I LOVE social listening. The ability to see what people are saying about you, your competitors, your industry… it’s intoxicating, and I’m nosy. You can determine sentiment, identify positive and negative trends, get market research, and most importantly — get in the head of your customer/target customer.
If someone has a problem, they want to be heard. They want to be acknowledged. Listening to what people are saying is crucial to understanding your audience, but it can’t stop there.
What is social listening?
So what is social listening exactly, and what can you do with it? According to Track Maven:
Social listening is the process of monitoring digital conversations to understand what customers are saying about a brand and industry online.
With this information, you can utilize it to:
- Offer customer service assistance for your customers
- Improve sales by being able to answer potential customers’ questions
- Identify positive and negative trends in customer concerns/needs
- Learn about the needs of customers in your overall industry
- Perform competitive analysis so you can identify opportunities for growth, differentiation, and more
- Improve your content strategy by determining what your customers like to engage with
Social media has created an opportunity to speak directly to a brand in ways that were never before possible. Before you could email, mail, or call a business if you were angry, but now you can leave public reviews on a multitude of review sites. You can share your praise or outrage to all of your friends/followers or with the right hashtag — to anyone. Businesses can be called out by anyone… the customer who stopped by yesterday, a celebrity who hates their latest commercial, and everyone in between. Not that long ago, if you angered a customer and didn’t take care of them, you were susceptible to bad word of mouth. Now? Word of mouth is online now, and everyone can read your customer service dirty laundry.
So… you’ve been monitoring what is being said about your business, industry, or competitors. You’ve found content. Now what?
To respond or not to respond, that is the question.
Yes, you need to pick a side and be clear where you want to draw the line. Having clear guidelines for customer engagement is crucial before you start genuinely monitoring and managing your brand mentions and audience responses.
- What kind of content will you respond to? Only negative? Only positive
- Will your responses include emojis?
- What is your goal for responding? To improve relationships? PR? Customer Service?
- Will you hide or delete negative responses?
- Will you respond to comments that include profanity?
- Will you respond to comments that mention your competitor(s)?
Your audience expects a response. According to HubSpot, customers expect an answer — quickly. Depending on their question or need, they expect to hear back in 10 minutes. How fast are you responding to your audience, if at all?
When you don’t respond promptly, that gap in time could be when they decide to choose a competitor instead, or they may use that time to speak negatively about your brand. What are you losing in those minutes and hours?
Should you escalate?
Some comments and mentions are easy to engage with. Ignore, respond to questions, acknowledge with a like or retweet. Others… not so much.
Someone might mention your brand with highly derogatory information (maybe they want to sue, or they experienced a horrible customer service experience, and it’s gaining traction online). You need to escalate past the social media manager. You need to alert the higher-ups.
Depending on the severity of the mention, there needs to be a clearly defined protocol. Who should you notify for negative comments? How should that notification occur? Should it be through a phone call, email, or assigning the comment using a social listening program?
You need a response matrix. Start with a two-column spreadsheet and think If This, Then That. Need inspiration? Look at the comments and mentions you are already getting. Use those as a framework to bounce off ideas as to what your audience could potentially say or ask you.
When determining how and what to respond to, remember that you are also responding to them as the brand. Does your brand use emojis or gifs? If so, which ones? What is the tone and voice of your brand? If you respond to your audience, but it doesn’t feel on brand or feels automated, it doesn’t make them feel closer to you. It will make them question if you are just another bot. Make sure your response matrix is clear about what type of tone and voice is used. If you aren’t a silly or funny brand, it can seem weird when you try to have that kind of relationship with someone.
Monitoring vs. Listening
You are looking for content, you are responding to customers, but what else? If this is where you stop, you are doing social monitoring, not social listening. You need to take the extra step of doing a deeper dive into what you have found.
- Do you see trends?
- What do customers love? Hate?
- Is there an opportunity to connect with your audience? Are their commonalities where you can showcase that you care and can take action to ensure the negative experiences happen less often?
- Are there opportunities to create super fans out of your regular customers?
Social monitoring is short game. You want to respond and resolve quickly. Social listening is long game. You want to use this information to impact the brand positively over time. Determine ways to improve, cultivate relationships with your audience, and gain customers over your competitors.
Social listening can give you precisely what you need to create a strong understanding of your audience, their pain points, problems, needs, and more. You need to capture it.
- Define your goals (What do you hope to learn? How can you better understand your audience?
- Define what you want to look for (Hashtags, mentions, brands/competitors)
- Define your scope (What channels will you monitor?)
- Define your tools (How will you find it? Toolkit coming up next)
- Define responsibility (Who is going to do the work? Who will respond? Who will work on the response matrix? Who has to approve the response matrix?)
- Define your timeline (How often will you look at your findings to look for trends? Issues?)
Additionally, if you haven’t performed social listening before and want to see what is out there before jumping into a tool, set up Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts to see what kind of content you find. This is a free and easy way to get started.
Look, listen, but do something. Your audience is talking about you whether you choose to hear them or not. You may not listen, but your potential customers will.
Honestly care about your brand and your audience. Take the first step and show you care. Listen. Act.