What is social listening and why is it important to digital marketing?

With the massive expansion of social media in recent years, it has quickly become a vital resource for businesses.

From connecting with customers via direct messaging, to collecting product feedback, and even boosting e-commerce sales, many businesses have learned how to utilize social media’s many functions to their benefit.

In today’s digital world, a successful marketing strategy significantly relies on social media, especially as consumers continue to share their opinions on social networks.

The number of online conversations increases on a daily basis.

In fact, it’s estimated that on Twitter alone, more than 500 million messages are sent every day.

Today’s marketing teams must learn to effectively monitor social media messages and conversations, particularly how they relate to their brand, their products, and their reputation.

Referred to as social listening, this process can not only guide future strategic decisions, but it also (and perhaps more importantly) can help prevent a public relations (PR) disaster.

There are three initial questions that arise when talking about social listening.

  1. What is social listening?
  2. How does it work?
  3. Why is it important?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is social listening? 

Social listening is the monitoring of your brand’s social media channels for any customer feedback and direct mentions of your brand or discussions regarding specific keywords, topics, competitors, or industries.

Social listening helps you understand why, where, and how these conversations are happening and what people think — not just when they’re tagging or mentioning your brand. This monitoring is then followed by an analysis to gain insights and act on those opportunities.

Social listening is a two-step process.

You not only must monitor your social media channels, but you should also analyze that information and look for ways to put what you learn into action. These actions might be something as simple as responding to a happy customer or something as pivotal as shifting your overall brand positioning.

Social listening aims to understand the root cause behind these online conversations and implements long-term changes as a result.

How does social listening work? 

With thousands of messages and conversations occurring on today’s social media platforms every second, it can seem impossible to keep track of all of your relevant brand, product, industry, and competitor mentions. It is pretty much impossible to conduct social listening manually.

However, there are a variety of social listening tools available today that can make the process much simpler.

The internal structures and mechanics involved with the tools used for social listening are similar to the spiders and bots used by search engines that crawl web pages. These tools crawl the accessible contents of web pages continuously, in real-time, or on certain time intervals (depending on your goals and objectives). These tools search far and wide in the social sphere for your selected brand mentions and even look at sites such as Reddit and Quora.

Though social listening tools all have different features and offerings, most will then summarize and report their findings and provide helpful insights.

Why is social listening important? 

Social listening is a critical process for businesses of all industries and sizes, as it not only provides valuable information, but it also fuels many other PR and marketing tactics like reputation management, influencer marketing, and competitive analysis.

Here are some of the many benefits of social listening:

Prevents PR disasters

Mentionlytics reports that over 30 percent of company crises turn global in less than an hour.

Given that an online crisis today can spread like a virus, PR and marketing professionals are left managing a crisis after it’s already been blown out of proportion more often than not.

Effectively using social listening data can help your team catch these risky mentions before they turn into a larger problem.

Improves customer relationships

Suffice to say that not all mentions regarding your brand will result in a PR crisis. Some customers will even shout you out when they’re satisfied with your brand or its offerings.

Looking out for these types of conversations and ensuring that you take the time to respond to them not only demonstrates to your customers that their opinions are important to you, but will likely boost your customer loyalty in the long run.

Gathers customer feedback

Social media can be a valuable tool to use to gather and assess customer feedback. Today’s consumers will often share their thoughts and opinions directly on their social profiles, which you can use to your benefit.

Whether it be ways you can improve your products, suggestions on new retail locations, or adjustments you can make on your e-commerce site, be sure to take note of which points of feedback occur most frequently.

Taking the steps to evolve your product offerings to better cater to customer needs and wants will drive future sales.

Measures brand awareness

When your brand is being talked about more on social media, it is a direct indicator that awareness of your brand is increasing. This can be a great metric to take note of when launching a new marketing campaign.

Be sure to record total mentions before beginning the campaign in order to measure campaign success as it relates to brand awareness.

If after launching the campaign your brand is receiving more social mentions, it means your campaign is doing a sufficient job boosting your brand awareness.

Identifies industry influencers

Conducting social listening for non-branded keywords or topics can help you identify influencers in your industry that are discussing relevant topics.

For example, a health food company may want to use social listening tools to track topics such as “healthy recipes” to seek popular health and wellness influencers.

You can then connect with these influential individuals to discuss your product on their social channels. This helps to bolster your online audience and brand awareness.

Social listening moves marketing from good to great

Social listening isn’t the one thing that’ll take your social marketing from good to great. It’s a tool in your kit — a source of information that can make a big difference.

In order to use social listening to your benefit, be sure to establish clear goals, select the proper tool for your business, respond quickly to your findings, and be open to the changes it might suggest.

This guest blog article was written by Marie Johnson, a user-experience designer and technology writer from New York City. When she is not writing her latest blog post in her kitchen, you’ll likely find her strolling through Central Park, cappuccino in hand.

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