For many of us, browsing social media has become second nature—especially during the pandemic. A recent report found that social media consumption was up 10.5% in July 2020. This means that now more than ever, social media has the power to turn your brand into a household name.
Smart brands recognize this. According to a recent survey of CMOs, over 84% of marketers say they are using social media during the pandemic to build brand awareness.This has translated to a 74% increase in social media spending in 2020.
While the increased consumption of social media is the perfect opportunity to spread brand awareness and drive online sales, you need to be thoughtful in your approach. More social media banter can also mean more negative conversations about your brand. So how do you drive more positive conversations and steer clear of negative press?
Start by being more vigilant about monitoring all the social media channels tied to your brand.
What is Social Listening?
Social listening is a two-step process that enables you to tune in to the conversations consumers are having about your brand, and stay in sync with your audience’s needs via social channels. The first step involves tracking and monitoring social mentions about your brand. The second step entails responding to these mentions, and then analyzing the sentiments driving these conversations.
Tracking And Monitoring
The first step is the easier of the two. You focus on brand mentions, hashtags relevant to your brand and industry, industry-specific trends, and mentions of your competitors.
Response And Analysis
The second step emphasizes the need for prompt and tactful responses to your brand mentions. In most cases, this will help your audience connect and engage better with your brand. On occasion, social listening can even save the day. Early and well thought-out responses to negative comments and mentions can help you put bad publicity to rest and avert the spread of negative sentiments.
Step two also involves analysis. This means turning your data into actionable insights. You go beyond quantitative information (number of mentions, engagement rate, etc.) and take a deep dive into the qualitative aspect of your data. This will help you gauge the “online mood,” also known as “social media sentiment,” which is a telling story of how people truly feel about your brand and what shapes their perception of it.
Why Social Listening Matters
Word of mouth is one of the most reliable methods for spreading brand awareness. It’s what your customers say about your product that helps you acquire or lose potential customers. In a way, you could think of social listening as a more nuanced way of collecting customer feedback than the star-rating system that you see on most online shopping sites—it offers a direct view into what your audience thinks of your brand.
This means social listening is a treasure trove of data and insights that come directly from your target audience. Can it get any better than that? When analyzed this data can help tweak and realign your marketing campaigns and strategies to drive growth and achieve success. Below, we discuss how social listening can help your brand in different ways:
The most pivotal question in marketing is, “What does our customer think, feel, and want?” And with social listening you can take a peek inside your customer’s mind. Brand insight goes beyond understanding the general public perception of your brand. It breaks down emotions associated with every campaign and helps you understand if it’s positive or negative. It investigates which specific offerings or features pique your customers’ interest. It shows who your real-life target persons are. It helps you identify the kind of content that people like to consume on your channels. In essence, social listening shows you the way. If you take cues and use them effectively, it can help your brand become the first choice for your customers.
Every brand wants to create a successful two-way channel that establishes a direct connection with their audience. A single response from a brand has the ability to greatly impact its customers’ perception of the brand. Let’s consider an example.
Say someone leaves a negative comment under your top-performing post. Company A chooses to leave the comment unattended. What happens next? Other people who’ve had a bad experience with your brand join the conversation and start chiming in. They not only express their dissatisfaction with the product but also your customer service. It’s crucial to remember that this domino effect has the power to dissuade potential customers.
On the other hand, Company B jumps right in, responds promptly with empathy, and promises to make things right. This attitude doesn’t go unnoticed. People now change the subject of this conversation to share anecdotes where they’ve seen the company take ownership and turn negative experiences into positive ones. This is a game-changer for Company B, and all because of a simple, human response.
Of course, this is just one example and customer engagement goes way beyond attending to grievances. It’s about joining the conversation, creating that personal touch, and showing that you care. We all know that excitement of having your tweet retweeted or getting a direct response from a brand that you love. These small gestures can help foster a lot of good will for your brand.
Identify Customer Needs
You’ll be surprised at the wealth of information that can be collected by tuning in to the uninhibited chatter on social channels. Social conversations don’t just point at what's working but also indicate what’s not working. And this is where you can pick up on your customers’ pain points.
If there are shared frustrations, a trending negative sentiment, or a majority opinion that demands change, then that’s your chance to deliver. This data should be shared with your marketing, research, and product teams. They can then use this information to improve your product or service and make it more appealing to your customers.
It’s no longer enough to track wins and losses of your own brand. Your analysis must capture a thorough breakdown of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. What are your competitors doing differently? Which of their campaigns were huge successes? What audience sentiments made those campaigns successful? Are there any new campaigns in the pipeline? Is their PR good or bad?
