What Is Social Listening and What Can It Help You Do?
At SonicSEO.com, we often encourage clients (if they haven’t already) to join conversations relevant to their brand/product/service by engaging with their target market on social media. There’s a reason we say it this way—because what’s happening on social media is really a conversation, and like a live conversation, social media engagement requires both “talking” (i.e. posting) and “listening” (i.e. monitoring what’s being posted about your brand/product/service/industry).
How to do Social Listening
Social listening is the process by which you monitor what other users are saying about you. It only takes about five seconds of watching a popular Twitter feed to see that social listening can’t be done “manually”—in other words, you simply cannot conduct all the searches, read all the tweets, posts and blogs or view the pics, snaps and pins that might be relevant to your online presence. To social listen effectively, you need a tool.
Just as there are multiple social media platforms, there are multiple social listening tools, each with different features, various integration capabilities, etc. Finding the right one depends on the networks you want to monitor, the level of control you need over monitoring and your budget. (Because the purpose of this blog is not to review or recommend any social listening tool, we aren’t going to name any names. Google “social listening tools”—you’ll find what you’re looking for.)
What to Listen For
No matter what social listening tool you prefer, there are a number of conversations you will want to listen in on:
- Convos about your brand
You need to know what users and reviewers are saying about your brand. You find these by using your global brand name (e.g. Nike) and/or specific branded products (e.g. Air Jordan) as your keywords. Monitoring brand conversations will give you raw, unadulterated feedback about your reputation, products and services because the feedback is unsolicited—it’s coming from real people talking to their real friends, family and followers.
- Convos about your competitors
You can find out how you stack up against your competitors by finding out what common gripes you can capitalize on and/or strategies to improve your products/services or marketing campaigns by first listening to what online users are saying about your main competitors. Monitoring is done by using one or more competitors’ names as your social listening keyword.
- Convos about your faces
How the public views your brand may be heavily impacted by their views on your leadership. If your CEO or other member of management is active on social media, then you need to tap into the conversations about/around them so you can be proactive about reputation management in case any message coming from them personally presents potential blow-back to the brand.
- Convos about your campaigns
You can find out in real-time how your (brand awareness or sales) campaigns are being received by tuning into social media. Your campaign should have built-in keywords, like the campaign slogan or planned hashtag. Whatever it is, search it. See if others are taking a liking to it or if your campaign needs tweaking ASAP to get desired results.
- Convos about your industry
If you use industry-relevant terms for your social listening, you will likely identify who the influencers are in your industry. This is important information. You need to know who has influence so that you can proactively make them aware of your brand. You want them to recommend your products/services, and social listening will help you take the first step toward forging that connection.
What Not to Listen For
Social listening will only provide valuable information if you set parameters to eliminate “noise”. A lot of “noise” is going to come from your own online content. You already know what your messaging is and what platforms its published on. Alter your social listening settings to ignore anything from/with your URLs so that results are not cluttered with your own stuff.
When to Listen
Conversations on social media never stop, so arguably, social listening shouldn’t either. Branded and face conversation monitoring are likely to be an ongoing, daily exercise. The frequency with which you monitor other types of conversations, though, are likely to depend on actual triggers—e.g., a campaign launch, new industry legislation, etc.