Although it may seem obvious, social listening can help a brand learn more about their audience and their preferences. Given that learning about the audience is an essential part of public relations and marketing, social listening is an indispensable tool for professionals in these industries. In recent years, establishing a target audience and using a buyer persona to build brand awareness by reaching out to them has become a science. That is, a profoundly sociological as well as data-driven science.
As a result, every public relations professional and business should strive to understand how to approach their target audience. This is where social listening can come in handy.
In this article, we will look at how companies can effectively use social listening, either on their own or with the help of PR professionals. Before that, let us talk about what social listening is, its benefits, the metrics used to track it, and some top social listening tools that companies can use.
What is social listening?
As the name implies, social listening is the process of “listening in” on social media conversations. This entails monitoring and analyzing conversations and trends surrounding a company’s brand and other pertinent topics in the industry. Social listening is an excellent way for companies to get inside customers’ heads, understand how they feel about their brand or a particular topic, discover their interests and pain points, and identify optimization opportunities. Of course, it is not just about what is happening around a brand, but also around their industry as a whole. Social listening is also about using that information to make better marketing decisions.
With the right approach, social listening can help businesses with everything from marketing strategy to messaging and customer service. It helps companies understand why, where, and how these conversations are taking place and what people think about the brand.
This enables businesses to create future campaigns, improve content strategy and messaging, outperform their competitors, build an effective influencer program, and even form more impactful brand partnerships.
What’s the difference between social listening & social monitoring?
Although they may appear to be the same, social listening and monitoring are not the same. We’ve established a definition for social listening, so let’s define social monitoring.
Social monitoring, also known as social media monitoring, is closely monitoring conversations on social media to identify relevant mentions of a company, product, industry, or any other relevant topic.
Monitoring vs. listening
The first difference is the most obvious. As previously stated, social monitoring is the foundation for social listening. The data gathered through the process of monitoring keywords of interest is what drives the social listening process.
As a result, social monitoring serves as an observer in online conversations. Companies/PR professionals who only engage in monitoring are basically collecting data. They are aware of these online conversations and monitor them to focus on measuring the success of their marketing campaigns and managing brand reputation.
On the other hand, social listening takes the data to the next level. Companies/PR professionals who listen to online conversations engage in relevant discussions in a manner that guides their strategy and defines actionable steps based on the provided insights.
Automated vs. manual
Social monitoring can be done manually to some extent. Companies could go the traditional route and research social media platforms for relevant posts. However, this is not only time-consuming but also ineffective. Moreover, at the end of it all, companies are likely to find only a fraction of what is truly available.
Social listening, on the other hand, is automated. Companies could not do it manually, even if it took months or years to catch up with the internet. Based on complex crawlers, algorithms, and machine learning processes, social listening tools do the hard work for them, with the added benefit of providing advanced analytics behind the obtained media intelligence.
Proactive vs. reactive
Although social monitoring occurs in real-time, it can only monitor what has already happened or been said. As a result, a company that engages in social monitoring alone can only develop a reactive strategy. For example, if someone posted a negative review of a product, the company could respond quickly, but it’s unlikely that they’d take it much further.
Social listening, however, allows a company to identify trends and patterns due to its broader scope. This enables a proactive approach based on well-informed decisions. In this case, we would most likely consider addressing the significance of the negative review. We’d also look into whether there have been any other similar incidents with the product, what caused those concerns, and whether there’s a way to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Insights-driven vs. data-driven
As we established, social monitoring is the foundation for social listening. It tells a company who said what, where, when, and how much impact it had. As a result, it is primarily data-driven.
In addition to the previously mentioned information, social listening provides the why, which is critical for seeing the big picture. It’s essentially a case of looking at a company’s data versus looking into their data. It is the art of truly knowing their customers and responding to needs they may not be aware of.
Macro vs. micro
Another significant difference is the scope.
While social monitoring is an excellent starting point for establishing critical metrics about a brand’s online presence on a micro level, social listening provides the complete picture or, better yet, a macro perspective. Beyond simply tracking instances of their brand name, companies can use social listening to gain access to many online conversations.
Benefits of social listening
1) Improved customer experience
Social media listening can help businesses track their customer perception of their brand. By understanding what customers say about them online, companies can make changes to improve their experience. This could range from changing their pricing to creating new products.
Furthermore, people appreciate it when brands respond to them. Engaging with followers or friends is an excellent way to humanize the brand. People prefer to buy from individuals rather than corporations. Moreover, the more companies are aware of customer feedback, the more they will be able to learn and improve.
