With the growth of social media platform usage, social media monitoring - or 'social listening' as it's also known - has become a key best practice. Given so many conversations are happening online, it can be hugely valuable for brands to 'listen in' and stay in touch with sentiment around their brand, their competitors and their niche more broadly.
As social media has matured in a business sense, more and more organizations have become aware of the benefits of social listening, but if you haven't started your own listening program as yet, here are some key tips to set you on the right track, and improve your broader awareness efforts in 2019.
1. Determine your goals
As with most activities, a key first step is to determine the goals that you’re trying to achieve with social listening ahead of time, in order to maximize your performance.
Here’re some of the common uses of social listening, around which you’ve got to build your strategy:
- Market research
- Lead generation
- Customer service & reputation management
Determining your goal will define all of your efforts going forward, as you'll be able to choose the right keywords to monitor, brand terms, interactions - each element will help inform your process when viewed from the right perspective.
2. Market research
Social listening tools generally enable you to monitor social media platforms as well as news sites, blogs, and forums. This is a huge field for market research, and also a much bigger and more diverse one than you get from surveys and focus groups.
Unlike with other research methods, the information you obtain through social listening also comes direct from the users, and isn’t biased by the questions asked or by the person’s wish to be nice and polite.
Of course, each research method has its own benefits, so it’s optimal to use all methods available to you when it comes to market research.
Identify your target audience
Often, knowing your “ideal customer” is more difficult than it sounds, because the image you have in your head of your ideal customer may not match the reality of those who will actually buy from your brand. This is why identifying your target audience is a key first step of a social listening strategy that’s focused on research.
To do this, first enter your brand name (and any possible abbreviations and misspellings) and the brands of a couple of your main competitors (also add any possible abbreviations and misspellings). Your chosen social media monitoring tool will find mentions from people that use your product and/or the product of your competitors. You can then analyze what kind of people they are in terms of demographics, psychographics, location, preferred social media network, and so on.
Track current and emerging trends
Researching trends is pretty much impossible in any other way - most trends are born on social media these days, and are heavily discussed there. For marketers, ignoring trends in one’s product niche is unforgivable.
The easiest way to track trends is to find your niche social media influencers and monitor their activity. Many social media monitoring tools will provide you with a list of such influencers. Monitoring Reddit, niche forums, news, and blogs will also help to keep you up-to-date.
In both cases, the keywords you should monitor are the keywords of your product niche.
For example, if my product is Photoshop, I would monitor keywords such as “graphics editor”, “photo editing software”, “photo editing tool”, “photo editor”, and so on.
3. Lead Generation
Social listening isn’t usually thought of as a lead generation tool - and yet, in my opinion, it’s one of the best ones out there.
The strategy goes as follows:
Find people who are interested in your product
As we know, social media is full of all kinds of people, including those who are looking for a product exactly like yours. Social listening helps you find them - it can be a time-consuming process initially, but once you've set up an effective query, your list of potential leads will keep growing.
A simple starting point to help find those potentially interested in your products is to search for keywords such as “looking for product X”, “any recommendation on product X”, “can anyone recommend a good product X”, etc.
It’s best to have as many search variations as you can think of, and to use Boolean search to make the queries as specific as possible.
Find people that are unhappy with your competitor’s product
People who are unhappy with the product/s of your competitor are another option to consider. To do this, you can try monieing your competitors' brand names and key terms and add negative wording (e.g., “bad product X”) to the search.
Sell straight away or engage with potential customers
Once you have a regular influx of such leads, you obviously want to turn them into customers. In some cases, it’s a good idea to do that straight away - the product might be needed urgently, for example, and it might be the case of “first come-first serve”. In these cases, comment with your offer as soon as you get the notification of the mention.
In other cases, however, you want to build a relationship with a potential customer. Provide them with some useful information (the author of the mention might be asking for information rather than for a product directly), establish yourself as an expert in the niche, or as a trusted connection.
4. Customer service and reputation management
Customer service is the most common use of social listening - and there’s a good reason for that. More and more people use social media as a way to communicate their questions, desires, and complaints to a brand, and since so many brands are indeed on social media, it makes sense for people to assume that those brands will be on social media, and tuning into such comments.
If you're looking to use social media for customer service, here’s what you should do:
Respond to complaints and questions quickly
If there’s something social media users hate, it’s waiting, and with social customer service efforts improving across the board, so too are general expectations for rapid response. These days, users expect a response to their social media queries within an hour of posting.
It can be a challenge to meet such expectations, however it does pay off - research shows that 71% of customers who receive quick, effective responses on social media are likely to recommend the brand to others.
5. Respond to positive mentions
This might not be as essential as the other points listed, but responding to positive mentions is a good touch.
Communicating with fans can facilitate relationships, can show your customers that you're listening to them and can help build advocates through community building.
6. Social listening for SEO
Social listening - or really, online listening more broadly - can also have SEO benefits when used the right way.
For example, you can monitor your brand to find linkless mentions on blogs, news sites, and the web, then reach out to site owners and authors and ask them to add the link.
And while links are obviously crucially important for SEO, and you should do your best to earn them, linkless mentions can also be of value.
Last year, Google's Gary Illyes mentioned in his keynote at Brighton SEO that:
“If you publish high-quality content that is highly cited on the internet — and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding, crap like that. Then you are doing great.”
Illyes' statement suggests that linkless mentions do play an indirect role in rankings, so it makes sense to find relevant discussions and influencers, grow the number of mentions online, and facilitate people talking about your brand.
Creating an optimal social listening strategy isn’t a simple task, but it can be a hugely beneficial one when used well. Hopefully these notes will help you formulate an optimal social listening strategy for your business in 2019.