People are trying to communicate with your organization on social media - but if you're not listening, you can’t hear them.
Indeed, there are people out there in social-media-land who are looking for something that you offer, or asking a question that you can answer, but you can only connect with them if you’re tuning in effectively.
Social media listening is a powerful tool because it turns traditional social media on its head. Instead of using it as a megaphone, you can use it to tune-in to conversations.
Christina Newberry on the Hootsuite blog explains social listening this way:
“Imagine the powerful business insights you could gain from an organic form of market research, where the focus group was made up entirely of people already engaging with your brand or your industry. Sounds pretty great, right?”
Social listening can be very powerful, providing real-time, actionable insights into your marketing and business approach. In this post, we'll outline five key benefits of tuning in.
1. Listening Makes You Accessible
To provide good customer service, you need to be able to hear a complaint (or a compliment), no matter where it happens.
Research by Sprout Social found that 34.5% of people prefer to reach out through social media, beating out other channels like live chat (24.7%), email (19.4%) and 1-800 numbers (16.1%). The problem is that almost 90% of social messages aimed at organizations are ignored.
When you're really listening, you can respond to inquiries and interactions faster, so people feel heard.
Quick Tip: You are likely already reading messages where people tag your organization, but good listening means searching out messages where your organization’s name is misspelled, or isn’t specifically tagged.
2. Listening Brings You into the Larger Conversation
You listen not only to hear what people are saying about your brand, but also to understand the ideas and topics that come up in conversations which you want to be part of.
By identifying relevant keywords on social, and following conversations related to your organizations’ mission, you open yourself up to new discussions, blog and social media post ideas.
You listen so that you can find conversations to join, and when you join a conversation, you can build relationships and trust.
3. Listening teaches You the Language of the Conversation, and How People are Talking About Issues
Your organization needs to know who your audience is, and social listening obviously helps with that. But it can also provide deeper insights into who those people are.
What do they care about? How do they talk about those things?
A friend of mine who was working on a social campaign for an organic body care line noticed that conversations about organic skincare often included concerns about gluten-free skincare. Neither he, nor the company he was working with, knew that gluten was a concern for many of their customers, but, as luck would have it, their products didn’t include gluten, so he was able to enter the conversation with another selling point.
Even just noticing what kinds of words people use can be helpful. People within a community often use specific vocabulary, terminology and jargon as markers of belonging. If you want to show that you're part of that community, your organization might need to show that it, literally, speaks the same language as the people it wants to reach.
4. Listening Enables You to Meet Top People in Your Field and Key Influencers and Supporters
Wish you could ask questions of your biggest fans and strongest supporters? What about the thought leaders in your field?
If you're using social listening, you can easily interact with key supporters and thought leaders. You can ask them for their opinions and support, you can include them in your communications efforts. You can learn about them and what they care about.
Sometimes your best supporters are the best advocates for you, and may be able to communicate about your organization better than even you can. Listening helps you enable them. These brand advocates often educate others about your organization, and this kind of “word-of-mouth marketing” is powerful.
Indeed, word of mouth is more powerful than most other kinds of messaging, because it comes from real people and not directly from an organization.
Quick Tip: Once you’ve located key people online, you have an opportunity to build relationships with them that span different social media platforms - and maybe even goes as far as interactions outside of the social media sphere.
5. Listening Shows You What's Working (or Note) for Your Competitors
You can also monitor what other organizations are doing, and see how people are responding. This might lead you to realize that your organization has an opportunity to do something that others have failed to do.
Quick Tip: Ryan Holmes, Hootsuite's CEO, says getting feedback about his company via social listening can be “extraordinarily informative and humbling.” Like any kind of feedback, listening might lead you to learn that you aren’t doing something well. But think about it as an opportunity for positive change, because it is.