2) Increased brand awareness
Companies can use social listening to monitor social media mentions of their brand and even obtain potential customers. They can track when people mention their brand or industry keywords using social listening tools and then engage with them.
This is useful because it allows businesses to initiate a conversation with those who have never heard of their brand. It also enables them to quickly monitor what people are saying about their brand to address any negative sentiment. This is known as brand monitoring, and it can assist businesses in maintaining their brand reputation.
3) Improved marketing strategy
Social listening yields helpful information that can be used to improve a company’s marketing strategy. This information can be used to better understand industry trends, identify pain points, and even develop targeted marketing campaigns. Companies can quickly adapt their marketing strategy to address negative sentiment or capitalize on new opportunities by understanding social media conversations.
Companies, for example, could create a marketing campaign addressing a specific pain point if they notice that people are mentioning their brand in association with that pain point. By addressing these pain points, they can gain more attention and get more eyes on their brand. Addressing these pain points also makes people feel heard, and this can boost customer loyalty,
4) Improved social media presence
Data from social listening can be used to boost a company’s social media presence. Companies can use this information to create more effective social media posts and find new influencers to collaborate with. Understanding which social media channels potential customers use and what type of content they respond to is a big part of this.
Every business should strive for a solid online presence, especially on social media. While they are not required to be present on all platforms, they should actively listen to all of them. If a business isn’t already incorporating social media listening into their social media marketing strategy, now is the time to start.
How can a social media listening strategy help a company?
Let us dive deeper into why an overall social media listening strategy is essential for a business.
1) Understanding their audience
As previously mentioned, social media listening allows businesses to better understand what their customers want from them and use that information to drive more effective strategizing and planning. For example, a current customer may publish a social media post highlighting what they like about a company’s product. Perhaps a customer posts about how they want the company to improve their brand. Companies may overhear people discussing market issues that their product or service could solve.
2) Industry and product intelligence
Social listening is beneficial for understanding what people are saying about a brand, but it is also beneficial for discovering what people are saying about their industry as a whole. Social listening can give them valuable insights into how they fit into the marketplace.
Companies can also use social listening to learn what their competitors are up to. Are they launching new marketing campaigns? Are they introducing new products or improving existing ones? These insights give businesses a competitive advantage and ideas for internal improvements.
Listening in on industry conversations reveals much about what works and doesn’t for current and potential customers. This data can improve product strategy and development, customer service, and marketing.
3) Crisis management
Even a single scandal or severe incident can result in negative comments on a company’s social media accounts. While dismissing one or two negative comments here and there is easy, it’s critical to pay attention when the negative comments begin to outnumber the positive ones. Companies can use social listening to analyze incidents and figure out how to solve problems before they get out of hand.
One of the most challenging aspects of a crisis for businesses is feeling powerless. Crisis situations frequently call for quick decisions, leaving little time to consider the best options. Companies can identify a problem because social listening allows them to see what their audience is saying about their brand across social media platforms. If they notice an increase in negative mentions, for example, they can investigate immediately and solve the problem before it gets out of hand.
4) Brand monitoring
Brand monitoring involves searching social networks, forums, blogs, and other websites for brand mentions. Sentiment analysis can classify these mentions as positive, negative, or neutral.
Brand monitoring informs businesses about their brand reputation and evaluates different factors, such as the time of year, specific marketing campaigns, or product releases. It demonstrates how their actions affect the level of engagement with their brand. Companies that monitor their brand can find any complaints, praise, or questions about their brand online in real time. Responding quickly can improve customer service and engagement while also helping businesses build a brand community on social media.
Brand monitoring provides businesses with additional information about their customers, such as their location, social media usage, demographics, etc.
5) Competitive benchmarking
Companies can use social listening to compare themselves to their competitors. They can use these insights to identify what competitors are doing well. This information will help them identify where their company falls short in customer service, customer retention, or brand reputation. Likewise, they can see where they excel in their industry. For example, they may have the best prices or the quickest delivery times. Knowing where their company excels and where it falls short compared to competitors allows them to focus on and perfect the areas that require improvement.
