How can your business catch up in a world of social media and rampant trends? In a time where people are chronically online and advertisements are constantly on screen, what is the key to staying alive in your target audience’s algorithm? The simple answer is social listening.
Social listening, which is also used interchangeably with the term ‘social media listening’, is the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product, or brand on the internet. Just like with real time experiences, listening here is very literal—to hear is to understand. But what exactly should your ears be on the lookout for?
Conversations on the internet produce massive amounts of unstructured data. From your first customer review to the latest commentary of a target audience about another brand, they all play an important role in acquiring the data you need in order to outlive and outlast your competitors. To anyone with a brand or a business out there, engaging in different social listening strategies is vital to your company’s survival.
What is Social Listening and How Does It Work?
Social listening is all about tracking social media platforms you may or may not participate in for mentions, claims, and conversations related to your business or brand, then analyzing the data for insights to act on certain opportunities that may arise from them.
It’s more often than not, a very simple two-step process:
Step 1: Monitor your active social media channels (as well as social media channels you are passive in) for mentions of your brand, competitors, products, and keywords related to your business. Compile them all to generate assumptions and predictions for later – this includes trending and relevant hashtags, message volume, competitors, and other related businesses.
Step 2: Study the information you’ve garnered in order to find gaps in the competition and look for ways to put your business in the spotlight. From responding to a customer and keeping them satisfied to shifting your entire brand positioning and messaging will generate results for your business and get your brand out there.
How to Differentiate Social Listening from basic monitoring
Maybe you’re thinking right now, “I thought they were the same?” At first glance, social listening might seem synonymous with social media monitoring, but the two concepts actually differ in important ways. And once you are able to appreciate their differences, you’ll also start to find doing them much easier!
Social media listening is all about collecting data. It allows you to look back at what has already happened using metrics such as:
- Brand mentions
- Relevant keywords and hashtags
- Competitor mentions
- Industry trends
Brand monitoring on social media is great for things like monitoring campaigns. It’s also great to help prove the effects of social marketing when it comes time to set the budget you put out for advertisements and brand deals or collaborations.
Know Your Audience Better
Social listening does exactly what social media monitoring lacks. It looks beyond the numbers to monitor and consider the mood behind the data. This “online mood” is also known as social media sentiment.
Social media sentiment analysis is a fundamental part of social media listening because it helps you learn how people feel about you, your product or service, and your competitors. Instead of just counting the number of times your brand gets mentioned, you look at what you can get from social conversations to drive business gains.
Being aware of shifts in social sentiment also allows you to respond right away to unexpected changes. This is why it’s so necessary to engage in social media listening. What you don’t know will only keep you out of the game, but what you do know will propel you further and get you a more loyal audience.
Social Listening Automation
Social listening is a very important aspect of how I develop social media strategies for my clients. It can be very daunting and time consuming for a business to track multiple platforms regularly. Here are a few of my favorite tools to use:
- Meta Business Suite: This is a free and very basic social media management tool for Facebook and Instagram.
- Social media management programs, such as Hootsuite, SproutSocial, etc. My favorite is SproutSocial and they have a very robust (albeit expensive) Social Listening tool that can give you insights across multiple platforms in real time.
- Good old sleuthing! Start by searching for related hashtags, see what your competitors are up to, and definitely monitor industry specific accounts.
So, get out there and start social listening! You might just find out something interesting about your business.