Social media usage has exploded and changed the way companies interact with customers. The huge range of social media platforms means that at any one time, there could be thousands of consumers talking about recent experiences with your company. Good, mediocre, bad, earth shattering – they all deserve your attention. The simple fact is that these people are all influencers and they are affecting your brand reputation. Social media has created communities of like-minded people – and people talk!
You could argue that the power of the marketer has been somewhat reduced is recent years. Customers now turn to other customers for advice and tips. So whilst clever advertising and outstanding product specs still have a role to play, the going-ons on Twitter and Facebook now add just as much value. It’s vital therefore that active social listening becomes a key part of your social media strategy. Companies often already have social media platforms set up, but not the means to work with them effectively.
I want to run through of some of the benefits I have encountered through carefully thought out social listening and also some of the tools that can help you on this quest.
What’s the point of social listening?
Brand reputation – Effective listening can help you enhance and protect your brand. Brands sometimes get in trouble by not paying close enough attention to social channels. If somebody expresses a complaint on Twitter for example, the customer expects a response. If they don’t get one timely enough (or at all), the situation can escalate and can quickly become a major reputational hazard.
It has been estimated that around 70% of customer complaints raised on twitter go unanswered. In comparison, a well answered complaint can become a major PR coup. Fedex for example used online channels to apologise for a potentially damaging video of an employee throwing a delivery over a fence.
24/7 monitoring of channels should now be the norm for global business to ensure that comments are not missed. Emergency scenario planning should be built into all social media strategies and social media management needs to be a key part of customer service helping identify and manage problems early.
Performance – Social listening can reveal a lot about performance. Using the right tools (we’ll get to that) you can listen to the volume of conversation on social media platforms and also to the sentiment. Recording a mix of quantitative and qualitative feedback from your customers can help you learn a lot about your general performance especially when it comes to brand, products or competitors. You can also use the data to make direct comparisons or benchmarks against competitors.
Improvement – “Feedback is a gift” is a saying that I have mentioned in a previous blog and it rings true here. You should be collecting a wealth of information and opinions and then putting it to good use. This could be to improve products, service, image, adverts etc. What good is feedback if you just sit on it? Use it to drive improvement.
Harness key influencers - We've all seen them. There's a new breed of internet celebrity out there. They have thousands or hundreds of thousands of followers and with it, hold huge amounts of influence. If harnessed properly, they could potentially have a positive impact on your brand. Take for example the Twitter user who ordered a steak dinner to be ready when he landed at the airport or the comedian who ordered pizza to be delivered to a train at a stop halfway through its journey. If you can engage with these users and make them ambassadors of your company, it can really prove to be a brand booster.
Ways to listen and respond
An obvious starting point is by setting out what you want to listen to. Focus on the key topics aligned to your business. See if you can identify general themes. Find out when people engage with your company and stay tuned to them throughout the entire product cycle. Deal with negative and positive comments paying special attention to those that are less than complimentary. Make sure your messages are suitable with appropriate styles for differing groups or communities and when you do get feedback, gauge the reaction. This can help when creating future comms/campaigns.
On top of this, the listening you do needs to be varied. Obvious methods would monitor the number of likes, shares, favourites and retweets and whilst there is certainly value in such a narrow approach, you will certainly miss out in the long run. So as well as focusing on specific references to your brand, product or campaigns, look for trends on social media that affect your wider industry. See what is impacting your competitors and try to identify the direction that your target market are moving in. Such information can help you to get ahead of the game and steer your business strategy appropriately.
Wider listening can identify cross-selling opportunities amongst similar groups. The trick is trying to find overlaps between groups. If somebody is interested in computer games, could they also be interested in films. If they like beauty products, could they also like fashion magazines. These are two obvious examples, but if you can find examples like this there is a definite opportunity to expand your customer base.
Collecting the information is easy but it is the analysis that can prove challenging. Technology can help you tune into the right channels and process the information into an easily digestible format so you can extract the gems from the noise. I have listed a few of the available options below.
SDL SM2 – Social media monitoring tool that drills into results. It basically allows you to tap into what people are saying across various platforms focusing on the data and how you can use this to tailor your own proposition.
Google Alerts – Allows you to focus on keywords, topics, phrases or brand to see what is going on online. The “Me on the web” section allows you to zoom in on points directly about you (hopefully positive as opposed to negative).
Social Mention – Described as a real-time social media search and social media and analysis engine it allows you to search 100s of social media platforms for mentions on your band/keyword/phrase/favourite pop star etc. Basically, who is talking about you and where are they doing it?
Buffer – This is a social media aggregation tool that allows you to track your social media accounts across multiple platforms. It offers you detailed analytics on your dashboard enabling you to channel and filter the social media ‘noise’ into one arena.
Hootsuite – This is another social media aggregation tool again letting you track multiple accounts across multiple platforms in one place. It monitors trends, keywords across multiple regions in multiple languages. The dashboard here is particularly impressive - a data scientist’s dream.
Twilert – A great tool for Twitter enabling you to monitor keywords on pretty much anything. 24/7 monitoring in one place with nifty easy to read reports.
Social listening pitfalls
There are however a couple pitfalls that you should watch out for with social listening. One of these is customer engagement. It is pretty obvious that the more channels you have a presence in, the more often you should respond to customers. You need to make sure that you are kitted out to deal with the volume of conversation that comes in. You also need to make sure that the people dealing with this traffic are suitably experienced. It is no use handing this role to the office intern or Joe on the marketing team as “he is pretty good with Facebook”. This is your external face to the customer which in a moment of truth, can make or break your reputation.
A completely opposite problem to this is the contingent of customers who believe that social listening invades their privacy. A softly softly approach can be useful here. Make sure that you do not inflict your brand on people. Timings for comments need to be right and the message needs to be on topic. An example of this gone wrong is the tactless tweet advertising the Aurora dress put out by CelebBoutique shortly after the tragic mass shooting in Aurora. Before posting anything you should make sure that people are interested in the subject and are actually talking about it. Check content to make sure that the context is right.
Social listening is not easy and there certainly is a lot to think about. But when aligned with your business objectives you can gather and utilise information/data that can help steer your business strategy. Positive listening has a string of benefits such as increased brand reputation and it can help you mould your content to your target audience. Social listening must play a key part in your social media strategy social media strategy and done right, can have positive effects for both business and customer.