Your audience is talking. Are you listening?

By Tyson Hefely & Harmony Crawford

Social listening tools now allow brands to be in the room and listen to what other people are saying. Brands who are taking advantage of these insights are able to forge stronger relationships with their customers.

What is social listening, exactly?

Social media is an integral part of everyday life for much of the population, and the conversations that take place online can be an information goldmine for brands. Social listening is the process of collecting and analyzing conversations and data from social media platforms. Platforms such as Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight, Spredfast’s Intelligence, NetBase, and BrandWatch, are just a sampling of tools available for digital analysts to uncover trends and meaningful insights from what people are saying about brands, events, and experiences.

When should I use social listening?

Brands are accustomed to monitoring their owned social accounts. They may track vanity metrics such as how many impressions or likes a post gets, if it’s shared or generates more followers, and what kind of comments users make. However, beyond owned channels, social conversations are happening that can reveal valuable insights about how consumers are talking about a brand, their feelings, thoughts, affinities, and frequency of conversations across an array of social media channels. The following are some examples of how brands can leverage this listening to make their marketing efforts more impactful.

Market Research

Enter the world’s largest focus group. Social listening is the most cost-efficient way to gather information from the widest range of customers in the shortest amount of time. Track industry trends in real-time, use qualitative opinions to bolster hard data, analyze sentiment around specific products, find out what customers (and potential customers) really think.

Audience Insights & Segmentation

What is being said about your brand, product, or campaign is only a piece of the puzzle. Understanding who is saying it is equally as important. Knowing your audiences’ location, demographics, affinities and interests can be paramount in strategizing for a new campaign or even a pitch. Find smaller segments within the larger audience to tailor your messaging to best optimize performance.

Crisis Management

One bad customer experience is enough to change a person’s mind indefinitely. According to a study by NetBase, “28% of crises spread internationally through social media within one hour.” This makes real-time crisis management an important part of social media management. Using social listening effectively can help brands get in front of emergencies and save customers from leaving with a bad experience.

New Campaigns

In 2018, data actually needs to be at the core of all marketing decisions. Our agency stands out by tying back creative decisions, market knowledge, customer personas, and competitor research to social data and ensuring alignment to our clients’ business objectives. It’s also a great way to get the team up to speed quickly when trying to understand a new brand or product from the customers point of view.

Competitive Landscape

It is important for every brand to have an understanding where they stand in the ever-growing sea of competitors. With social listening, brands can measure Share of Voice (SOV — in other words, the percentage of the total conversation that involves a specific brand) in terms of brand mentions against competitors to judge relative popularity in an all-up sense or in context of a specific topic. This context helps inform strategies that help a brand achieve their objectives.

Influencer Marketing

Consumers’ purchase decisions are driven by a sphere of social influence. More than ever, brands are leaning in to this fact and it is important that as influencer marketing continues to become more commonplace, brands and their agencies look to maximize their ROI. Using social listening tools to properly research, identify and vet potential influencers can be a real differentiator when strategizing a successful influencer campaign.

Sentiment Analysis

A good social listening tool will have the ability to use natural language processing (NLP) to analyze social conversations at a deeper level than post volume, top authors, or source breakdowns. Sentiment analysis lets brands know how consumers are feeling about them, their competitors, and can be invaluable in managing a social crisis as mentioned above. At a base level, tools will categorize social posts as positive, neutral, or negative. More ambitious tools will attempt to categorize posts in ever more complex ways including emotion, attitude, and tone.

The bottom line

Each day billions of social media users, blog writers, product reviewers, and forum contributors post their thoughts online. Brands that are planning for tomorrow are leveraging tools today that allow them to understand their audience and create a more personalized, relevant experience.

Rational Ideas is the thought leadership hub for Rational, a digital agency and consultancy based in Seattle, WA.