Social media gives you a direct line to your customers, allowing you to discover them more authentically than other market research methods. While survey and focus group participants typically have time to reflect before answering questions, most social media users—308.27 million of whom are based in America—candidly write what's on their minds.
With modern tools, businesses can collect and monitor social media conversations to learn how their brand community talks about them, their competitors, and the industry.
Moreover, you can go beyond social monitoring and step into social listening or unearthing the "why" behind their comments and posts. These insights help you make informed decisions to better meet your target public's needs.
Top 5 Relational and Financial Rewards from Social Listening:
How Does Social Listening Work?
Social listening is a three-step process that involves monitoring, analysis, and action or decision-making. Current best practices use AI-supported platforms for this process.
To set your social listening tool in motion, you have to specify the parameters for the data to be collected and how to analyze it. These parameters can include brand mentions and keywords that include all terms and topics related to your business, including your rivals. You and your team can agree on a checklist of data points and the timeframe for your social listening process.
Depending on your goals, specify the social channels and locations you want to "listen" from.
The software or platform will then follow your parameters in gathering and categorizing your data. It can generate charts and graphs to present the outcome of its data collection.
The information you get from this stage may answer questions like what content type your followers respond to most eagerly, what marketing campaigns your competition is doing, and how responsive their followers are.
Around 60% of organizations use social media data daily, based on Sprout Social’s 2022 Index report.
Based on your selected automation, your social listening tool can sort your data to reveal what your customers like or don't like about your brand and other trends.
You can go beyond dividing feedback into positive and negative ones and perform sentiment analysis to identify the emotions underlying your followers' statements.
Analysis can also uncover differences among demographics, sudden peaks, and troughs in mention volume, sentiment changes, seasonal trends, and conclusions contrary to assumed knowledge.
Action or response
Insights about your followers will become the basis of your action points for enhancing your social responses, brand messaging, product, service, and ultimately your customers’ experience.
The "ROI" of Social Listening
The promptness and aptness of your social media approaches allow you to reap the following relational and financial rewards:
1. Deeper customer understanding and engagement
People are more open about sharing their opinions about brands online. Social listening allows you to have more thorough knowledge about your clients and target market as you discover:
- Your most engaged social media followers
- Their most frequently asked questions
- Their main reasons for supporting your brand
- Their most common issues and concerns
By knowing what your audience wants, you can tailor your brand messaging to their interests and desires. Customers feel valued when you connect with them. Share helpful information and offer solutions to their problems. However, be careful about jumping in on conversations with a hard sell.
Social Media Today reports that 61% of businesses use social listening. Furthermore, over 82% of marketers consider it a vital planning element of their strategies.
Moreover, customers receiving a social media response from their brands spend 20% to 40% more with those companies.
2. Crisis identification and management
Studying online discussions helps organizations spot potential crises and take proactive steps before the situation escalates into a catastrophe. Social listening happens in real-time and can send notifications once bad press appears on the internet so you can respond promptly.
For instance, brands can spot detractors among followers who air complaints to provide a more personalized approach to their grievances.
Social listening can also protect your brand reputation by helping you discover fake comments and brandjacking incidents or impersonations of your brand online.
3. Sharper content strategy
Once social listening gives you a better picture of your customer segments and their engagement level, you can personalize your messages to suit the demographics of each. You may need to re-strategize campaigns for groups with lower engagement.
To sound like you are talking directly to them—and not copy-pasting responses—use their lingo and feature content that resonates with them. Sprout Social’s 2022 Index report shows that the consumers’ most preferred social media content highlights their favorite product or service (51%), followed by customer testimonials (39%) and brand personality messages (34%).
Know and imitate the formats of your followers' posts and the content type they usually link to and promote to increase your content's shareability. Short-form videos (66%), images (61%), and live video (37%) are the top in-feed formats that currently produce the most engagement, according to latest Sprout Social’s Index report.
Social listening can also point you to trends, which help brainstorm ideas for your blog or campaign. Your tools can also identify which keywords you use that spike—or lower—engagement.
Moreover, these tools can help you determine which paid social content, brand partnerships, and platforms can work in your favor. Focus your resources, time, and energy on channels, ads, and collaborations that draw leads and sales.
4. Competitive intelligence
Social listening is also a benchmarking tool as it helps you discover your position in your niche or industry. You do this by comparing your social media activities against your rivals’. What other companies are offering products or services like yours? What new products or features are they introducing? What social content are they producing to promote them? How are consumers reacting to their campaigns? Where are your rivals succeeding or failing? Is there anything you could adopt or avoid? Are they targeting audiences that your brand can target?
Thus, social listening surfaces threats and opportunities you may have to act on, especially if the conversation volume and positive sentiment lean more toward your rivals. You will have to hone your messaging and choose the right timing to play up what makes you unique or better than others.
For example, discover gaps in the industry or what consumers can't find from any brand in your sector. Then offer something that fills this void. Also, part of competitor analysis is to understand their weaknesses so you can provide a better product or experience.
You can also use social listening to determine businesses with whom you can create joint campaigns or identify competitors' top influencers to win over.
5. New or improved collaborations
Social listening tools allow you to identify influential personalities who have already generated plenty of discussions about your brand. Creators with interests and specialization aligned with your product and marketing goals also make good prospects.
This process is better than using a separate influencer search platform to find candidates because your tool can spot creators directly related to your product, niche, or brand values. Moreover, listening platforms can report the most popular themes in your industry, which you can ask your partners to explore and discuss.
Social Listening Metrics
Most social listening tools allow you to measure the following metrics. They provide insights into how customers perceive your brand and your marketing.
