It’s hard to find marketing experts who haven’t said or written the word “social listening” as part of their 2021 strategy. Like authentic content was the marketing term of all terms a few years ago, social listening is now the marketing term of the year.
Social listening has risen to so much fame because it’s an absolute necessity in 2021 and beyond. Marketers have been using their social channels to survey their audience for years, asking them what content they want to see or what products they need. Social listening is taking that surveyship to the next level.
With social listening, brands can listen for more than content and product ideas. They can figure out what their customer avatar is thinking and talking about.
And that’s THE power tool of a marketer’s toolbox.
What is Social Listening?
Social listening happens when a brand listens to its audience on social channels. Listening to your audience means you’re reading comments and looking for tagged content that tells you where your customer sentiment is. Sometimes that sentiment has to do with your brand specifically, and other times, it involves global events.
For example, brands can use social listening to see their audience’s opinion on their latest campaign or see what their customers are thinking related to their products. Or, brands can use social listening to find out what their customers are talking about and figuring out a way to put themselves into the conversation.
With social listening, brands (and specifically Social Media Marketers) can build a brand presence that aligns with their customer avatar. We now have a direct communication line with our customers, and it’s important to use it.
Why Does it Matter?
Social listening is the future of marketing. Technically it’s always been part of marketing. Brands have listened to their customers for years by asking them to fill out surveys and leave their feedback. With social media, marketers get a different type of access to their customers. Instead of getting their filtered opinions through curated surveys and feedback, they can be a fly on the wall of the conversations their audience and customers are having.
This gives marketers the chance to create campaigns specifically addressing the thoughts and ideas their customers have. For example, if a beauty brand notices that their audience is always asking for a specific eye shadow color—and the brand doesn’t have that color yet—they can use social listening to validate the new eye shadow color. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social listening.
Brands can notice when their audience is talking about a specific book, podcast, episode, or TV show and create content that shows they’re in the know.
Brands can use social listening to:
Come up with new product ideas
Validate product ideas
Create timely campaigns
Apologize when necessary
As social continues to mature, the ability for social listening is going to increase. That’s where social listening differs from authentic content. With authentic content, we saw a trend of people wanting to see real-life over curated Instagram photos. With social listening, we see a long-lasting insight into our customers’ real opinions.
And that gives us an edge we haven’t ever had before.
Examples of Social Listening
Social listening comes in all shapes and sizes.
For example, here’s how Lowe’s used social to listen to their audience’s complaint about ice in the parking lot. They replied by asking the customer what store they had gone to so they could get salt on the parking lot and avoid any further complaints or, worse, accidents.
Most of the time, social listening can be used to create a better experience. That experience can either be in the first three stages of the Customer Value Journey (Awareness, Engagement, and Subscription) before somebody becomes a customer or in the fourth stage (Conversion) when they make their first purchase.
With a comment like this, the ATP Card Game has two clear requests from their customers. 1) Make their instructions easier to understand. 2) Their customers want example games and tutorials that show them how to play the game. Using social listening, ATP Card Games knows how to improve their customer experience (and exactly how to do it!).
To be clear, social listening doesn’t always lead to negative comments. The negative comments are great for making improvements, but you’ll also find plenty of great feedback by listening to your audience.
BarkBox received this positive tweet from a happy customer. BarkBox can see that their customer service experience is exactly what they want it to be with social listening. They’ve now validated their customer service experience and got free promotions out of it, thanks to their happy customer.
Social listening isn’t something to consider. It’s something to start implementing in your marketing strategy right away.
Tools for Social Listening
There are a ton of tools on the market, some extremely sophisticated, that can make this process much easier.
Tools like Mention (which is what we use here at DigitalMarketer) and the more elaborate Radian6 can equip your community manager with live streams of social media alerts specialized by keywords:
These platforms also can assign individual comments and tweets to specific members of your team, making the feedback loop process a breeze. For example, ATP Card Games can ping their content team and ask them to create some tutorials while also pinging their product team about the feedback on the instructions.
While social listening has the same viral tone as authentic did a few years ago—it is a beast of its own.
Social listening gives marketers intel that they never had before. The more you can know about your customer avatar, the better your products and campaigns will be. With social listening, marketers get to see a new side of their customer base—the side that doesn’t come out in curated surveys and other types of feedback.
Use social listening to keep your brand in the know and get ready to be creative when you see an opportunity come up.