HEY! Are You Listening?
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HEY! Are You Listening?

It’s time to take social media monitoring to the next level (if you haven’t already) – it’s time to go beyond simple engagement metrics. It’s time to take on social listening.

Social listening is a massive and complicated undertaking, but it’s extremely important. Brands that are not monitoring what is being said in the social space about them and their products are missing out on huge opportunities – social listening and gauging social sentiment can help a marketer improve (or maintain) brand positioning and engage directly with actual or potential customers.

There are a number of tools in existence, some available for free and others for a fee, to assist organizations with social media listening. The platforms being monitored depend on the complexity of the tool, and usually how much you are paying for it. Many of them not only monitor social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+, but they also scan blogs and comments, Tumblr, forums, Q&A sites like Quora, bookmarking sites like Pinterest, Reddit, Snapchat, and other video and photo sharing sites. If set up properly, a brand can use these tools to not only monitor mentions of and sentiment related to their own brand across platforms, they can also measure social sentiment related to specific products, competitors, and industry-related key terms.

Advantages of social listening:

ENGAGEMENT

Social listening allows marketers to learn what is being said about the brand and products and respond accordingly. Monitoring can allow brand to have conversations with their audience in real time.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Social listening and sentiment analysis alerts the brand to issues with products or services so the brand can quickly respond and try to fix the problem. Have you ever had an issue with brand where you made a futile attempt to contact their customer service using a more traditional method? I have. Several times. And it’s funny – as soon as I took to venting my frustrations via social media, I was immediately contacted by the brand and my problems were solved. Social listening can help your brand avert a MAJOR #customerservicefail.

IMPROVEMENTS & INNOVATIONS

A brand has the opportunity via social listening to learn firsthand from the audience what is and is not working about their product or service, or the brand itself. New ideas can come directly from the audience or could be sparked internally by a comment or question from a customer.

KEEPING TABS ON THE COMPETITION

Social listening not only allows a brand to see what their competition is posting in the social space, it also provides a brand with the opportunity to see what the audience is saying about the competition and its products or services, where they are saying it, and how they feel about it.

IDENTIFYING KEY INFLUENCERS

If a brand is closely monitoring the social space, it is likely that a few key audience influencers will rise to the surface. These influencers can be content experts, celebrities, aficionados, or product superusers who are talking about the brand and/or its products and services. Social listening gives brands the chance to connect and build relationships with these influencers once they have been identified.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Social listening allows brands to become aware of potential new channels that can be used to reach their target audiences. For instance, monitoring may lead to awareness of a popular blog or forum that discusses your industry or specific key industry-related topics that are relevant to the brand or its products. Such a space might be a great place to comment, guest blog, or offer product trials.

Disadvantages of social listening:

There are none. No, really. NONE.

The issues with social listening have nothing to do with the social listening itself. They have to do with tool selection, how monitoring is set up, and what happens with the information that comes from the social listening. Those disadvantages include:

TOOL SELECTION

As I mentioned above, there are MANY social listening platform options. Some are free, some are paid. Some are cheap, some are expensive. Some integrate with other business intelligence and analysis platforms, some are stand-alone. Some are user-friendly, some are very complex.

Check out this presentation from SmartInsights that offers a robust list of tools, along with feature comparisons and things to think about when selecting a tool. The image below shows some things to take into consideration when selecting a social listening tool.

Smart Insights: Requirements for social listening tools

Smart Insights: Requirements for social listening tools

IMPLEMENTATION

As I mentioned above, there are several options for tools for social listening, but a brand could decide to monitor social media manually. But keep in mind that to do it RIGHT, it is a huge job that would require a team rather than one dedicated staff person, even for smaller brands. If a brand decides to use a tool, implementation of the tool can be an extremely difficult process. Setting up each search parameter can be complicated, and making sure that you are properly establishing keyword lists, negative keywords and phrases, lists of your brand’s products and services, a list of competing brands as well as products and services, and determining sentiment parameters can be a daunting process, and one that is often on-going because it will need to be tweaked as the market changes. Furthermore, a global brand will have many more social platforms to consider monitoring.

INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Conceivably, a brand could be getting so much information through social listening that it would be difficult to sift through the noise and identify what items are valuable and are actionable (chances for engagement, influencers, new opportunities), both in the short term and in the long term. This is especially the case if there is a large product range or a long list of industry-related key phrases being monitored. This is where it can be especially valuable to have a social listening tool that integrates with your business intelligence dashboard, if you have one.

PROCESS OVERHAUL

When social listening produces a great piece of actionable data (and it will), what will the brand do with it? Processes need to be in place to make use of the information that is learned through monitoring. If a new opportunity (a platform like a blog or forum) is discovered, how will that platform be incorporated into the strategy? If potential product improvements are discovered via monitoring, how will that information get to product developers and be used by them? How will customer service issues be handled?

The bottom line is this: THERE IS NO POINT IN IMPLEMENTING SOCIAL LISTENING IF THERE IS NO PLAN IN PLACE TO GAIN INSIGHT FROM THE DATA AND USE THAT INSIGHT TO MOVE THE BRAND FORWARD.

Are you using a social listening tool? If so, which tool and what are its pros and cons? What awesome insights have you garnered from it?

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