Social media listening (SML) is a controversial marketing technique that is gaining more and more popularity. However, many companies are reluctant to try it out because they doubt the practical benefits and are not sure how can social media listening increase customer advocacy.
Tapping into the word on the social street allows businesses to check social media engagement more efficiently, improve brand monitoring on social media platforms, and keep a close look at their online reputation. However, the first and foremost benefit of utilizing SML and building a strategy, is that it enables you to understand your customer.
Knowing your audience well enables you to create content that resonates with them, encourage word-of-mouth marketing, and boost loyalty. And loyal followers are the best brand advocates a company can wish for.
Consumers nowadays are buying with their hearts – they’re searching for actual experiences and added value as much as practicality.
In addition, behaviors and trends are constantly changing and evolving. What was relevant a month ago, may not matter today at all. People look for real experiences, stories to inspire them, things to learn, content that helps them develop, and stuff to share with their friends. And to stay on their radar, brands need to deliver.
That’s why marketing today is headed in the direction of acknowledging and understanding human complexity and providing content based on it. To interest an audience enough for them to follow your brand, you have to connect on a very personal and human level. That’s how you generate leads through marketing. And social media listening is a tool that provides you with a powerful advantage.
What Is Social Media Listening?
Social media listening (SML) is the process of tracking online conversations and following specific keywords (industries, brands, topics, etc.) in order to gain actionable insight that could be leveraged in a business’s marketing strategy.
What differentiates social media listening from simple data monitoring is that instead of only focusing on direct actions based on the tracking results, e.g. reply, engage in conversation, etc., SML uses this information to understand the customer, create a psychographic matrix, and come up with a social strategy around it. And that’s how you use social media listening to increase customer advocacy.
When you’re trying to obtain market insight to use as data for your next campaign, social media is an excellent place to obtain a look at the big picture. However, you should take into account not only how many people are talking about you, but what’s their sentiment. For example, 100 000 mentions might be a goal you’ve set and achieved, but if 60% of these are negative references, things don’t look as great anymore, do they?
Millions of people share their opinions on social media on a daily basis. Sure, tracking mentions is fine, but gaining valuable insight from those mentions, understanding consumer needs, problems, and behavioral patterns is what determines the success of your next campaign.
Social media listening involves looking at topics more coherently and not treating every single message as a different task. This approach may help you find information that could serve as an actionable tool when it comes to content strategy, product development, recruitment, sales, reputation management, retaining leads, customer service satisfaction, and mapping out the journey for your customers.
What You Need to Listen to?
When utilizing social media listening you should be alert to practically everything that is related to your industry and brand. However, these may be quite a lot of conversations and some of them may not be easy to find. So, we’ll give you some useful tips on what to search for, and most importantly, how:
1. Brand’s Name
Let’s start with the obvious – brand social media monitoring. Track all conversations about your company and any relevant brand-related words. But be mindful and keep an eye for all mentions, no only those, using the “@” modifier to tag your brand. A lot of users simply do not use this or completely forget about it.
There are a lot of tools you could use to automate the process such as Brandwatch, Reputology, Synthesio, Crowd Analyzer, Hootsuite, and ReviewInc.
The more conversations you track, the more insights there may be. Look for what people generally enjoy and what they don’t, potential problems that might need fixing, and identify influencers in your niche, and the people who receive the most reactions when they share/comment.
There’s a lot you can find when looking at this first layer of information and you can use it to understand how to turn customers into loyal brand advocates.
We would suggest you search for what people really enjoy and really hate about competitors. Your aim here would be to better understand the consumers and which of their needs is being left unaddressed.
Targeting those people in an ad, or answering a problem they’ve been facing for quite some time, might generate a significant number of leads for your funnel. Monitor keywords like “[competitor’s brand name] can’t” or “[competitor’s brand name] won’t” to understand the problem consumers are facing.
3. Products and Industry
Tracking conversations about your sector and the services/products you provide, could give you meaningful information on what potential clients expect in terms of customer experience. Furthermore, you may learn about what their desires, goals, problems, and interests are.
For example, you could find that people from a certain demographic, who travel a lot, usually have problems with the battery life of their cell phones or tablets. That makes them a great target audience for marketing portable charging devices.
You may not necessarily target industry’s biggest trendsetters directly, because they may charge too much and burden your marketing budget. In addition, the most popular names may be tough to negotiate with, while micro-influencers are more responsive and agile.
Your primary task though, is to find partners who are willing to work with you and match your needs. Follow trending topics around the sector, see who’s sharing articles on them or publishing industry related trends and news.
Feedly is a great tool for coming up with ideas about what’s viral right now. Among the people sharing trending content will be those with higher engagement rates and their own audiences. Approach them to start a conversation, show genuine interest in their work and achievements and try to be of help to them.
Once you establish relationships with influencers or build a community, offer help, useful freebies, and make it easy for your brand advocates to share those with their own followers or friends. Follow the path of your own content in social media, determine your biggest advocates, and offer them a reward – giveaways, discounts, even a warm “thank you” will be appreciated.
5. Trending Topics, Industry Keywords, and Hashtags
The key here is not only to monitor these conversations but to actually let your community manager join in on them with all the previous information they have about consumers, buyer personas, and psychographics.