- Volume or number of mentions
This metric is one of the primary brand awareness indicators as it calculates how often people talk about your brand. Refine your monitoring parameters by including brand abbreviations, misspellings, and various terms related to your brand, then filter out unwanted words.
- Social media reach
Social media reach measures how recognizable your brand is. This metric is the number of impressions or people who can view your brand name in social posts. You can set your platform to monitor all mentions of specific products and services besides your brand name across different platforms. Influencers can multiply your reach depending on their audience size.
SOV refers to the volume of impressions plus brand mentions you get compared to others in your sector. This metric is like your brand's market share in the social media space. A higher SOV indicates greater brand awareness, which can ultimately lead to more sales.
Customer knowledge is critical in growing your SOV. Use your social listening analysis results to create posts based on your followers' most favored content type. Also, interact with them during the hours when they're most active online. Reply to comments, even positive ones, to show you value their experience. You can also pose a question to keep the conversation going.
Also, competitor analysis comes into play here—you can study their most engaging campaigns to see if you can apply their strategy to your marketing.
- Sentiment analysis
Sentiment analysis indicates the emotional impact of a message—positive, negative, or neutral—on your target audience. Real-time sentiment score monitoring allows you to verify what made customers delighted or displeased with your offer or service so you respond appropriately. Moreover, your analysis can also cover messages from anywhere else in your industry, including other businesses like yours.
NPS refers to the positive mentions your brand receives, particularly posts recommending your company, product, or service to others. The score falls under sentiment analysis, so you typically don't set up a separate alert for this metric. The NPS can help you shortlist your brand advocates who can help market your products and convince more people to try them.
- Conversion rate
Social listening platforms usually have a Leads Alert feature that will notify you once social media users express interest in a product like yours or complain about your competition.
Engagement includes likes, follows, shares, comments, and direct messages from followers, which you can nurture for lead generation. Continue monitoring their feedback content to build a relationship until you convince them to convert.
What Social Listening Is Not
Here are five myths about social listening and the corresponding truth to set the record straight about this process:
1. Social listening only involves reading through and scoring product reviews.
Social listening tools do tabulate positive versus negative comments. But more than that, they also use a combination of metrics—such as mentions volume, SOV, and sentiment analysis—to assess your online reputation.
These platforms also scan through all platforms for a more holistic picture of how you're doing as an industry player.
2. Social listening is only for the PR team.
Social listening results primarily serve your marketing and PR people. However, findings about the industry can provide ideas your product development team can use for future offers and innovation. Moreover, you can improve or end some customer service practices based on your client’s feedback.
3. My online community is already thriving.
While you can use social listening to make better conversations online, its primary focus is to observe your consumers' online communications. Only after gathering and studying the generated insights can you map out a strategy for more targeted engagement.
4. Social listening wastes money — platforms have built-in analytics, and marketing firms publish regular intelligence reports.
Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and other platforms can provide the stats, but they're insufficient. Since they can only perform analytics on your business accounts, you only get a limited view of your social performance.
Moreover, trends change over time and sometimes faster than you expect. Furthermore, the results of marketing studies have wider coverage and may not always accurately represent your brand's community. Social listening tools can keep tabs on your niche in real-time, tuning into your followers' unique quirks. Your audience may express themselves on platforms that aren't necessarily the most popular for their demographic.
5. Social listening platforms are "plug-and-play."
Even if AI runs most tools, marketers have plenty of work to do after installing the platform and setting their metrics. The AI can point to trends, but the human team decides which insights require urgent action and what findings need further research. You may have to adjust your parameters next time to find answers to your new questions after your first analysis.
5 Factors that Make a Good Social Media Listening Tool
Perhaps you have now concluded that you should incorporate social listening d into your social media strategy. How do you go about choosing the right tool? Of course, you must first set your goals and clarify why you want to pursue social listening. Afterward, consider these six attributes when searching for your listening solution:
- User-friendly interface
The tool should be easy to navigate, even for non-techie people. The same goes for monitoring analytics and reading the reports it generates.
- Social platform coverage
Will the listening solution allow you to monitor content on all the platforms valuable to your business? Choose the tool that covers all the social networks where your target audience is active.
- Filters and features
Check if the product has the features you need to improve your social media strategy, including the social media listening metrics listed above.
Other than those, verify if the tool can send you alert notifications, especially for content that could mar your brand image. Also, examine what customer support options the solution offers its users.
- Data access and consolidated insights
The best social listening tool should give you access to historical and real-time data. Some platforms have a search cap and charge extra beyond that limit—select a solution that offers unlimited social listening searches.
Moreover, your chosen solution must be able to bring analytics from across social media and the web so you can monitor everything from your dashboard.
State-of-the-art listening software uses AI for visual brand monitoring (allowing identification of brand mentions on images and video) and sentiment analysis.
Ensure your tool integrates with other systems, such as customer relationship management and marketing automation software.
Your listening solution must provide a 360-degree customer view, allowing you to track conversations and generate insights anywhere customers post messages or content.
Also, find a platform that lets you prompt your followers directly on their channels for experience-sharing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What social media listening tools can I incorporate into my marketing strategy in 2023?
You can try over a dozen platforms topped by Brandwatch Consumer Intelligence, Brand24, Digimind, and Sprout Social. Get a lowdown of these tools by reading our article: “Top 24 Social Media Listening Tools for 2023 [Brand Monitoring Tools]”.
If influencers can magnify my reach, what performance indicators should I include in my selection process?
You can use metrics similar to what we recommend for social listening. An influencer or content creator’s post frequency, follower size, follower growth, engagement, and branded posts are some of the top metrics you should examine. Check out our tips in our guide “How to Choose The Right Influencer for Your Next Campaign.”