When you don’t pay attention to what your audience is saying, you’re basically giving key information to your competitors. What are your customers’ pain points? What do they love about your product or service? What are those in your industry talking about? All of these questions can be answered through the art of social media listening.
The following guide will outline the importance of social listening and explain how your business can implement a social media listening strategy. It’s time to listen to that voice you have been ignoring—before somebody else (like your competition) does.
What is social listening?
Our social media glossary defines social media listening as “The process of finding and assessing what is being said about a company, topic, brand, or person on social media channels.” This can mean anything from focusing on mentions of your brand on Twitter, to keeping track of trends in your industry that your competitors are posting about on Facebook. What kind of content is getting the most likes on Instagram? These are all examples of social listening.
As our own Ryan Holmes explains, “ for businesses that pursue social listening seriously, the benefits can be significant: real-time intelligence on competitors; instant feedback on how your own brand is being perceived; and actionable data for designing or tweaking marketing campaigns.”
You wouldn’t put a pot of sauce on the stove without checking on it, testing out the flavor, and making sure it doesn’t burn. Your social media strategy should be the same. It’s important to pay attention to not only the reactions of your audience and customers, but the social media activity of your industry and competitors. Social listening is how you do this.
How is social listening different from social media monitoring?
Social listening and social media monitoring are terms which are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences to note. A popular analogy, as used by MarketingProfs, is “Monitoring sees trees; listening sees the forest.”
With social media monitoring you are searching for and collecting data and mentions of your brand, industry, and audience conversations. With social listening you’re analyzing this information and taking action—turning the data you have collected into a viable strategy. Social listening means “you can watch for patterns, track sentiment and draw conclusions based on where and when conversations happen.”
The two terms are close in meaning, but social listening takes the idea of social monitoring a step further.
Bonus: Download a free guide to discover how to get more sales and conversions with social media monitoring on Hootsuite—no tricks or boring tips.
Why does social listening matter to your business?
There are countless reasons why social listening matters, but as I don’t want this to be the ‘blog post-that-never-ends’ the following points are the most notable. Social media listening matters for your business because it helps:
- Customer care efforts, as “through monitoring what customers are saying about your brand on social media, you are able to jump in when necessary to remedy situations that require it, or just engage with your [happy and satisfied] customers.” American Express found that the top five reasons U.S. customers use social media (i.e. what you are listening for) include seeking responses from companies, praising a company, sharing information about an experience with a business, venting frustration and complaints, or asking other customers how to have a better experience.
- Get feedback, in the same vein as social media customer care efforts, social listening can help you get feedback on your specific products and services. What are people loving or hating? What features do they think would help? All of this can be found through some careful social media listening.
- Generate leads, through not only solving customer problems and publicly highlighting your business’ focus on the customer to future customers, but in listening to what those in your industry are talking about and strategically (and appropriately) contributing to the conversation.
- Find influencers and advocates by paying attention to your community and those who are actively engaging.
- Find top talent by focusing on job-seekers and those in your industry who could be a great fit for your team.
- Competitive analysis. Social listening will give you insights into what your main competitors are doing online
For all of these reasons (and many, many more), social listening is something that your brand and business need to take seriously.
Social listening strategy
Now that you can see why social listening matters to your business, you probably want to know how to actually practice it. When planning your strategy, one of the first things you’ll need to think about is what kind of keywords and phrases you need to monitor. To help you out, here are some keywords and topics we recommend listening to:
- Your own brand’s name (including misspellings!)
- Your competitors (again, including misspellings)
- Industry buzzwords
- Brand slogans
- Your CEO or public representative’s names (and misspellings)
- Campaign names or keywords
Now that you have an idea of what to listen for, there are a number of tools available to streamline the process.
Social listening tools and apps
Like with any job, having the right tools can make all the difference. While there are countless tools available, the following are our recommendations:
- Google Alerts—set up a Google alert with keywords you are tracking in your industry, mentions of your brand, as well as your competitors’ names.
- Quora—use Quora to monitor the questions and key discussions happening in your industry. For more information on Quora’s many uses, see our guide “Write On: A Writer’s Guide to Quora.”
- Twitter Advanced Search—narrow down your searches, search by negative or positive sentiment, explore relevant hashtags, and much more. For a guide on using Twitter’s Advanced Search, see our post “How to Use Twitter’s Advanced Search for Lead Generation.”
- Social Mention—monitors over 100 sources and “allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time.”
- Hootsuite—use Hootsuite to set up streams that allow you to not only monitor conversations and keywords, but respond or assign the response to someone else on your team. For more information on using Hootsuite for your social listening, our “Introduction to Social Listening” guide is extremely helpful.
- TweetReach—offers basic listening tools, and helps you monitor Tweets about your brand, and industry conversations.
- ViralHeat—allows you to listen to conversations around your brand across social networks and then “identify trends to drive insights around your social media performance.”
For more on the application of these tools, our guide “3 Ways to Use Social Media to ‘Listen’ to Your Competition” focuses on using social listening as a part of a competitive analysis, but the tips provided by Hootsuite’s CEO Ryan Holmes can definitely apply to the broader process. The three key ways to use social listening are as outlined:
- Create real-time ‘news feeds’ featuring your top competitors. By knowing what your competitors are discussing, what their audience is talking about, and the things they are retweeting provides great insight into your industry. Holmes explains “Once you’re set up with an account, type in a few handles and you’ve got a streaming, real-time digest of what your competition is working on and pushing out.”
- Take the pulse of the larger state of your industry. You can use a tool like Hootsuite to set up different monitoring functions and track specific keywords and handles within your industry. Holmes himself explains that “By digging a little deeper, I can root out the comments that actually matter.”
- Learn what people are saying about you and your product. This can’t be emphasized enough. There is no better way to understand your customer and the general public’s opinions and feedback on your product or service. As Holmes explains, “setting up a stream to monitor references to your own company can be extraordinarily informative (and humbling).”
Social media listening is an incredibly valuable process for every business. Staying ahead of the industry curve, while anticipating and exceeding your customers’ needs is a skill that social listening can help you master.
Add social listening to your social media strategy with Hootsuite. Try it free today!