Tips to Leverage Social Media Listening

Heather Satterfield Heather Satterfield, Marketing Manager

As social media has an ever larger influence on society, businesses are recognizing the importance of tracking and, when appropriate, responding to relevant conversations. As we’ll see, large corporations have, for some time, understood the value of monitoring discussions that are relevant to their business and industry. Small and mid-sized businesses, however, also have a lot to gain from this practice.

How Major Brands Monitor Social Media

Tracking social media is a fairly obvious strategy for famous brands. After all, people constantly talk about them, whether to praise, criticize, or compare. Large brands are icons in our society and often appear in books, movies, and other media. Sometimes these are paid placements but just as frequently writers and directors simply insert them because of their social relevance.

As “Business2Business Community” reports, McDonald’s is a good example of a giant brand that is widely discussed. In response to this, the company has unleashed a very sophisticated social media listening strategy. The fast food giant has made some major menu decisions, such as producing more popular sauces and altering its breakfast menu, based on comments on social media.

The cosmetics company L’Oreal is another example of a company whose product development and marketing strategy is increasingly driven by social media. As celebrities saturate sites with selfies and photo shoots, fields such as fashion and cosmetics are brought to the public eye in an unprecedented way. Just as importantly, the age of selfies has made millions of ordinary people ultra-focused on their appearance. Thus, what users say about, say, a line of skin care cream, can have a huge impact on sales. L’Oreal and other brands are using this to their advantage. As a L’Oreal executive from the Consumer Products Division puts it, “Social listening is a way of life for us.”

Benefits of Social Media Listening

Here are some of the specific advantages of carefully tracking social media conversations about your brand.

  • Helps you find the best keywords. Keywords have always been central to SEO and content marketing. While various SEO tools help you identify popular keywords in your industry, social listening lets you drill down deeper and get more specific. It also gives you near real-time data about which keywords your customers and potential customers are using. On social sites such as Twitter, you can find keywords by following the latest hashtags.
  • Allows you to study the competition. In addition to following what people are saying about your business and your industry in general, it’s helpful to study your competition. This is also a way smaller businesses can gain leverage over their much larger competitors. For example, if you run a small, independent burger joint you probably don’t have thousands of followers naming your business every day. However, you can learn a lot about current food preferences by following McDonald’s. In other words, you can piggyback on the efforts of larger businesses.
  • Identifies long-term trends. Social media monitoring goes beyond following individual brands such as your own or competitors’. It also lets you see the wider picture and follow important trends in your industry. Tracking popular memes and hashtags can provide ideas for content even if they aren’t directly related to your business. For example, local businesses can find tie-ins to popular events such as major sporting events or festivals happening in their city. Savvy businesses find ways to leverage fads such as the Pokemon craze.
  • Helps you find influencers. Who do your customers talk about, follow and admire? Knowing this helps you craft a more effective social media strategy. You can build relationships with key influencers in your field. By monitoring conversations on social media, you can find the most relevant people worth cultivating.
  • Allows you to respond quickly to comments and complaints. When someone mentions your brand, whether in a positive, negative or neutral way, you want to know as soon as possible. When you find these conversations, you can gain insights into what people like and don’t like about you. In some cases, you’ll want to insert yourself into the conversation. For example, if someone makes an inaccurate statement about your business, you want to correct it promptly. It’s equally important to thank people who take the trouble to praise you.

Getting the Most Out of Social Media Listening

Here are some guidelines to get more from social listening, especially for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs).

  • Find the right tools. You can start with basic tools such as Google Alerts. However, it’s worth researching the many tools and services that provide advanced capabilities for social listening.
  • Set goals and track your results. As you listen to conversations on social media, make sure you have clearly defined goals in mind. You may have a variety of goals such as monitoring your reputation, increasing brand awareness, or getting more leads. It’s also important to integrate social listening and analytics tools -or use tools that combine the two.
  • Go beyond the obvious. In addition to monitoring keywords and trends directly related to your business, think broadly and creatively. Explore long tail keywords people may be searching for. Consider common misspellings of relevant keywords. Search for keywords in other languages to monitor what people in different parts of the world are saying. Listen to conversations in related industries that might affect your business.
  • Use the information you gather to make improvements. What really counts is how you use the data you collect. Some companies see social listening as mostly about reputation management. They may, for example, focus on minimizing damage when they notice negative comments. While this is a valid strategy, there’s a lot more you can do with social media data such as watching emerging trends, identify influencers, and engage better with your customers. Keep asking, “How can we implement what we’ve learned?”

These are some of the most important considerations to understand monitoring social media. As social media gets ever more popular, it will be increasingly important for businesses to pay close attention to the many discussions that can affect them.