Here’s a stat that may surprise you: 96% of the people talking about your brand online probably don’t even follow you.
How are you supposed to engage in these conversations if you don’t know they’re happening?
The answer is simple: social listening software.
With social listening, your brand will be able to gauge the overall sentiment about your brand on social media.
This information will allow for better customer service, more competitive research, and the opportunity to boost your positive brand image (or reverse your negative one).
The information is all out there for the taking – all you have to do is listen.
What is social listening?
Social listening = social intelligence for your brand
Social listening allows you to listen to, monitor, and respond to the conversation happening about your brand online.
What are your customers saying about you, your competitors, and the state of the industry? Are people discussing your brand in online forums, on social media, and through blog comments? How’s the reputation of your own executives as well as other industry influencers?
Social listening provides the answers to these questions and more.
How your brand can use social listening in 2018
Let’s dive into some of the ways your brand can use social listening to provide better service, outwit your competitors, and stay ahead of industry trends.
1. Know what people are saying about you.
The first social listening feed you should set up is one for your brand name, website, and variations of both (such as older names or common misspellings). Many tools call this your “brand health” feed, as it helps you measure the popularity of your brand as well as the overall sentiment.
A brand-focused social listening feed gives you a first line of defense when people start to complain en masse about something your company, your product, or one of your employees did. It also reveals on which social media sites your customers are talking about you the most. These are the channels you should be investing in.
Here’s an example from HootSuite.
By looking at this dashboard, the brand can see that they are more popular among males than females, especially in Japan, and their audience tends to gather on Twitter. They might then conclude that they should invest more of their time creating a strategy for Twitter that targets men in Japan. Since their sentiment is only slightly positive, they have room to improve when it comes to customer perception of their brand.
On the SEO side, a branded feed helps you keep track of new site mentions. You’ll discover bloggers and journalists who mentioned your brand but didn’t link back to you. Turning these unlinked mentions into linked mentions is a solid way to boost your SEO and drive more referral traffic your way.
2. Give customers the service they expect.
Successful brands ride on the satisfied coattails of their customers. By listening and responding to customer feedback, questions, and compliments, you’ll build a loyal customer base that will stick with your brand for the long run. Seeing how courteous and helpful you are also attracts new customers to your brand.
Use social listening to monitor and respond to complaints and compliments on social media channels. Promptly answer customer service questions and help people resolve their problems. Thank happy customers for their reviews, and do what you can to improve the subpar experience your negative reviewers went through.
Review monitoring tools like ReviewTrackers take social listening to the world of reviews. You can monitor your star ratings across the web from an easy dashboard, and instantly know where you need to improve.
3. Buddy up to influencers.
Are there influencers you’d like to align your brand with? Do more than just following them on social media and resharing their latest post. Make influencers notice you with social listening.
Set up a social listening feed for your strategic influencers to aggregate their most recent content from across the internet. Were they mentioned in an expert roundup on another blog? Share it on social media and give them a shoutout. Did they get some press coverage? Congratulate them on Twitter.
For example, you can use a tool like Buzzsumo to monitor outside mentions of your influencers, and then share that content as a congratulations. Take fashion influencer Aimee Song for example:
You could share the first result there, congratulating Aimee for the feature.
Social listening tools also display different metrics that serve unique influencer marketing goals. If reach is most important to your brand, pay attention to the influencers talking about you who have the largest followings. If you want engagement, take a look at how their other sponsored posts perform. If you need to boost your reputation, find influencers who regularly post about how much they love your brand – and brainstorm with them on how you can make it even more worth their while.
4. Let customers hype you up.
You can also use social listening to see kudos, compliments, and raves from your customers. These already show up in your social media notifications, but there’s at least two ways that social listening software gives you a leg up over notifications.
For one, social listening software will notify you of the times people mention your brand, but don’t @mention you. Here’s an example of that from Synthesio:
For another, social listening tools also reveal the clout of the person hyping you up. If you’re a brand that’s inundated with compliments, you can use this information to strategically reshare mentions from the biggest influencers that will pack the most punch.
5. Perform product research.
Want to know how you can improve your existing products, or which new product lines you should prioritize launching first? Social listening again provides an answer.
Create social listening feeds for the following:
- Your specific product name and variations of it: Learn the specific features that your customers love or hate the most. Discover what customers are using your product for beyond its intended use. Provide more helpful content around those other use cases on your blog, or add additional features to better serve those customers.
