At one point or another, many of us B2B marketers are guilty of writing content without first listening to our audience. At a time where social media networks are one of the first destinations that buyers visit when considering a product, this is a major oversight on our part. Rather than going through traditional marketing or advertising channels, more and more customers prefer to check Facebook, Twitter or online blogs instead to shape their opinions on a product or service.
As a result, monitoring, learning and understanding what online users are saying about your brand, competitors and industry through social listening should play a crucial role in your social media strategy. Distributing content is not enough - and doesn't sit well with the idea of social media as a two-way street.
According to a report from Exact Target's 2014 State of Marketing Report, 60% of marketers were using social listening strategies in 2013. What about the other 40%? The thing is, marketers often cast aside social listening because of the insane amount of information that's out there. It can be overwhelming to dive in and separate the signal from the noise, unless you have a great social media automation tool that easily does this for you.
Why is social listening so important? There are eight good reasons below - but above all, because the brand is no longer the sole marketer, and in many cases - it's actually the customer.
1. Hear What the World Is Saying About Your Brand
If you only have time to monitor one thing - make it mentions of your brand. By actively listening to what your existing and potential customers are saying, you can generate leads, strengthen ties with your user base, control your reputation and avoid potentially damaging situations. One of the most crucial aspects is customer service. You can build your brand's credibility by quickly responding to questions, providing solutions to service problems and identifying business opportunities. Start out by tracking mentions of your brand on Twitter - which is one of the most effective channels to monitor. Make sure you listen throughout the day and respond to tweets in a timely and relevant manner.
Hear the Good...
And the Bad...
2. Track Your Competitors - and Their Customers Too
Chances are your competitors are already monitoring you - so it's time to turn the tables. Keeping track of competitor mentions is smart for several reasons: becoming aware of problems with their product and reaching out to potential prospects, understanding their unique value propositions and monitoring new additions to their product. You can also listen to what your competitors' customers are saying to gain insight on product development and new features.
3. Get Inspiration for Your Next Blog Post
Thinking of ideas for new blog posts on a daily basis is absolutely exhausting! Apart from using news alerts and reading the latest white papers, social listening to a great tool to find inspiration. Start listening to thought leaders from your industry, competitors and your target audience to see what's on their minds. A social listening tool is a great way to pinpoint the latest buzzwords and trends, not to mention finding out exactly what your audience wants and needs. This can lead to content that's actually useful, time-sensitive and that your audience will be happy to engage with and share.
4. Talk to Your Prospects and Understand Their Needs
Did a potential customer just share your latest blog post on LinkedIn? Why not reach out to them and see whether they'd like to continue the conversation. Social listening is a valuable way to identify potential business opportunities and turn them into leads. Remember to do some research on the company first to make sure that it's actually relevant before reaching out.
5. Join the Inner Circle of Industry Influencers
Industry thought leaders often have hundreds - if not thousands, of followers. Wouldn't it be great to connect with someone that wields so much social power? Subscribe to a public Twitter list, do a Google search, or check out the major blogs in your industry to compile a list of influencers. These types of people usually love to share their thoughts and opinions on products, and if you engage with them properly, they can become a brand advocate who spreads the word about your offering. Apart from the potential of becoming an ambassador for your company, follow influencers to gain insight into your industry and also share, comment on or ask questions about their status updates.
6. Monitor Keywords, and Every Variation of Them
Similar to news alerts, where you monitor online media and blog mentions of keywords, the same strategy should apply to social listening. Keep in mind that you should track both general and niche keywords that are associated with your industry. Take into consideration that one word may have multiple variations - and even spellings. For example, to follow social listening mentions, track: 1) "social listening," 2) "social media monitoring," 3) "social media measurement," 4) "online listening," 5) "social media intelligence," - you get the point.
7. Make New Friends, But Keep the Old
Once a prospect turns into a customer, a marketer's job is done, right? Wrong! Generating a lead is well and good, but keeping them loyal to your brand is what it's all about. Make your customers happy by following them on social media, thanking them for recommending your product or service, or sharing their content. Nothing is more important than retaining your existing user-base and making them feel valued. Social listening should be used to attract new audiences, and reinforce relationships with the ones you already have.
8. Create an Even More Awesome Product
Your product is already great. But why not make it better? All of the tips above - monitoring competitors, prospects, influencers and keywords, can contribute towards improving your offering. Did someone tweet about how they wish your product had a certain feature, or how they love a functionality? Use this information to your advantage. Internal brainstorming can only go so far, use social listening to turn to your actual users to understand exactly what they want to see.