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Approximately 2.62 billion people now use social media daily, posting a range of updates, images, selfies, and everything in-between. And there’s a lot of content being produced – according to research by HubSpot almost 4 million posts are added across the major social networks every single minute. And importantly for brands, some of these posts are likely be about your business – but without social media listening you may never see them.

Even if you’re monitoring your own social media profiles, people don’t always use @mentions or spell the brand name correctly. 96% of people that discuss brands online don’t follow those brands’ profiles, so it’s highly probable that you’re missing relevant posts.

If you’re not engaged in social media listening, you’re ignoring your clients – and that’s just bad business.

In this post, we’ll look at the various ways in which social listening can be of benefit for your company, and how you can utilize it effectively.

But first, before any of that, we need to start with at the begining, and look at what, exactly, social listening entails.

What is social media listening?

Social media listening is the act of using a tool to monitor – or ‘listen to’ – what’s being said about a brand (or any other keyword or set of keywords) across the social web.

Imagine one day you wake up with a newly acquired super power, to hear everything people think about you. You know every thought, every opinion they have immediately. While for you that might be a nightmare scenario, for a brand it’s a dream.

To be aware of people’s opinions is the ultimate power – especially if whenever they express it you’re able to interact with them instantly.

Social media listening can help you:

  • Improveyour customer service
  • Make a better product
  • Find new clients
  • Marketyour products through industry influencers
  • Learn more about your clients
  • Create targeted, high converting ads
  • Keep an eye on your competition

Despite the name, most tools aren’t restricted to social media search only – for example, a tool like Awario enables you to monitor publicly available information not only on blogs, forums, news outlets and websites, as well as social platforms.

Some tools are more focused on gathering and analyzing data, others combine analysis with the engagement-oriented features so you can interact with people right from the platform – the one that’s best for you will come down to your desired approach.

How to master social media listening

The first step in effective social listening is identifying the right keywords and terms you need to stay on top of.

When you select which keywords to track, don’t just focus on your brand name. Here’s an incomplete list of the key elements you might want to monitor:

  • Your competitors’ brand names, product names, and handles
  • Industry buzzwords
  • Your slogans and your competitors’ slogans
  • Public people in your company and competitors’ companies
  • Your hashtags and your competitors’ hashtags
  • Hashtags related to your industry
  • Common misspellings and abbreviations for all of these. 

Let’s say you’re a social media manager at HBO and you want to monitor mentions of your company, your programs (Game of Thrones, Westworld), your competitors (Netflix, Showtime, etc.) and the key buzzwords in your industry.

Staying across these elements will ensure you remain aware of how people perceive your brand, what your competitor’s are doing and the current trends in your field.

Now let’s go deeper and find out how you can use social media listening to grow your business.

1. Improve your customer service

In 2013, a study conducted by J.D. Power Ratings found out that 67% of consumers use social media for customer care. As you can imagine, this number has only grown by now – another survey reported that 36% percent of people who had negative experience with a brand will turn to social media to post about it.

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It’s not always an attempt to contact the brand itself, sometimes it’s just a rant or a side note in a post dedicated to something else, but through social media listening, you have the capability to discover these comments, and respond to them, improving your customer experience.

Here’s an example from Mediacom, where a customer tweeted about having problems with their internet service. Mediacom was able to respond right away with apologies and a promise to fix the issue.

How to improve your customer service

Keywords to track: brand name

You’ll find that most social media listening tools now offer you sentiment analysis. This feature divides mentions into positive, negative and neutral.

To see if your customers are having troubles, set up the keywords mentioning your product or brand name and choose a filter to show you negative mentions first. That way you’ll be able to find unhappy customers and notice if there are any malfunctions or glitches in your product right away.

2. Make a better product

Business is ruled by demand – people put money into the things they want. This seems obvious, but for some reason, many companies are still ignoring the fastest, easiest way to find out what people want.

Take a lesson from fast food chain Arby’s – they noticed that there was a huge number of people who love their sauces. Many of them were tweeting and posting, inquiring where they could buy the bottled sauce to take it home. Using social media listening Arby’s was able to see the demand and create a new product for the market, which was so successful that they even designed a whole marketing campaign around it.    

How to make a better product

Keywords to track: industry buzzwords,competitors’ brand names

Keep an eye on your industry by tracking relevant buzzwords. You’ll be able to get a better idea of what features people want, and this might provide you with inspiration for future launches.

Even if something is shared as a joke (which is a common case for the Internet) you may find it useful. Set up a spreadsheet to come back to these ideas when you’re brainstorming a new project.  

Don’t forget to monitor your competitors’ brand names too – you may discover what people want from other companies, then you might be able to offer it to them with a new launch later.

3. Find new clients

Social media is one of the most efficient ways to market, with some 74% of consumers now reliant on social platforms to help guide purchasing decisions.

As a general rule, the more active you are on social, the more people you reach – but even if you’re posting every day, you’re still limited to your followers and their friends. However, there is a way to contact people who might be curious about your product – you guessed it, through social media listening.

Let’s take Hilton Hotels as an example – Hilton regularly finds potential clients by monitoring queries like “Where should I go on vacation?”. The company then offers helpful advice – they even started a @HiltonSuggests program where Hilton employees reach out to people to recommend places of interest in their area.