If they are genuine and know how to create engagement and steer the conversation in the right direction, you may generate a lot of new leads. If you are an SME, it’s also a good practice to keep track of the effectiveness of such conversations.
For example, who in the audience you have reached out to and who has registered on your website. Be sure to follow up on those actions, offering additional support. Such gestures will make your customers feel appreciated and valued, and make the become brand advocates. How your clients feel they are being treated influences customer service satisraction and loyalty. If you are there for your audience and show that you care, you will retain them for longer.
6. Campaign Names and Hashtags
Monitoring your own campaigns is most probably something you’re already doing. If you are not, you should start right away! However, tracking how competitive or new trending campaigns are doing, what consumers love about them and what really annoys the client can be essential for the effectiveness of your overall content strategy.
For example, during SuperBowl’s Ads, there’s a very dynamic and powerful conversation about them happening on Twitter. So you could make an advertisement asking people to tweet #YourBrandNameChallenge during each Ad in the event and give away rewards to randomly picked users. Just imagine the effect this campaign would have!
Social Media Listening Best Practices
Now that you know what to take into account when utilizing social media listening, let’s discuss some practical applications of the results, and focus on how social media listening increases customer advocacy.
Combine Organic and Paid Reach
A lot of marketers think the symbioses between paid advertising and organic reach are overrated. Actually, these marketing approaches are intertwined and boost each other. Websites, TV channels, media, they all feature ads. For them, this is a revenue resource , and for advertisers – an opportunity to tap into the medium’s organic reach. For Google this resource is keywords. And for Facebook – audiences.
Paying for this opportunity means you can monitor, analyze and understand the behavioral patterns of users on these platforms. You can see what content performs better, how leads react to various campaigns, what messages resonate well with the audience, and what data to look for to polish your overall campaigns. Paid advertising provides significant insights into the organic matrix on different platforms and how it functions.
So, to engage with your customers, it’s good to first figure out where they hang out. For example, Facebook consumers might be crazy about your brand, but higher-level professionals hanging out on LinkedIn might be your negative persona or vice versa. Figuring this out will also help you save money since you don’t want to spend resources on platforms that won’t deliver a good ROI.
Have a General Idea of What Works
In addition, looking through the campaigns of competitors can be of real value to determine what’s well accepted by consumers and what’s not.
Let’s say we offer high-quality nail polish and have seen that virtual makeup rooms where consumers can see how products look on their face have been a hit on social media. Offering a similar virtual experience where users could try on each nail polish and see how it looks on their hands may have the same effect, especially if the reaction to consumer needs hits the right timing.
Furthermore, think of a viral feature that will make consumers share your content. In this particular case, it might be various creative designs, showing users the products needed to achieve a certain nail polish look. Having an embedded YouTube link to a “How to achieve this” video to engage your audience further is also a good idea. It may encourage users to share the VR nail polishing room and reach an even greater audience.
To summarize, it’s important to use social media listening not only to spy on conversations but to understand the market. This knowledge will help you utilize consumers’ interests and market trends, to create an experience perfectly tailored for your audience, and encourage customer advocacy.
Set Realistic Goals
It’s sometimes hard to determine whether a campaign has been successful or not based purely on the metrics you’ve selected. You might not know what the average results in the industry are, or what to look for to measure your success. Following competitors could help you quickly determine this.
For example, you may have newsletter subscription rates as the only metric to assess your blog articles conversion success. Whereas in the industry, consumers may be more oriented towards measuring social shares, finding practical solutions and sharing them to spark direct conversations. You could monitor your competitors, and adjust your content to fit these goals.
Furthermore, if you reach your goals and KPIs with flying colours but don’t see any practical results from your efforts, you may have to reconsider and adjust your targets.
Get Campaign Insights
To make a campaign that’s highly effective in the competitive buzz nowadays, you have to be original and employ a new perspective. Social media listening insights may help you create tough-leadership marketing content targeting the specific needs of niche user cohorts.
For example, let’s say you have a web development company. By monitoring social media, you may have seen that a lot of freelancers take photos of, look for, and are interested in co-working spaces. At the same time, many of them are struggling to make their own site and are looking for advice and recommendations. That makes people interested in coworking spaces a granular group to target; a group others might not have thought of.
Smart targeting practices provide you with a lucrative marketing advantage. In addition, you may find interesting and creative ideas coming from the community – all you have to do is listen.
Improve Product Development
New product development is probably one of the departments where social media listening, is most commonly used. Understanding what clients struggle with can help you know what to offer them to solve their problems. It could also help you determine issues with your own products and react in time.
For example, if you monitor complaints about technology-related products, a lot of them may claim customer support takes too much time to answer their needs. That could immediately point to the fact that introducing a chatbot, able to assist in resolving common issues, may be a lead-convertor for you.
Boost Talent Acquisition
A lot of brands nowadays are struggling to attract top talent to their teams due to the competitive labor marketplace. If you listen to the online conversation on topics like recruitment in your industry, you might find that potential employees be currently looking for remote opportunities, rather than office jobs. Or that they may prefer an online interview and a more personal-skill-oriented assessment process.
This could mean that a simple online conversation with your HR is going to do much more than posting a job offer and wondering why people don’t reply.
Monitoring online conversations relevant to your brand is vital to your success. However, leveraging the information to join the discussion, target the right audience, and produce tailor-made content, is what will turn you into a lead-generating monster.