Social media was initially developed as a way for people to connect with each other, not brands. And while your business goal may be increasing sales or conversions, consumers didn’t join Facebook, Instagram, or any other channel to be marketed to. Instead, consumers are looking for brands with whom they can build relationships that add value to their newsfeeds and conversations.
Like any good relationship, you start by listening. What are your consumers talking about? What do they care about? What current events are impacting their lives and emotions? What benefit can your brand’s presence bring them?
That’s where social listening comes in.
What Exactly Is Social Listening?
“Social listening” is actually a bit of a misnomer. Social listening is used to monitor conversations across all digital channels, including, blogs, forums, and website comments. The data you collect can be organized by specific timeframes, audiences, geolocations, channels, etc., before it’s reviewed or analyzed. It allows you to not only monitor what your target audience is saying about any given topic or brand, but when and where they’re saying it.
Social listening can be done natively, but it’s a grueling task of manually reading posts, tagging them, and plugging that data into graphs. Social listening tools are more accurate and save you time by using crawlers to listen across digital platforms, automatically tagging and sorting the data for you to analyze.
While most brands use some form of social listening to monitor and respond to brand mentions, its benefits extend far beyond everyday community management. Here are two additional ways to get the most out of social listening.
While knowing what people are saying about your brand is important, the true power of social listening comes from analyzing conversations outside of brand mentions. Monitoring industry-related keywords, trending topics/current events, and even competitors can reveal insights that will help you anticipate which of your themes and key messages are relevant to your audience at any given time. For example, if you’re planning content for September 2018, knowing conversation topics and trends from September 2017 is just as valuable as assessing the last 3 months of data.
Once you’ve determined what your content themes will be for the month, use those same data sets to determine when your audience is online. Even with social platforms moving away from chronological newsfeeds, posting on a Wednesday morning when your audience is most active Sunday nights can make a huge difference in your content being seen.
Sometimes a crisis isn’t really a crisis. With social being a permanent, public source of commentary, it can be easy to overreact to a negative tweet. Even if it’s a scathing review of your brand, one tweet from an account with 40 followers won’t require a full-scale PR campaign to address it. That’s why it’s important to understand what an “average” digital day looks like for your brand. What percentage of the conversation is typically negative? How many people are talking? How many people are those consumer posts reaching? Knowing these benchmarks allow you to see if that one tweet actually moved the needle on your online reputation.
Social listening tools also enable you to take it one step further by setting alerts based on those everyday benchmarks. If suddenly there’s a higher percentage of negative conversation, you’ll be alerted. From there, you can dig into whether it’s one person with a high follower count, one post with high engagements, or multiple people all talking at once that’s causing the spike.
Conversely, those alerts can tell you if there’s a higher volume of positive conversation than normal. While someone with 400 followers tagging your brand in an Instagram photo at midnight deserves to be engaged with, you can probably wait until business hours to respond. If an A-list celebrity, however, posts a photo of your brand, you’ll likely want to respond in a timelier manner to best capitalize on the increased brand share of voice.
Having a successful social presence doesn’t have to be daunting. When you take the time to listen to your target audience, you’ll learn how to fit your brand into their newsfeeds in an authentic and engaging manner. If you want to get more out of your social marketing, drop us a line. Our social specialists can help you stay on top of trends and conversations to get more out of your social marketing.