There’s a lot that can be assessed about your competitors in real-time through attentive and strategic social listening. Additionally, social listening can help you compare your brand to your competitors to get a direct sense of your share of voice in the social space and to understand how your content is consumed as compared to theirs.
The last thing a company wants is a PR disaster. Social listening can be your extinguisher to put out social fires before they spread. But for that you need to have your eyes peeled for mentions that point at a negative sentiment in the making. When you sense an emerging issue, attend to it immediately. Don’t wait for it to settle down or go unnoticed, because in reality, out of the millions hanging out on social channels, there's a good chance that it will catch someone’s attention. If it’s a post that’s creating controversy or debate, and for the right reasons, don’t hesitate to issue an apology or even take down the post if required.
Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes a campaign that’s been approved by a room full of senior executives can go wrong. But if you accept that you’ve made a mistake and are ready to correct course, then your recovery will be quick and your brand will be remembered for the right reasons.
Growing your own following is a long process that shows gradual results. However, using partners and influencers as your brand advocates is a quick hack to connect with their loyal followers, who could in turn take a liking to your brand. Through social listening, you can easily spot the brands that show interest in you and identify influencers who are in sync with your brand’s vision. Reach out to these companies and/or individuals to collaborate, and see what results it can drive for you.
What’s the point of following a trend when it’s been overused? The real winners are those who identify a trend in the making and use it to drive results before anyone else. If you track the right hashtags and pay attention to the mood of the social conversations within your industry, you’ll get a good sense of the future of the marketplace.
Track the frequently asked questions, get a pulse of political and social issues that are relevant to your organization and industry, look out for conversations that have the potential to drive change, and you’ll begin to see how these pieces can contribute to make meaningful marketing decisions. If you want to be a trendsetter, you need to start listening.
Top Tools For Social Listening
While we’ve established why social listening is so important and relevant in our current environment, it’s also crucial to understand how to implement it successfully. Analyzing millions of conversations and drawing patterns from them can sound intimidating. But thankfully, there are a barrage of social media tools that will do the job for you. Here’s a list of some worth your consideration:
Hootsuite offers three different plans to cater to different needs. Its dashboard brings all your social channels together, and helps you respond to mentions and comments from a single location. It also allows you to view your messages and send responses though the platform. As an added offering, it facilitates tracking influencers and brand partners who you can then easily reach out to. Also, based on the collected data, it generates reports for your brand, competitors, and industry trends that can inform your marketing efforts.
HubSpot takes social listening a step further and embeds it into a larger marketing software. From creating to posting and responding, you can do it all in one place. What stands out is their ability to send trigger emails to your sales team based on specific social mentions. Seamless integrations like these are the way forward for cross-functional growth. Their software also helps you compare your performance across different social channels to see what’s working best for your brand.
From monitoring keywords relevant to your brand to pulling out insights based on industry trends, SproutSocial is a great tool for social listening. It provides in-depth reports and predictions on emerging trends, which in turn help you make strategic marketing decisions that can scale reach and engagement. This platform combines social media management, customer care, and analytics to make the transition from one to the other easy and smooth.
If you’re looking for an omni-channel experience that can help your social media and community teams work together, then Buffer might be the answer for you. It comes equipped with features that help you listen to social conversations, tune in to trends, and generate reports. Additionally, its shared inbox is a great way for different teams to attend to specific needs in order to respond more appropriately.
If you want to stay deeply focused on what’s being said about your brand—and not just locally but on a global scale—then it’s worth exploring Mention. It supports over 40 languages and weeds out unimportant banter from your mentions. Its comparison tool can identify your competitors’ growth patterns and help you tweak your strategy accordingly. However, their crisis management feature takes the cake. It alerts team members when an unprecedented situation comes up, and allows everyone to jump in to find a solution together. You can see the progress of your crisis management efforts, and make crucial decisions in real time, all from your Mention dashboard.
Knotch is an end-to-end Content Intelligence Platform used by Fortune 500 companies to measure their content performance, gather qualitative feedback, perform competitor research, curate content, and collaborate with other stakeholders within their organizations on all owned and paid content channels (social media, blog, YouTube, etc.). It serves as a key social media content planning tool for those seeking to gather the intel they need to create a highly-effective social media content marketing strategy.
Social Listening In a Nutshell
There’s no denying that the success of your brand greatly depends on its perception. If you’re looking to create a brand image that speaks to your audiences, then make social listening your best friend. The more you understand what your audience wants and needs, the closer you’ll be to shaping a brand that offers real solutions to your customers’ problems.
If you’re looking for comprehensive content intelligence for your brand, then you’re a demo away.