Making sense of the torrent of social media commentary has been likened to ‘drinking from a waterfall’.
It’s a powerful mental image and a fairly apt description of the challenge facing marketers and small businesses that are trying to convert social media tracking and big data into real insights and solutions for their business.
Last week we discussed Social Selling, this week let’s talk about its cousin, Social Listening – a far more strategic and sustainable way to use social media to make your business more effective and responsive.
What Is Social Listening?
While social media monitoring is nothing new to most marketers, Social Listening takes the process of tracking mentions, likes and follows one-step further.
Jennifer Beese from Sprout Social says that while simple ‘monitoring’ collects every social mention and action, ‘listening’ requires analysis and reflection and delivers more actionable insights for your business.
“Social listening is the process of tracking conversations around specific phrases, words or brands, and then leveraging them to discover opportunities or create content for those audiences,” she says.
“It’s more than watching @mentions and comments pour in via your social profiles, mobile apps or blogs. If you’re only paying attention to notifications, you’re missing a huge group of people that are talking about you, your brand and your product.”
So how can Social Listening benefit your business?
It Generates Leads
Because Social Listening keeps your ear close to the ground, you’re familiar with the chatter of your prospective customers, particularly their challenges and pain points.
By tracking particular terms or phrases related to your industry, you can begin to solve the specific problems of your ideal consumers. This knowledge gives you the insight to write strategic content such as blogs, eBooks and guides that specifically address the problems and pain points of your prospects. This process positions your business and your products and services as the solution they’ve been looking for.
It Helps You Monitor the Competition
Social Media is the mouthpiece for many businesses, which means you’re amongst the first to know about any new products and features.
However, more importantly, social media is an opportunity for their customers to talk back: meaning you’re also amongst the first to know of any problems with the product or service your competitor is providing. This key insight gives you grounds to reach out to new customers and pitch your business as the superior option.
You Can Gauge Customer Sentiment
Social Media is a forum for customers to share their experiences, thoughts and opinions about your product or service. Be warned, it’s also a forum for brutal honesty, but if you’re willing to grab your armour and tackle the dragon of social media commentary you can discover powerful insights about your products that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.
This knowledge allows you to develop additional features and new products that respond directly to the needs of your customers, building customer loyalty along the way.
Identify Thought Leaders
Perhaps one of the great advantages of social listening is that it quickly reveals the thought leaders in your industry, and allows you to develop a connection with them.
While this is great for proactive marketing, developing relationships with key influencers also puts your business in a position to respond to any potential issues quickly and effectively.
Develop More Responsive Customer Service
Social Listening gives your business unprecedented opportunities to be a part of the customer experience. Gone are the days when unhappy customers could only vent in writing or through an antiquated complaints hotline, nowadays they gab their smartphone and start tweeting about it in seconds.
Furthermore, if they have a problem or question about your product or service, they can just ask you online – and you’re able to respond in real time.
In fact, a survey by Oracle found 43% of users interact with brands on social media for a direct response to a problem or question. Additionally, 31% interact with brands to gain direct access to customer service representatives or product experts.
Social Listening is a powerful way to help existing customers and attract new ones.