Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall to hear what people say about you? That’s what social listening is all about—eavesdropping on the digital conversation to decipher trends and data. Why? So you can learn how, when, and why your products, services, industry, competitors, or brand name get mentioned—and what you can do to improve your customer experience, business, and bottom line.

The Definition of Social Listening

Social listening monitors the keywords, phrases, direct mentions, comments, and overall conversation surrounding your brand, products, services, competitors, and industry. Social listening gleans tremendous data about what customers want, don’t want, and trending/overlapping topics you can jump on with your marketing strategy or product development teams.

Unlike social monitoring, social listening notices trends. It looks at complaints or praises that come in at a certain time of day, day of the week, or time of year. Social listening draws lines between the dots to form a hypothesis and make relevant changes to better your business.

Why Every Brand Should Utilize Social Listening

Social listening, a more analytical component to social monitoring, provides invaluable insight into the minds of customers. It pulls you out of every individual interaction to see the larger whole.

Social Listening Contributes to Your Negative Feedback Loop

Social listening helps brands establish a negative feedback loop. This customer service and brand betterment tactic taps into negative conversations consumers have about your business, industry, product, or service. By listening to the bad, your brand can determine solutions to delight customers, gain larger market share, and become a standout in your industry. Social listening mines the data you need to run a negative feedback loop—including tools and trackers we discuss more in-depth later in this article.

Social Listening Unveils Opportunities and Ideas

Inspiration often comes from unlikely places: something you overhear at the store, an image you stumble upon online, or an insight an acquaintance shares. Social listening provides an infinite well of brainstorming ideas for your marketing strategy.

Say for instance you track the keyword, medicinal mushrooms. You may notice that people talk about medicinal mushrooms for chronic diseases, but what about extreme athletes? This may provide a sponsorship opportunity to increase your exposure, brand awareness, and target demographic.

By paying attention to the fringes that surround your target audience’s interests, trending industry words, and other key phrases, you might even discover people want a product that doesn’t exist yet—something you can provide! Or, you might notice that customers loved a certain giveaway promotion you offered a while back and you should do it again. Keep an open mind and open ears and the strategic ideas will flood in.

Social Listening Diffuses Problems

Unless you suffer a recall, malpractice, or unforeseen issues, a serious crisis rarely happens overnight. Social listening decreases these odds even more because it keeps you in-the-know about how customers and consumers feel about your brand, products, and services.

For example, if you notice people complain about your customer service regularly and reliably on certain days or times, you may be able to isolate a certain customer service rep who isn’t performing well. You may also notice that after a shipment of vitamins goes out, you experience an upsurge in customer complaints. Perhaps this is due to a bad batch of product you can address with your wholesaler. It’s these types of deductions social listening make possible—insights that help you address and fix problems before they spiral out of control.

Social Listening Builds Brand Affinity and Customer Trust

Social media delivers mentions and notifications directly to our inboxes. However, social listening tunes into what’s being said about your company indirectly—what may otherwise go unnoticed. When you implement social listening, you can respond to each person individually and take part in the conversation. Research shows that customers who get direct responses to their comments are more likely to spend more money with a brand—whether that initial comment was positive or negative.

Social listening also offers a chance for you to take what your customers say and make changes to your business. When customers feel heard and appreciated, their trust for your business increases and so does their loyalty, affinity, and ability to become advocates and ambassadors for your brand—promoting you to friends and family. And as we all know, word-of-mouth referrals are better than gold.

How to Start Social Listening and What to Do with the Results

Use Keywords, Phrases, and Overlapping Topics

Social listening extends beyond paying attention to when you’re tagged in a comment, mentioned by name, or sent a notification. You should also search keywords and phrases specific to your brand, competitor names (including their products and services), trending topics, overlapping interest groups, and anything pertinent to your brand. Tuning into these topics, phrases, and words will zero in on specific conversations to deliver insights.

Hire an Analytical Team

Like we mentioned before, social listening is highly analytical. It requires the ability to look at a large amount of data, isolate trends, and draw conclusions based on those findings. Hire people who are critical thinkers, problem solvers, and comfortable with numbers. Then, loop in your creative advertising or marketing team to brainstorm creative ideas to implement improvements into your digital presence and products and services.

Be Open Minded

Social listening is a science experiment; you may have a hypothesis, but a great scientist stays neutral and open-minded to what naturally unfolds. Cast a wide net and see what comes back. Whenever you find an outlying pattern, spend time dissecting it to determine if you should take further action.

Start Listening Before Disaster Strikes

Think of social listening as a preemptive and reactive solution to your problems. Start today, so that nothing catches you off-guard, opportunities don’t pass you by, and customer affections don’t wane.

Use Top Social Listening Tools and Trackers

Google Analytics exists for website SEO and naturally, many tools exist to help you with social listening. To make social listening easy, try Sprout Social, Buzzsumo, Talkwalker, or Synthesio. Some of these tools assist with influencer marketer as well—helping you isolate influencers of micro to macro size.

Incorporate Feedback Pronto

If someone says you have food in your teeth, do you let it sit there? No! You remove the offending peppercorn or piece of lettuce promptly. Social listening should be treated the same. When you get feedback, incorporate it into your entire business strategy, customer service protocol, production standards, and branding as soon as you can. Decipher trends, pay attention to problems, and jump on the bandwagon with related phrases people use when discussing your industry, competitors, or your brand. That way, you’ll show up in social media feeds even more. Even consider launching a social media advertising campaign, give-away, or posting strategy based on what you learn.

Respond Transparently to Complaints

Ignoring a problem on social media makes it 100 times worse. Respond as a company with a larger post if it’s a huge issue and individually to customers. Like we mentioned above, it’s okay to admit a mistake. It’s better to own up, apologize, ask for constructive criticism, and fix it right away. Customers respond surprisingly well to brands who work to rectify an issue and deliver a positive outcome—even if their original experience was negative.

There’s just too much valuable information online to ignore. People are offering their opinions, likes and dislikes, and buying personas freely and regularly! Tap into social listening today to improve your marketing strategy, business, and customer service across the board. If you need help, we’d be happy to chat.