Tips for getting started with social listening
Getting started with social listening may appear as simple as selecting a tool and winging it. However, this will only get businesses so far and will frequently leave them with an overwhelming amount of data that they will be unable to use. As a result, having a clear sense of direction with their social listening efforts is critical. The following are the steps that businesses must take to get started:
1) Define goals
Companies should begin with a clear understanding of why they require a social listening campaign. What do they hope to accomplish through their listening efforts? Do they want to know how people perceive their brand? Do they want to see how people react to a new product or campaign? Or maybe they want to use it as a continuous effort to improve the customer experience. Companies must ensure that whatever goal they want to achieve through social listening is clearly defined to know what they are working toward.
Setting a goal will go a long way towards helping them comprehend what they are listening for, which conversations are essential, and which ones they should avoid. This will allow them to streamline their listening efforts and extract valuable and practical business insights. Otherwise, their efforts will be scattered, and they will be unable to make sense of the incoming conversational data.
2) Determine data sources
Companies must first consider where to obtain social media conversations before they can begin analyzing them. Each social media platform has its own set of advantages and users. As a result, it is critical to carefully determine which ones are most important to the brand and then concentrate on those.
Although they may want to listen in on conversations from all available social networks, this will result in a large amount of data that they will be unable to analyze. That means most of the data will be information they don’t require. To improve the effectiveness of their listening efforts, businesses must first determine which data sources to prioritize.
Companies can then look for a social listening tool to extract data from their desired sources. Due to the large number of conversations on the platform, Twitter is always a good place to start. Moreover, depending on their goals and where their target audience is located, they can choose to focus on other popular networks such as Facebook and Instagram.
3) Choose an appropriate social listening tool
The next step is for businesses to decide which tool they will use to conduct social listening. This is one of the most critical steps because there are numerous factors and social listening tools to choose from. Aside from budget, businesses must consider usage and whether the features can effectively support their needs. They must also consider whether the tool can crawl the required data sources.
Some high-end tools, such as Sprout Social, provide a comprehensive suite of social media management tools, including listening. However, they are frequently expensive and may be better suited to large corporations and government agencies.
On the other hand, companies can find cost-effective solutions like Mention that provide critical social listening capabilities. They can also find image recognition tools, such as YouScan, ideal for companies that want to go beyond text conversations to analyze visual content.
With so many options available, it can be difficult for businesses to select the best social listening tool for their brand. They should base their decision on their goals by looking for the best tools to help them achieve these goals.
4) Compile topics & trends
Determine what to listen for, including hashtags, phrases, and brand mentions. Brands can even use keywords as a starting point for their social listening. Now that everything is in place, businesses can begin developing their listening topics. They can then use these topics and themes to create queries that will assist them in retrieving the data they require.
Companies can get very specific with their queries by adding more parameters depending on their listening tool. Some tools will even allow them to exclude particular words or phrases from their search, ensuring they only receive the most accurate results.
5) Start collecting data
Companies can then start collecting data with their social listening tool. This usually involves entering queries based on the topics and themes they’ve created. Alternatively, depending on their goal, they may only listen in on their brand or product name. This will allow them to track listening metrics like share of voice and brand sentiment.
Companies must focus on the metrics relevant to their goals at this stage of the listening process. For example, measuring brand health may call for them to examine sentiment metrics. Companies may want to look at metrics like media exposure, sentiment, and share of voice to see how people react to their latest campaign.
6) Turn data into insights
Turning data into insights that companies can use in their strategies is one of the essential steps in social listening. It requires the company to comprehend the meaning of the data and how it relates to their business at the time. This is possibly one of the areas where most companies struggle.
Let’s assume a company is monitoring conversations about a recently launched product and the sentiment is primarily negative. If they dig deeper into the conversations, they’ll find numerous complaints about how a particular feature isn’t working correctly. Using this information, they can gain insight into how this feature can be improved. They’ll also need to consider solving the problem people are already experiencing.
Companies must understand what people say about their brand in today’s competitive marketplace. They can do this through social listening. They can also use social listening to identify opportunities and threats and adjust their marketing strategy.
These valuable insights can help businesses adjust their marketing strategy in real time, keeping them ahead of the competition. If a company isn’t already using social listening, now is the time to get started. There are several advantages to social listening. Companies can leverage these advantages to stay ahead of the competition and provide the best possible experience to their customers.
How Pressfarm can help companies leverage the results of their social listening
Once you’ve identified what your audience is talking about, it’s important to create content that addresses what matters to them.
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Finally, as a client, you get custom media lists. Together with our media database of 1 million+ journalists, bloggers, and influencers, these lists are designed to help you connect with the best journalists in your niche.
With a PR package from Pressfarm, you can earn positive media coverage and draw more people to your brand.