‘Strategic Social Listening is Real Life’

Photo by Amaryllis Liampoti on Unsplash

Wendy Scherer specializes in listening. On social media, that means listening to support and inform content and strategy. That meshes well with her role as managing partner of The Social Studies Group.

She is a strategist and researcher specializing in complex social media monitoring and analysis; industry, issue, and trend identification; and netnography — also known as virtual ethnography, an online research method that studies communities and cultures.

Scherer draws a distinction between social listening and social media monitoring.

“Social listening is the process of tracking conversations around topics,” she said. “You leverage insights to discover opportunities or content.

“Social media monitoring is the active monitoring of social media channels for information about a company or organization,” Scherer said. “Basically, social media monitoring is a small subset of social listening.”

She refers to her friend, marketer Liz Gross.

“Strategic social listening is real life,” Gross said. “It’s transcribed, categorized and analyzed to provide your organization with insights to make data-informed decisions.”

The first — and maybe the most important thing — you need to set up a strategic social listening program is goal-setting.

“What are you trying to accomplish or answer? Then plan how,” Scherer said. “Planning data collection leads to structure, time frame, query-building strategies, segmentation, and hypotheses. This is a great next step.

“If you don’t have tools yet, knowing the scope, complexity and needs will help determine what tools to choose,” she said.

Align with goals

Social listening data is only good as compared to your goals and objectives. The payoff is how you apply the data for your benefit.

“With social listening, you can do real-time consumer insights; improve and expand engagement; and create informed strategy and content,” Scherer said. “You can do competitive research: Understand industry and brand perceptions, trends and insights.

“Create a data-driven content strategy from a huge ‘focus group’ without the cost,” she said. “There is so much free info, but some of the paid tools save enough time and bring in more and better data. It’s often well worth it.”

Social listening does not replace the need for traditional research. Relying totally on social listening is a tempting crutch — unless you believe everything you read on the internet.

“There’s a major place for traditional research,” Scherer said. “However, social listening has a huge edge on traditional for time and money, flexibility and experimentation.

“Traditional research has an edge on social listening for quantitative research, technical and very specialized subject-matter,” she said. “You can inform traditional research studies with social listening to focus direction, save time and budget.”

Overall, Scherer said traditional research can be augmented with social listening to great advantage.

Key on issues

Social listening will get you attuned to conversations and issues churning among your audience as well as what your competitors are doing about it. You’re in a better position to jump in with your solution.

Scherer gave her greatest social listening advantages:

  • Quicker and authentic consumer insights for agile marketing.
  • Product and service insights that you didn’t know you were looking for.
  • Deeper engagement with customers, partners, and stakeholders.
  • Support for the decision to take action, enhance reports and explore ideas.
  • Drives agility.

There is no set amount of time to create a social listening program.

“Simple queries with unique terms can be set up in minutes,” Scherer said. “I’ve worked on social listening projects that needed days of solid work.

“To set up a program, plan for query creation, categorization, data validation, dashboard, alerts, rules and so on,” she said. “It takes time and care.”

No techno sub

It’s too easy to toss aside thinking and rely on technology to do your work.

“No research platform of any kind eliminates the need for critical thinking. Period,” Scherer said. “Social media monitoring tools don’t solve problems. People solve problems.”

There are a lot of tools for social listening — free and paid. Scherer gave her preferences:

  • My favorite free tool is Mention. It brings in great data and is very intuitive. They also have a paid model.
  • I love socialmention for getting a super-quick read on a subject. It shows hashtags and keywords. It helps you get smart.
  • Sprout Social and Simply Measured also are spot on, but not free.
  • My paid tool-of-choice is Brandwatch. I’m a huge fan. It has major flexibility for data collection and analysis with features galore. In Brandwatch there is crosstab and preformatted components. If you can dream it, you can do it.
  • Beautiful charting and ongoing reports from Sprinklr are really sweet. Data quality is high.
  • BuzzSumo also is a great tool.

“The range of price tags and features is vast,” Scherer said. “I use lots of different tools. All of them have redeeming qualities. It depends on what you need.”

About The Author

Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services and worked in public affairs for the Air Force and the federal government. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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