Hilton’s marketing department says that after years of social listening, they were able to compile “a rather lengthy list of words and phrases that people use while sharing excitement and anticipation for an upcoming trip” to monitor. They now use this to create meaningful interactions and promote their brand.

How to find new clients

Keywords to track: industry buzzwords

Even if you don’t have the resources to conduct comprehensive research like Hilton does, you can still use social media listening to find potential customers.

Get into the heads of your prospects and think of the keywords they may use when they ask for recommendations. Based on this, you can then use specific keywords and combinations in Boolean search mode to improve your results.

Boolean gives you a lot of options to customize your search process so you have a wide variety of queries.

For example, Hilton’s Boolean queries might look something like this:

Remember, not every new lead needs to become an instant sale – nobody likes being treated merely as an opportunity to make money.

Try creating meaningful interactions, respond to people’s questions and be helpful – that way you can create a positive image of your brand, which will help you stand out.

4. Market your products through industry influencers

Logically, people are far more likely to accept the advice of someone they trust – be that a friend, a family member, or these days, even a blogger whose content they like.

Marketing through influencers is not a new thing, but it’s come a long way since Michael Jordan was promoting sneakers. Now you have a way to promote your product through channels that people actually know and interact with in their day to day life. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, whilst only 33% trust ads, which makes influencer marketing one of the most efficient ways to sell.

So how do you find influencers that you want to work with?

Many social media listening tools now offer a social influencer feature – you can search the name of your brand to see who’s already interested in it and offer them an early trial or a free product, while you can also track buzzwords relevant to your industry and find people in your field who create relevant content and engage with others.

You can even see who’s working with your competitors, and suggest they try out your products as well.     

How to market your products through industry influencers

Keywords to track: brand name, industry buzzwords

To build relationship with an influencer you need time and care – just like with real-life relationships.  

For starters, get to know them – follow them on social media, read and watch their content, comment, share and like their posts. If they weren’t aware of you before, they’ll see you in their mentions, which will help build a more positive impression of your brand.

After that, you can reach out to them and offer a collaboration – guest material for their platform, a review of your product, a paid promotion or anything else that your marketing team can think of. But don’t just leave it at that – ensure you thank them for the attention and the consideration they’ve given to your product, and seek their feedback where possible.

5. Learn more about your clients

To satisfy your customers you need to know them first. Through customer research, you may find some unexpected ideas and inspiration for your marketing campaigns and future projects.

The traditional way to get customers’ feedback is to ask them through a survey or a questionnaire, which is not always ideal since few people like spending their time answering questions that are not directly related to them. Moreover, it’s practically impossible to get a completely unbiased opinion from a survey, and in the end you get few results which you can’t really rely on. 

This is another way social media listening comes in handy – through social listening, you can get unbiased (or as unbiased as one can be) opinions of your customers without any effort from their side, and minimal effort from yours.

You can analyze large volumes of data and see specific opinions using your social media listening tool/s.

How to learn even more about your clients

Keywords to track: brand name

Look for trends in preferences and dislikes. You might be able to detect some not-so-obvious tendencies that your audience has, and use them to your advantage.

Say, you notice Westworld fans mentioning Daft Punk’s new album – tweet Spotify links and like their music videos on Youtube. You can create a marketing campaign featuring Daft Punk or invite the musicians to star in an episode.

You might want to prioritize certain platforms, especially if your product is quite niche. With social media listening, you can see what media, networks and forums are popular within your industry.

6. Create targeted, high converting ads

What a beautiful world would it be if we could only see adverts for the things we like.

Targeted ads are the new black – every company is using them, and everyone else is talking about how ubiquitous and all-seeing they are. And although social media platforms offer more options to tailor ads to specific audiences, they’re still not perfect – and spending money on ads which don’t reach their intended audience is never a good business strategy.

For a beginner company effective advertising is especially important – you can’t afford to invest your marketing budget into something that doesn’t pay off. Social media listening can help you to get your ads in front of the people who are most likely to buy.

How to create targeted, high converting ads

Keywords to track: industry buzzwords

Use social media listening tools to find appropriate audiences for your ads.

In this case study, we can see how we can tailor the target audience for Twitter. The author managed to get a higher number of clicks for a lower price just by using a social media listening tool to customize his audience.

7. Keep an eye on your competition

You can learn a lot from your competition – their success will tell you what works and their failures will help you to avoid making the same mistakes.

You’re probably already checking your competitors’ social media profiles to see what they’re up to – but through social media listening, you can get the access to a bigger picture.

As the CEO of Networked Insights Dan Neely once said “Monitoring sees trees, listening sees the forest”. You can identify the general sentiment towards competitor’s brand, their top influencers and which platforms they’re prioritizing, then use this data to shape your own social media strategy.

How to keep an eye on your competition

Keywords to track: competitors’ brand names

Learn what people are saying about your rivals and their products. Set alerts for all your competitors’ brands, their campaign names, slogans and hashtags. And don’t just leave this information hanging – if you see an opportunity to engage, take it.

Clearly, this company was tracking Radian6 mentions, and was able to intervene when Radian6 failed to respond to a customer. How many people will see this exchange and decide to pass on Radian6 in favor of another vendor?

So now you see how social media listening can help you – from product development to customer service to marketing. I encourage you to dive into the world of social media listening and discover more ways to use it on your own.