do they use?
  2. Determine the objective of the search. There is too much data to just jump into it.
    • Are you planning to launch a product and want to know if there's interest?
    • Are you searching to see what current customers are saying (customer service opportunity)?
    • Want to see how you stack up against your competition?
    • Want to know who you're really competing with for your business?
    • Have a product or service and want to know how to optimize? Listen for customer feedback.
    • Are people talking about you at all? Do you need to strengthen awareness efforts?
  3. Make a list of the keywords you specifically utilize for your social media/brand.
  4. Make a list of keywords associated with your industry (this will help you find and see competitors).
  5. Create guidelines for how far back you will go back to look for comments/interactions.
  6. Make a spreadsheet with your findings. Depending on the comment, how can this be improved?
  7. Have guidelines for how findings are handled.
    • How will you respond to bad comments/reviews?
    • How do you show your support for positive comments/reviews?
    • How do you respond when others talk about your competitors in a favorable light?
    • How do you respond to your competitors when people say negative things about them? (See how Wendy's handled McDonald's Black Friday Tweet Fail.)
    • When and where do you use your branded hashtag(s)?
  8. Create templated responses for how to engage with negative and positive comments/feedback.
    • You need to respond in a timely fashion. Also, don't just respond to the negative. When a customer praises you, they are saying "I love you".
    • Address their concerns by acknowledging that there is a problem, you hear them, and want to resolve it.
    • Invite them to pull the conversation off social by them contacting you through DM, email, phone, etc.
  9. Monitor the pieces of content and keywords that garner the most attention/engagement.
    • What content are people responding to?
    • Are you seeing new followers after using specific keywords?
    • Are there specific topics that your audience engages with most?
    • When you recycle any of your content, do you see similar engagement?

Luckily, there are several tools available online to help you analyze the results of your social listening.

4 Social Listening Tools to Use

1. HubSpot

HubSpot offers a social media product to help you prioritize your social interactions and connect with all the right people. All on one tool, you can build marketing campaigns, share content like blog posts and landing pages, automatically share content to various social channels, and discover the best times to post.

You can also monitor social interactions with contacts in your database, create custom keyword monitoring streams, and trigger email alerts so your sales team knows when your prospects mention you. You can even compare performance across your social channels and keep track of the number of visits and leads you receive. This platform offers more than just social listening; it offers you an all-inclusive inbound marketing software that benefits your entire team and helps you integrate social media as an integral part of the company.

2. Lately

Lately is an all-in-one solution for social media marketing professionals and teams that starts with writing your social media posts for you. With this tool, an A.I. Content Writing software writes your social media posts for you, giving you everything you need to review, edit, approve, schedule, and publish social media posts across all your channels.

The software is constantly learning from your past social media posts and will build a writing model based on what is most engaging for your audience. Additionally, you can use a variety of social media reports to listen and monitor the performance of your social media content across each channel.

3. Sprout Social

Sprout Social offers a social media management software to offer solutions that will ultimately improve your social media interactions with customers and prospects. With the help of the Sprout platform, you can access in-depth data analytics to inform strategic decisions, streamline and scale your engagement efforts, publish content and campaigns, and, most importantly, uncover trends and insights through social listening to drive strategic changes.

Sprout Social offers Twitter Listener dashboards and reports to analyze your Twitter presence. In addition, the platform uses real-time brand monitoring to track direct messages and brand-specific keywords. It also offers advanced social listening to help you notice emerging trends and influencers. The platform ultimately offers priceless insights that can help you consistently track and improve your social strategy.

4. Hootsuite

Hootsuite also offers a social monitoring and listening platform. The social media marketing and management dashboard help you build and grow relationships with your social media followers. Hootsuite allows you to view all your messages, comments, and brand mentions across several social channels in one concise dashboard from which you can respond to them all.

You can also track influencers and leads into lists that can be imported and shared with others in your company. You can use Hootsuite's Analytics and reports to track what's being discussed about your brand, competitors, and your industry and improve your campaigns accordingly. Hootsuite offers three different plans so you can find the perfect solutions and strategies to fit your business's needs.

If you're interested in learning about more social listening tools, you can check out this helpful post.

Social media can indicate growing and shifting customer trends. If you don't pay attention and roll with the punches, your brand will falter among the brands that do. Your customers want a brand that is fresh and interactive and provides them with products, services, support, and content that are genuinely useful and engaging.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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