Social listening is one of the hottest trends in digital marketing right now - just look at this tweet during Social Media Week LA:
(if you’re curious, the first theme was authenticity)
Yet at the same time, as is always the case with buzzwords, there’s also a lot of mistrust and misconceptions around the process. What is social listening? How is it different from social media monitoring? And can it actually benefit your business in any meaningful way?
There's a heap of educational resources which look at the value of social listening, and the many different ways it can benefit your marketing strategy - but it’s not often that I see an article which explains how social listening data ties into a bigger picture - how it represents where your company currently stands and can impact your business strategy in the long run. So I’ve decided to write that article myself.
In this post, I want to go over four common business KPIs, and showcase which social listening metrics tie into them, helping you achieve corresponding business objectives.
1. Business KPI: Brand awareness
First off, let’s talk about what 'brand awareness' actually is.
In basic terms, brand awareness is the factor that measures how familiar your target audience is with your brand, and how likely they are to recognize it.
It can be quite tricky to determine how recognizable your brand actually is, especially when you need to focus on a niche audience that lives in one country, or uses a certain social media platform.
That’s where social listening comes to rescue. Social media is a great data source for determining how many people are familiar with your brand name, and a social listening tool is what will help you collect and analyze this insight. The following metrics will help you determine your brand awareness:
Metric: Number of mentions
The most obvious metric to track to determine your brand awareness is the number of mentions. Seems quite straightforward - the more mentions you get, the more people talk about your brand. However, it’s not as simple as it looks at first glance.
It’s not enough to count mentions that appear in your social profiles’ notifications. The most valuable mentions to measure brand awareness are not only the @mentions people use when they are trying to contact your brand, but the references to your brand they make in conversations with other people, which often don’t imply any involvement from brands. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn't get involved.
Furthermore, depending on your brand name, it might be abbreviated, misspelled, used in a completely unrelated context and so on, which makes the process of assessing brand awareness a tad more complicated. A social media monitoring tool with flexible nuanced settings and a Boolean search option like Awario, Brandwatch, or Talkwalker, will help you make sure that you’re measuring the brand awareness of the iPhone’s maker, for example, not the fruit.
All in all, the total number of mentions (tagged, untagged, variations and misspellings of your brand name) will give you a comprehensive picture of your brand awareness level, and how it changes over time.
Metric: Reach of mentions
Mention volume is not the only data point that shows brand awareness, and in this case, reach might be even more useful. Reach shows how many people have actually seen your brand name.
It’s important to note that there’s no direct correlation between reach and the number of mentions.
Obviously, the more people talk about you, the more exposure you get, but not every mention is created equal, as some people have bigger social media audience than others. As such, it’s only logical that a smaller number of mentions can have a bigger reach depending on who mentions your brand.
Metric: Share of voice
While the number of mentions and overall reach data can help you evaluate your social media performance, share of voice (SOV) enables you to put these metrics into more perspective.
SOV shows you what part of your niche you take up, in comparison to your competitors.
This metric doesn’t just show you how your brand awareness is changing - and hopefully growing - but it also enables you to benchmark your own brand awareness rate against your rivals’.
2. Business KPI: Conversion Rate
Conversion is everyone’s boss’ favorite KPI - and the ultimate goal of every marketing strategy.
It's also and the most straightforward way to confirm that your strategic approach is working - however, the link between social listening metrics and buying your product is a bit less straightforward.
There are several metrics that can help you follow the path to conversion that starts on social media - but be mindful that this path might take a long time.
The first metric that's commonly tied to conversions is engagement. As noted above, the connection between engagement and conversion is not the most immediate - it’s more like a staircase, the final step of which is conversion.
The engagement metric covers a lot of different actions social media users can take, some of them are quicker to lead to a purchase and some are slower. That doesn’t mean that some of them are not important to track, though.
So, what are these actions? Engagement is an umbrella term that encompasses likes, social shares, comments, follows, and direct messages. Although all of these interactions are grouped under one category, the motivations behind them are different.
A like can be interpreted as someone nodding in approval, or waving hello at you. A follow means that a user wants to stay in touch long-term. A social share is an endorsement, and a demonstration of trust. A reply or a direct message indicates willingness to start a conversation - thus, it’s the biggest step to conversion.
You might be wondering how exactly an Instagram “like” leads to conversion. Well, this is only the first step of the staircase - social media expert Mark Schaefer uses this picture to illustrate the path to conversion:
One “like” probably won’t lead to a purchase - even a hundred is unlikely to do so. However, if you manage to foster the relationship, and encourage more and more interaction from your followers over time, a “like” can turn into a reply, a reply into a DM, and a DM into a sale.
