Social Listening: The socially acceptable (and encouraged!) form of snooping for marketers

As a marketer, you must be well attuned to your clients’ needs and desires. Beyond that, you must be aware of how they react to your marketing efforts and their feelings and beliefs about your brand. Traditionally, marketers embarked on lengthy and time-consuming market research efforts with questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups. Although these techniques are still used and can derive actionable insights, a more straightforward, accessible option for the digital marketer is social listening.

What is social listening?

Social listening is the process of reviewing your social media channels and accounts for mentions and reactions about your brand, your competition, and other related subjects. Brands often track conversations related to them as well as keywords, comments, hashtags, and public sentiment. Social listening allows marketers to collect competitive intelligence and audience research efficiently. In addition, it will enable them to act preemptively before things go wrong.

Social listening is critical as marketers can analyze the information they collect and adapt their strategy accordingly. Take inspiration from Taco Bell, a company that does social listening right. The fast-food chain has developed a solid social media team that retweets interesting comments, interacts with customers, and replies to complaints and suggestions. For example, in 2019, the chain started receiving complaints about the cheese in their Quesalupa. They quickly responded by sending massive emails to different restaurants to correct their recipe and boost customer satisfaction. The brand took advantage of social listening and corrected its mistake before it became a bigger scandal.

What are the benefits of social listening?

Social listening allows you to engage with customers and to prevent missing out on essential reactions and sentiments. Sometimes, by working in an organization, we become blind to potential adverse customer reactions. Listening to our audience allows us to best respond to clients’ reactions and efficiently manage crises.

In addition, follow and learn from your competitors. They may be doing something right that you can weave into your strategy. Conversely, they may make mistakes that you can keep in mind, so you don’t repeat them.

What are some best practices for social listening?

First thing’s first: listen everywhere. Your customers are likely located on multiple social platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and beyond), and you don’t want to miss out. Consider using platforms like Hootsuite, Adview, SEMrush (and others) to keep track of different platforms and keywords. Although these tools can be expensive, they are of great use if you work in an organization.

Then, make sure you follow the right keywords. Keep track of brand names, product names, handles, and common misspellings. Follow critical people, slogans, industry buzzwords, branded and unbranded hashtags, campaign names or keywords, and more. Although missing out on something is inevitable, develop your social media strategy in a way that allows you to gather social intelligence, find new opportunities, and adapt your plan when needed.

Tylenol, for example, was able to use social listening to identify a new target audience. After engaging in social listening research in knitting boards and forums, the brand determined that many knitters suffered from migraines. As a result, the brand adapted its SEO strategy to incorporate the new audience into its tactics, thus, successfully expanding its clientele.

Experiment by incorporating social listening into your marketing strategy. You will be better able to connect with and influence your clients by adjusting your plan to fit their needs and reactions. Give it a try!

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About the author: Gabriela Arocha is a Venezuelan marketer with a passion for human behavior. Currently based in Costa Rica, she uses her background in psychology to help professionals and organizations thrive through an optimized digital strategy. Visit her website or LinkedIn profile.

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