Over the past few years, social listening strategies have taken centre stage for many brands looking to build their business.
Recent research found that almost 61% of businesses use social listening as a part of their current social media marketing strategy, while 82% see it as a critical element in their planning process. Hubspot notes that social listening is the number one tactic for 62% of social media marketers.
But what exactly is social listening, and why should you use it?
How consumers interact with your brand in real-time
According to Hubspot, social listening is the process of “tracking social media platforms for mentions and conversations related to your brand, then analysing them for insights to discover opportunities to act.”
Offering up some of the most valuable data around, social listening can help your business tap into social conversations on a global scale. It can also offer an exact picture of how consumers interact with you and how they feel about your brand (known as sentiment).
Social listening reveals a world of hidden patterns and emotional responses by using a comprehensive view of keywords, hashtags, topics, industries, and multimedia content to analyse and uncover trends.
In turn, this allows you to understand what your customers are talking about, what they think, how they feel, and what their needs are, thus tracking sentiment in real-time.
Think of it as an early warning system that alerts you to positive and negative changes in how you are perceived online. If 96% of customers aren’t going to complain to you, but are going to tell 15 friends, then you need to be on top of this when it happens!
It’s important to note that all data collected and appended by the social listening process is available in the public domain e.g., on social media platforms. However, it does not contain or store any data which is privately held.
Create more in-tune marketing strategies
As a brand, the more you know about your audience, the smarter you can be with your marketing. Therefore, social listening is the cherry on top for any business looking to understand the online conversations in which their brand is showing up: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Knowing what your customers think, how they feel, and what they need from your business is integral to growing your consumer base and keeping those customers loyal.
It is also a fast and flexible way to collect bespoke and detailed data regarding the behaviours and characteristics of your customers or even to gain an understanding of your competitors' customers.
The unstructured data collected can be turned into meaningful insights through social listening and enhance your knowledge of your customers.
There is plenty that social listening can tell brands about their consumers, such as customer mindset, top interests, favourite brands, and preferred social media channels. It will also provide information on influencers followed, trends engaged with, competitor engagement and activity, and key topics discussed.
Social listening data can also be linked to other consumer data - via a reputable data marketing provider - to provide a complete view of consumers by connecting postal addresses to other variables such as personality and attitudes derived quantitatively. This way, it can also collect new niche behaviours not otherwise captured by existing data sources.
One example of how social listening can grow a customer base and broaden your reach is by overlaying social listening data to a prospect database to understand when customers require a product – and to market to them then and only then.
An expert in cordless technology with home and lifestyle products that make customers' lives easier and more enjoyable wanted to continue to grow its customer database and broaden its reach as it expanded its product range.
Using the brand's pre-existing transactional and product-level database, it was possible to build a bespoke propensity model using 200+ core variables, identifying those likely to be interested in buying their products.
This time-sensitive and seasonal campaign overlaid property variables and social listening data to ensure that prospects were 'in the market' for the product, reaching them at the right time with the right message.
Personalize and improve customer experience
To protect user privacy, social media platforms have policies that govern the information that can be collected and processed for use in marketing.
As already mentioned, reputable social listening services only use data in the public domain. Brands can use the data collected to personalize their customer experiences and improve service satisfaction. While companies have collected customer data for years, the emergence of efficient coding has resulted in sophisticated social media data mining.
Machine learning, for example, allows companies to analyse vast amounts of data, interpret text and tone to capture context, and better measure customers' and prospects' sentiments.
Any social listening service should not only provide brands with value from mining data but should always have an improved customer experience at its heart.
One European bike brand conducted a social listening exercise in conjunction with public reviews to understand the pain points of their bikes and how they compared against their four main European competitors.
More than 35,000 public posts were analysed, and a report was created to identify the key themes their customers were talking about. In turn, this helped the internal and CX teams prioritize their objectives in addressing those customer pain points and improving customer service.
How can you get started?
There are several ways you can carry out social listening. Suppose you already work with a data provider, such as REaD Group. In that case, a SmartLink service enables the connection of consumer data to REaD's own data assets to provide a far more comprehensive understanding of your customer insight on social.
Alternatively, there are plenty of tools available that you can make use of directly:
- Hootsuite’s social media marketing and management dashboard enables you to build and grow followers by providing you with all messages, comments, and brand mentions across several social channels.
- HubSpot’s social media management feature can help you prioritize social interactions and help you connect to the right people. HubSpot’s feature also enables you to build marketing campaigns and share content via various channels at the best times.
- Sprout Social's social media management software is designed to improve your social media interactions with customers and prospects. The software enables you to access in-depth data analytics, which can inform strategic decisions, publish content and campaigns, and, most importantly, uncover trends and insights to drive strategic changes.
Now more than ever, social listening has become an integral part of marketing, as successful campaigns are dependent on reaching the right customers, via the right channels at the right time.
About the Author
Vicky Groombridge is the Director of Insight and Products at REaD Group. Vicky has over 20 years of experience in data and modelling with an in-depth understanding of their application within customer insight and customer management. She has run and grown insight and product development teams to create valuable data assets, strongly believing that understanding data is integral to any business decision-making and performance optimisation.