What Digital Marketers Need to Know about Social Listening
Social listening involves strategically monitoring and responding to mentions on the social web (whether it’s praise or criticism) about your brand, key members of your organization, your products or services, or anything that falls into your industry niche. This role can be filled by a single individual or, depending on the size of your organization, an entire team tasked with monitoring mentions. Regardless of whether you’re the only employee of your business or employed at a Fortune 100 company, social listening concepts apply across the board.
These days, a business can fail at social media in many ways. Sometimes, social media seems like something that was forced on the business world. As a result, many businesses have resisted participating in social media channels. On occasion, employees with access to official social channels post questionable status updates that can have an embarrassing impact on companies and their principal members. But the biggest failure of all is ignoring social media conversations altogether.
The fact of the matter is that prospects, leads, and customers are actively talking about you, your brand, and your industry on the social web. If companies are not actively listening for these conversations, someone may as well have installed a telephone in your customer care department that is ringing off the hook with no one picking up the phone. There lies the biggest social media sin. It’s not posting something embarrassing or angering the masses with less than politically correct statements — it’s ignoring the social telephone.
When people think about users posting complaints and praise on the social web, they tend to think of Twitter and Facebook as the place to find these mentions. The truth is that, depending on the type of business you have, people are likely talking about you on all sorts of channels, from demonstration videos on YouTube to reviews on sites like Yelp and Amazon. These conversations are the mentions that your company needs to be aware of and actively listening for on the social web, and they’re what makes a social listening program so essential.
Social listening is a foundational concept in the social success cycle. Today, people expect organizations to engage in social listening, and your prospects, customers, and clients expect your participation in the conversations they initiate over the social web. If you’re just getting started in social media, don’t begin by networking, influencing, or selling — begin with listening.
Use social media as the customer-service and reputation-management channel that it already is for your brand. For an example of responsive social listening, check out this image, which shows the grocery store chain Save-A-Lot responding to a customer complaint and letting him know he’s been heard on the Facebook network.
Social listening goes far beyond customer service. Also, listening to the social web informs all other aspects of your social success cycle:
- Social influencing: Social listening impacts social influencing by letting you know what sort of content you should share that your audience finds most valuable.
- Partnerships: By paying attention to who on the social web is sharing influential information in your industry, your social listening can inform you about potential partnerships and journalists who might give your brand earned media mentions.
- Social selling: Social listening plays an important part in social selling, which is when a brand uses social media to generate leads and sales. The brand will answer prospect questions and offer insight until the prospect is ready to make a buying decision. Therefore, social listening can inform social selling by telling you what people are likely to respond to, what they desire, and what they are asking for on the social web so that your products and services can best meet the prospects’ needs.
Choosing a social listening tool
Many social listening tools are available for conducting your social listening campaigns. These tools require various levels of financial commitment and feature options that can help you initiate an effective social listening program. Luckily, whether you work solo or have a large team of social listeners, lots of help is available to help you meet your social listening goals.
If you don’t have the bandwidth or budget to dive into more advanced social listening tools, you can use Google Alerts as part of your social listening strategy. Google Alerts is a free option for social media marketers on a shoestring budget.
As you might be aware, Google constantly crawls the web looking for new content. The Google Alerts feature lets you set up email alerts whenever the search engine finds mentions of preselected keywords, such as company names, product names, or names of the public-facing members of your organization. It’s a viable option if yours is a very small business that doesn’t generate many mentions, and ones that don’t require complex feedback loops.
Small businesses with one or two dedicated social listeners can graduate up to a tool like Mention, which uses a more sophisticated keyword search and can pull mentions directly from all aspects of the social web, including social media channels, blogs, and new sites.
Also, an entire suite of similar tools exists that competes with Mention, so if you do your research, you can find the tool that best suits your needs. Social listening tools like Mention are mid-level in price and features. They won’t break the bank, but they provide helpful features like metrics, sentiment, and reporting.
Going beyond the mid-level tools, enterprise-level businesses can use a much more sophisticated (and expensive) listening tool such as Radian6. This platform offers more advanced reporting features, integrations with CRMs, and help-desk software. It’s ideal for advanced workflows of larger social listening teams as well.
Listening without paid tools
You can use Google Alerts as a free option for a social listening tool. However, sometimes you may need more sophisticated tools but still lack the budget to manage the cost. For example, your business might be a startup with a small team that’s attracting a good deal of conversation on the social web. Or perhaps your brand name isn’t specific enough to pull relevant mentions through the Google Alerts algorithm.
The good news is that two tools are available for you to use in lieu of a paid social listening tool that can assist you much better than Google Alerts: Hootsuite and the Google search engine.
Hootsuite is a free social media management platform that provides a dashboard for social media management. It integrates with most major social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. The dashboard allows you to set up “streams” of notifications such as mentions of specific Twitter handles and Facebook accounts.
You can monitor social media updates in which you are tagged and set up streams around the specific keywords you select. Hootsuite gives you a low-budget way to find mentions of keywords you might otherwise have missed.
In addition to using Hootsuite, also consider running your keywords through a regular Google search. As you know, conversations about you aren’t just happening on big social media sites. They also show up on places like Tumblr and Medium, as well as forums and blogs.
Put your keywords in quotation marks so that Google searches for only the entire term, and voilà! You have a curated list of content that mentions your phrase. You don’t have to scroll through the pages forever, but take a hard look at the first 10 to 20 links that come up; these are most essential to your reputation management.