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

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Swetha Amaresan
Swetha Amaresan

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As it 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. 

Customers on social media platforms where companies can use social listening

The best way to do so is through social listening, where you can get a sense of brand-related conversations, good and bad, and tackle issues as they arise. 

In this post, we'll cover: 

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Customer service social listening is different from that of marketing as your goal is to better service your customers through understanding how they’re speaking about your product or service online, responding to customers that directly mention you, and collecting feedback that can help you update your processes to better serve your customers. 

Unlike social monitoring, social listening is a two-part process that only tracks social media mentions and conversations. Social listening does this in addition to finding the root causes behind social conversations and implementing long-term strategy changes. 

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, social listening helps you hear what they're saying. It's common for people to share their opinions publicly, 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 makes a difference; according to 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.

Brands sometimes face scandals or serious issues. It happens, unfortunately, but even one incident can cause a wave of negativity to plague your social media. It’s easy to ignore a few rude comments here and there, but an increase in negative comments can signal that something is wrong. 

If that were to happen, it would be a great opportunity to use social listening. By analyzing the incident, you can understand the root cause and determine the type of response your business should make. 

3. You can discover new opportunities.

Your customers will often do the work for you when it comes to identifying issues, whether that be with your product or service or your business processes. When you use social listening, you’ll come across customer conversations that outline any issues they’ve been having and what they think about your business overall. Your customers will also often say how they want their problems solved, giving you a leg up in ensuring that the changes you make speak directly to your customers' desires. 

For instance, maybe you work in a fitness center, and your customers have been sharing their frustrations with classes filling up quickly. There is an opportunity for you to consider creating more classes, opening up more spots in each class, or limiting how many classes an individual can sign up for in a week. 

Regardless, you’ve taken direct responses from your customers to help you update an aspect of your business process to better satisfy and meet their needs. 

4. You can increase customer acquisition.

Social media offers many opportunities to reach prospects. After all, your followers aren't just your loyal customers; they're also people who enjoy your content. These are the kinds of people 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.

 

1. Identify pain points.

A great way to leverage social listening is to help you understand gaps in your industry or product and what’s bothering your audience. 

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 your audience's problems is to hear from them directly. Social media users often talk about their pain points, so social monitoring will help you see if there’s a gap in what you’re offering that you can address to further satisfy your customers. 

2. Choose strategic keywords and topics to monitor.

Social listening can become a lot easier if you choose strategic keywords and topics to monitor continuously. They should be related to your business to ensure you get the most relevant information, and they might also evolve as time goes on and your business practices change. 

For example, you can monitor your direct mentions, but most consumers on social media don’t directly mention a business, so you could track your product name. Social listening tools (which we’ll cover below) can help you track your preferred keywords, as well as help you uncover trends and topics that are being discussed in your industry. 

3. Use it to improve your customer feedback process.

A key reason businesses use social listening is to respond to customer feedback and get a sense of customer feedback, whether negative or positive. So, when you do listen, it’s important to use the information you get to improve your customer service processes. 

For example, if people constantly complain about long wait times, whether from your business or in customer service, you can make it a goal for your business to lower response times and quickly resolve customer issues. 

A recent survey by Social Intelligence Lab found that 89% of respondents rate the quality of the data they have access to from social listening as high or very high, so listening to customers gives you trustworthy information about what you should do. 

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

With social listening, you can engage with your audience. Barysevich adds, "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 and 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?

Social listening tools will help you analyze the results of your process. 

What are social listening tools? 

Social listening tools help your customer service team monitor the channels you use for conversations about your business, product, or industry, whether you’re directly mentioned or not. 

Many tools have one inbox, so you can seamlessly monitor all channels in one dashboard and allow you to reply to direct mentions to ensure you’re helping customers in a timely manner. Below we’ll recommend four high-quality social listening tools to consider.

4 Social Listening Tools to Use

1. HubSpot

HubSpot’s social media management software helps you prioritize your social interactions and connect with the right people. It’s an all-in-one tool where you can monitor social interactions with contacts in your database, create custom keyword monitoring streams, and trigger email alerts so you’re notified when mentioned. 

You can also build marketing campaigns and share relevant and timely content with your audience and followers.  

social listening tool: hubspot social media management

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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 to and monitor the performance of your social media content across each channel.

social listening tool: lately

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3. Sprout Social

Sprout Social offers social media management software that will improve your social media interactions with customers and prospects. Its key social listening features include a Twitter Listener dashboard to analyze your Twitter presence, real-time brand monitoring to track direct mentions and brand-relevant keywords, and advanced social listening to help you uncover emerging trends and influencers. 

sprout

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4. Hootsuite

Hootsuite’s social media marketing and management dashboard help you build and grow relationships with your social media followers. 

You can track all of your messages, comments, and direct mentions across all of your channels in one single dashboard, and Hootsuite’s Analytics tracks what's discussed about your brand, competitors, and your industry to ensure you’re up to date on what’s happening. 

social listening tool: hootsuite

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Over to You

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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