- The related product category: Which are the most popular products and brands in this category, and why are they resonating so well with customers? Do they like the messaging, the advertising, or the product features? Which needs are they solving best, and how can you adapt your product accordingly? Scroll through your social listening feed to answer these questions.
- The related industry segment: What new, exciting trends are people talking about in your industry? Are there any small startups you should keep an eye for their potential to disrupt? Keep your brand ahead of the game by developing products and features that demonstrate forward thinking.
6. Speak your customer’s language.
It’s easy for brands to get caught up in the industry lingo, corporate culture jargon, and fancy marketing words they use around the office. It’s understandable, but it’s not excusable.
Speaking in that language, instead of the voice of your customer, prevents you from truly connecting with them. You appear out of touch and unapproachable.
Social listening helps you learn the voice, tone, and language of your target customer base. Let that inform the messaging on your web site, social media, and marketing materials. What hashtags are your customers using? Are the long-tail keywords your customers using the same ones you’re targeting in your blog content?
Urban Outfitters does a good job of talking to their audience of modern hipsters, millennials, and Coachella-goers in their email campaigns. The lingo plus exciting graphics nail it with their target demographic:
See how adapting your brand voice to that of your customer and brainstorming content around their interests improves conversion.
7. Measure your marketing campaigns.
Successfully executing a marketing campaign and getting approval for bigger investment the next time around starts with backing up your results with data.
Besides key metrics from your sales and traffic numbers, factor social engagement into the mix. Social listening gives you a wealth of information that far surpasses the standard info of related retweets, hashtag use, and increase in follower numbers and mentions.
Take a look at which content types performed best for your campaign, and see how people reacted to the campaign across social media channels and the internet.
Here’s an example from Hootsuite on how a brand might monitor their promotional campaign for a new franchise location:
8. Don’t forget images.
One large brand mention that often goes forgotten is images. Your brand logo comes to mind, but that’s not all. How about photos of your best-selling products or screenshots of how your service works? What kind of original image assets have you created, such as infographics?
Look for image analytics in your social listening software to regularly scour the web for shares of your brand assets. They’ll reveal additional opportunities from the list above, such as compliments and complaints, influencer mentions, as well as inclusions on roundup lists or product review sites.
Here’s an example of how TalkWalker’s visual listening feature searches for the Starbucks brand logo through social media images:
9. Gain a competitive edge.
Social listening isn’t all about you. Eavesdrop on the conversations happening around your competitors, too.
Wonder what customers think about your competitors? Start with a word cloud around their brand name, like this example for Nike from Simply Measured. It quickly reveals the top words, adjectives, and product names consumers associate with the brand.
As you review the word clouds for your own competitors, think about the following:
- Which product names show up the most? Consider whether your company should be offering something similar to stay competitive.
- What descriptive words are used? Do they tend to be negative or positive? Take a deeper look to see how you can emulate the positive brands and avoid the mistakes of the negative ones.
Do any of your competitors rely heavily on their executives to demonstrate thought leadership? Set up social listening feeds for them as well. See what content resonates best with their readers, and on which platforms. You may find you need to pivot your strategy from posting on LinkedIn to getting featured in industry publications, or that your corporate honchos shouldn’t shy away from using memes on Twitter.
10. Serve your clients better.
If you’re in the B2B industry, your clients are your bread and butter. Go above and beyond by helping them monitor their own reputation. You can keep an eye out for positive press mentions, awards, and news. If you’re the first to congratulate them, you’re sure to impress. Conversely, if you see something concerning, you can also give them a heads up.
Create social listening feeds for your strategic accounts, or outfit your sales people with social listening feeds for their prospects. They can use the same strategies we outlined in the tips above to discover their customer’s biggest pain points and how their brand resonates within their industry. Then, your sales team can tailor their communications to focus on how your product can uniquely help them address those needs.
Go beyond notifications
Social media conversations give you real insights your brand can leverage to improve customer perception, conversion, and retention.
Better yet, social listening software automates the aggregation of this conversational data for you, providing social intelligence in an easy-to-view dashboard.
Opt into social listening and hear the full conversation happening around your brand online.
Michael Quoc is the CEO & Founder of Dealspotr. Emerging brands, micro-influencers, and deal-conscious shoppers connect on this open social platform. Prior to this, Michael was the Director of Product Management for Yahoo’s media lab, where he led the launch of inventive services in the live video & mobile social networking fields. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelquoc.