Ever wonder what people are saying about your brand or product on social media? Of course you do, and if you don’t, you should. There’s a strong possibility that customers, prospects or even competitors are commenting, asking questions or sharing feedback and opinions that directly affect you. Without a social listening tool, an important piece of the puzzle is missing, and you’re missing out on valuable insights that could be leveraged to improve your business in a number of ways.
What is social listening?
Social listening is different than the social monitoring used for community management. As part of community management, social monitoring typically focuses on conversations in brand-owned spaces such as a Facebook page, with the intent to manage, moderate and engage with the audience.
Social listening is observing and learning without engaging. Example: Our client, Flint STEM Camps interacts with teachers and parents on its Facebook Page as the brand, answering questions and sharing updates. This is community management and is supported by social monitoring. Social listening identifies conversations happening off the Facebook page, in spaces where the brand is not present and may have no knowledge of the conversations taking place.
More specifically, social listening allows you to broadly monitor conversations on multiple platforms, whether your brand has a presence on the platform or not. The goal isn’t to engage, but to learn and to uncover insights and opportunities. This could be about specific topics, keywords, brands or industries in order to uncover insights about your own company or product, your customers and competitors, an entire industry landscape or just specific issues that are important to you.
How does it work?
Social listening is 50% discovery and 50% identification. In order to discover conversations about your brand, topic or product, you first have to understand how your audience speaks to you and about you. Do you have a unique brand or product name that is easy to track, or is there additional context that needs to be added to effectively monitor? Does your audience refer to your brand or products using acronyms, nicknames or other terms? There are many factors to be considered in building effective listening criteria, and it’s only once you’ve identified words and phrases that uniquely and effectively identify you that you should start observing.
A very simple example: Flint STEM Camps is a brand that requires additional context to discover and search online. “Flint” is too generic, so “STEM” must be added to searches to return meaningful results. At the same time, not every customer may use Flint’s full name, so we need to monitor “Flint” and “camps” to capture those results too.
At Callahan, our social team uses a number of social listening tools, including Crimson Hexagon, Digimind and many others. We leverage tools on a daily basis and have been able to use them to benefit our clients in a number of ways.
To better understand the resource and opportunity, here’s a very basic social listening 101 guide, including a few examples of how Callahan uses it for our clients:
1. What can social listening monitor?
It monitors conversations from multiple platforms using a keyword or emoji. From Twitter, news sites, YouTube, forums, Google+ and blogs, in addition to Facebook and Instagram.
2. What if I already monitor our brand-owned pages?
Social listening is different than community monitoring. While we are monitoring our owned pages on Facebook and Instagram, we are mindful of the many conversations on other platforms where we don’t have a brand-owned presence.
3. How can I discover insights?
- Boolean Search: Used to establish search queries, Boolean search is basically your keyword criteria. You’ll use it to decide what words or phrases you want included or excluded. Your search needs to be broad enough to capture all the mentions about you, but unique to you and your brand.
- Conversations: Listen to conversations that mention your brand or product to identify potential escalations, product-related issues or to track customer questions.
- Sentiment and emojis: Better understand and uncover your audience reaction to a new product, customer experience or overall sentiment around your brand.
Benefits of social listening
- Content development and social branding – Better understand what your customers are talking about, what matters to them and what resonates with them.
- Competitive insight – Learn what customers and prospects are saying about your competitors and their products.
- Timely opportunities – Identify trends, memes and cultural happenings at the early stages of their relevance cycle to capitalize on opportunities in timely and meaningful ways.
- Public relations and reputation management – Identify positive, negative and potentially damaging issues in early stages of conversation or amplification so you can take proactive measures to maximize opportunity and/or minimize liability.
For most marketers, word of mouth is the number one way people choose to make (or not make!) purchase decisions. It’s critical to know what people are saying about your brand, and social listening is an easy way to keep your eyes and ears open to those insights.