5 social listening strategies + brands to prove they really work

Social listening has been proven to be indispensable to businesses big and small. In fact, according to the Clutch 2017 Social Listening Survey, companies turn to social listening tools for better products, improved customer relationships, and better customer service.

Although highly-valuable, some firms tend to reap only a chunk of the real business that social listening could bring. That is because social listening is a process involving several steps and unimaginably large data; so keeping tabs and taking action can be quite overwhelming.

You see, social listening and social monitoring are not necessarily the same, the latter being only part and parcel of the former. Effective social listening means monitoring questions, requests, and concerns, then responding appropriately. Social listening tools are aplenty, but a sound understanding of the whole process will help businesses on track. Keeping the following social listening strategies in mind could make the whole process simpler, efficient and rewarding for business.

Establish social listening goals.

With all the social mentions your brand gets, it’s easy to get lost by hearing everything but not exactly drawing out the insights your business needs. Social listening can be utilized for several purposes, some of which are mentioned by Anand Rao: market insight and prediction, competitive monitoring, customer satisfaction and sentiment analysis, market reach and influence, building social capital, campaign measurement, influencer, conversation and community marketing.

Although it is possible to address several business challenges all at once, it is wiser to focus on the immediate needs of your business. Once you’ve found a focus, you can then make use of social conversations to address business challenges and attain goals.

According to Rao, companies can adopt different methods and tools depending on their social listening goals, but often go through the following stages of maturity:

  • Monitor and See
  • Ask and Listen
  • Explore and Learn
  • Act and Interact

A well-established brand such as Starbucks, for example, would likely put more effort into asking and listening, as opposed to social monitoring. In fact, the company has a dedicated website that fosters ideas and discussion.

Similarly, some companies have put up special Twitter handles just for customer support, such as @NikeSupport and @XboxSupport on Twitter. Microsoft’s separate customer service account for Xbox gamers currently holds the Guinness World Record for The Most Responsive Corporate Account on Twitter, responding to 5,000 tweets in about 2 minutes and 42 seconds! Talk about fast service!

Monitor all possible social media platforms.

As the Clutch 2017 Social Listening Survey points out, monitoring your customers is key to social listening success, regardless of company size and business type. The problem is, do you know where to look?

Limiting social monitoring to the giants of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram means doing away with a treasure trove of data found elsewhere.

The Clutch 2017 Social Listening Survey revealed that social listening is not limited to Facebook (93%) and Twitter (79%) but also takes place on Instagram (71%), YouTube (65%), and Reddit (27%) as well. Other sites that companies monitor with social listening tools are LinkedIn (53%), blogs (43%), Pinterest (41%). Products and enterprises also get mentioned on news websites (38%).

It is clear that customers turn to question and answer forums, blogs, and vlogs for unbiased product reviews and product-to-product comparisons. But some also turn to other platforms like apps and crowd-sourcing websites.

Yelp.com and the Yelp mobile app publish crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses. Although the company was founded in the United States, it has since expanded to Europe and Asia. A 2011 Harvard Business School study by Michael Luca estimated that a 1-star rating on Yelp translates to a 5% to 9% increase in revenues for a restaurant.

Identify influencers and build relationships with them.

Honest feedback is what discerning customers look for, and social media has made available thousands of genuine reviews to eager consumers worldwide. The key is to know who the movers and shakers are and to connect with them. From home bakers to makeup and beauty gurus, these online personalities are influencers because they are trusted. They may not be celebrities, but due to their usually large online following, a single mention could mean good business.

NikkieTutorials has 7 million subscribers on YouTube and with that big of a following, trusted and up-and-coming brands, even Kim Kardashian, connect with her.

Her review on the KKW Beauty Powder Contour and Highlight Kits has been watched over 2 million times and has more than 5,000 comments – all in 2 weeks! Most of the comments praise the Youtube personality for keeping it real and unbiased despite the celebrity status of the person behind the products.

Brand sentiment: Good or bad, respond proactively.

Good customer feedback is the aim of any business, and it’s something pretty easy to answer. But negative comments are equally important, and if appropriately handled, could help your business thrive.

In a Facebook post, Sprint said it’ll waive call, text and data overage fees for customers in the path of hurricane Irma. But the offer was met with lots of negative comments and some subscribers threatening to leave the telecom.

Take for example an irate customer posting a not-so-good review on Facebook. Ignoring the review does not only leave the company in bad taste; things could also escalate and take a toll on the image, then eventually sales.

The Honest Company could have saved one disappointed customer, but it seems the no-response two minutes later had this mom looking elsewhere for diapers.

There are several ways to tackle dissatisfaction and customer complaints online. Ravi Shukle says that responding quickly, acknowledging mistakes, taking conversations offline, personalizing responses, not taking the complaints personally, putting together an escalation plan, going the extra mile, following up, and (reading) not deleting negative comments are all effective ways to turn a negative scenario to one that increases customer loyalty and retention.

Take for example Target, which took time to respond to comments on Facebook. Entertaining negative feedback may help the company come up with better products and services in the sense that it presents another perspective, usually from the consumer’s end that may have been missed otherwise.

There are also other benefits to entertaining negative feedback. Responding proactively to complaints also translates to excellent customer service, thereby boosting company image. An active, positive image, in turn, attracts new customers.

Practice competitive benchmarking.

Listening to what everyone is saying about your brand entails more than keying in your brand name. It involves looking at the big picture, including your competitors. The beauty of social listening is that almost all data, including that of rival and leading brands, is made available to everyone. That means businesses can learn from the issues and problems of other business entities in the same industry.

But apart from preventive measures, social listening can also help you get (or steal) other brands’ customers.

In 2015, rapper Iggy Azalea bombarded Papa John’s Pizza after getting tons of calls and messages. It turns out that the delivery guy gave out her contact number to a relative, thereby violating customer privacy.

Although Papa John’s Pizza has apologized, Azalea chose to unfollow the company’s Twitter handle. And guess who witnessed the whole spectacle, and even tweeted back? DiGiorno Pizza, with its “It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno” tagline!

The Bottom Line

The main advantage of social listening is that it is cheaper than traditional research methods and with data available 24/7, coming up with business solutions has never been this fast. Although quite powerful, social listening relies on the right tools, techniques, and strategies. So make sure you know what to look for, where to look, identify key persons, interact with your consumers and keep an eye on the big picture.