Just about every business today understands how central social media is to connect with any audience. People are spending more time on sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn than ever before. Yet even if you use social media every day for marketing, customer service or brand building, you may not be taking advantage of a crucial practice called social media listening.
What is Social Media Listening?
Social media listening, also known as simply social listening, is the practice of paying attention to conversations that are relevant to your brand and industry. While most activities on social media involve actions such as posting or advertising, social listening is more about taking a step back and paying close attention to what your audience is saying. Social media is all about conversations. People often share a great deal about themselves in spontaneous comments such as Facebook posts and tweets. This includes:
- Opinions or questions about a specific brand or product. This could be your business or that of a competitor.
- Revealing a problem that your business could potentially solve.
- More general conversations about behavior or preferences that are relevant to your industry.
What are the Top Benefits of Social Media Listening?
Why should you take the time to monitor social media conversations? Here are some of the reasons this practice is so important to your brand’s health.
- Uncover insights about your industry. For example, if you have a food-related business, you can track trends about people’s eating habits. Even casual comments about dining out, snacking, or shopping are quite revealing. Other businesses track comments about fashion, exercise, travel, and other consumer habits.
- Monitor your reputation. Social media listening overlaps with another crucial practice -reputation management. Tracking reviews, comments on your Facebook Page and anything customers say about you reveals both your strengths and areas that need improvement.
- Track your competition. Knowing what people are saying about your competitors is another benefit of social media listening. Follow their pages, read reviews, and set alerts for the names of their brands and products.
- Measure the results of a campaign. You can observe the results of a particular post, video, ad campaign, Instagram Story or other content. This is related to analytics but in this case, you’re not just tracking data but paying attention to actual conversations related to your campaign.
How Do you Listen to Social Media?
There are several ways that you can monitor social media to identify important topics and conversations.
- Make use of social listening tools. There are services and software that help you track social media conversations. At the simplest level, you can use Google Alerts to inform you about discussions around a keyword, such as a brand name, place, or activity. But to really view deeper and more robust insights, you’ll need to utilize more sophisticated paid tools like the ones Sysomos offers.
- Keep an eye on hashtags. Hashtags are a simple way to track conversations, especially on sites such as Twitter and Instagram. It’s simpler to identify hashtags than keywords on these sites as many users are accustomed to inserting them to attract more attention to their posts. Hashtags to monitor include your brand name, competitors’ names and products, activities related to your business, events, and places.
- Monitor your pages. One simple but essential aspect of social listening is to pay close attention to the engagement your posts, ads and other content receive. Look for patterns and identify any particular words or ideas that recur. For example, followers might complain that your content is repetitive, boring, or too salesy. On the positive side, they may say posts are funny, helpful, or thought-provoking.
- Pay attention to relevant trends and social issues. Certain shifting social, political, and cultural movements can have a significant effect on your business. You can see how large brands react to such shifts. For example, both McDonald’s and Burger King now offer veggie burger alternatives, something that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. For example, Several large retailers, including Walmart, Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods have stopped or limited the sales of firearms due to changing public attitudes.
- Identify key influencers. Another reason to monitor social media is to find out which influencers are discussing your brand or industry. This helps you notice popular and emerging trends. It can also provide you with potential partnerships with influencers with whom you may want to work.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Social Media Listening
Social media listening is a practice that’s helpful for all types of business, regardless of your size or what you sell. The following are some guidelines to help you succeed with this practice.
- Identify your most pressing goals. Your objectives may change over time. Perhaps you need to clarify your customers’ preferences, keep an eye on a particular competitor or gauge the marketplace for a new product or service.
- Choose the best social listening tools. You can get started using free tools and manually monitoring your own sites. However, using automated tools saves you time and helps you research more data and fine-tune your results.
- Study the most relevant data. It’s important to listen to the right conversations. This starts with knowing your audience and where they spend their time. For example, if you are a SaaS company targeting professionals, you will probably get better results focusing on LinkedIn than Snapchat. If you’re marketing accessories for teens, the reverse would be true.
- Take action based on your results. The whole reason to listen to your audience is to be able to better meet their needs. Make sure you have a strategy to convert your research into actionable steps. For example, you can improve your content strategy by focusing on the topics that your audience most cares about.
Listening to conversations on social media is one of the most valuable strategies for learning all about your customers, potential customers, and competitors. In a world where people are often comfortable communicating their innermost thoughts on social media sites, you cannot afford to overlook this glimpse into their minds and hearts.