Engagement is the clearest indicator of the trust you build with your followers, and trust is what fuels conversions - however, there is a social listening metric that has a more direct connection to conversion rate.
Metric: The number of leads
While engagement data is a bit of a roundabout way to try and predict conversions, the number of leads on social media has a direct impact on your sales.
A lead is usually defined as a potential buyer, so in regard to social, it could be anything from a new follower to an ad click, depending on a user’s intent.
For the sake of this post we'll limit social media leads to either:
- A click on a link to your landing page
- Or a social post indicating purchase intent in your niche
The first one is pretty clear - you keep track of the number of clicks on your links, and take note of how many of them led to sales. A high number of clicks that doesn’t convert can be a sign, among other things, that your landing page needs some changes.
As for posts that show purchase intent, a social listening tool will take care of that. These are the kinds of social posts which ask for reviews and opinions, or recommendations on a particular product, or even rant about your competitors. All of these posts can be turned into sales if you discover them in due time and engage with them.
Most social listening tools can be set up to look for leads on social media - Awario even has a separate Leads module that will collect all your leads in one place. Awario Leads uses a description of your products and services and its own predictive language algorithm to find social posts indicating purchase intent.
3. Business KPI: Campaign target
Knowing your audience is the base of any marketing strategy - without proper audience research your business efforts will fall apart.
Imagine creating a great product and marketing it to a wrong audience using a platform they're not active on, an aesthetic they don't like, a tone of voice that doesn't communicate with them, etc. Such a campaign will inevitably fail, and this is what happens when you don’t research your audience properly.
Social listening can help you here in two ways:
- You can research the audience before launching a campaign to decide who you want to target
- Or you can monitor your campaign to make sure it’s hitting notes with the right audience and discover groups that resonated with it that you possibly overlooked in your targeting.
The following social listening metrics will help you with this.
Metric: Demographic data
Social listening data can be analyzed for tons of various demographic and behavioral insights.
The data collected by social media monitoring tools can reveal which social media channels your audience uses to communicate, what languages they speak, where they live, their gender, interests, occupation, and so on.
You can then set up your social listening tool to only monitor and analyze conversations from users who share certain demographic characteristics, using various search filters, or cast your social listening net wide in order to get an even better understanding of who your audience is.
Metric: Influencer analysis
Influencers are also a big part of audience analysis - by analyzing the most prominent and popular voices in your niche, you can better understand what your target groups are drawn to, what appeals to them, who they perceive as an authority, etc.
Influencer analysis varies from tool to tool - some are able to highlight influencers based on the keywords you provide, others analyze follower networks to identify the connections between users to spotlight the most followed accounts in your target group (mostly on Twitter).
Identifying influencers will provide you with a deeper understanding of your audience - and you might even be able to work with some of them in your marketing strategy.
4. Business KPI: Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
The ultimate goal of any business is to make their customers happy.
Well, that’s not entirely true - the actual ultimate goal is to make as much revenue as possible, but you won't be able to persuade a customer to buy your product if they're not happy with you or it. That’s why evaluating and tracking customer satisfaction is the bread and butter of any business strategy.
The classic (and boring) way of measuring customer satisfaction is conducting a survey, however you can’t rely on surveys alone to measure CSAT. Such data can be inherently biased because of the questions you choose to ask - surveys are great for learning more about specific pain points, but they might not help you discover your brand’s strengths and weaknesses that you didn’t even think to ask about.
Social listening is great because it collects unbiased social data. Most of the times when people talk about you on social media, they're purely motivated by the desire to self-express, and speak their honest and true opinion - when you rant about (or compliment) Starbucks service on Facebook, for example, you’re not filtering your thoughts in any way.
Besides, the sheer amount of insight, social listening data can also provide you with more feedback than surveys and polls ever could. The key challenge is to identify which social listening metrics are the most valuable in terms of customer satisfaction.
And luckily, you're reading an article dedicated exactly to that.
Metric: Sentiment score
Sentiment analysis is an essential part of most social media monitoring tools - it uses natural language processing to identify whether a social post is negative, positive, or neutral.
Monitoring the overall sentiment scale, and its changes, will enable you to keep an eye on general customer satisfaction - but the individual mentions are really what you need. You can filter your mentions to see only negative posts, to find your weak points, or to check positive mentions to see if there are any benefits to your product you might have disregarded before.
Social media isn't always as a source of insights which can inform a brand’s business strategy, but it can be hugely beneficial, when you track and measure the right elements.
Social listening data enriches the very metrics that define your success, so to neglect it is to effectively choose to look only at one part of the picture. The data and insights are there, it makes sense to tap into them, and improve your performance.