When you’re trying to grow and improve your business, transparent and thoughtful feedback is invaluable. This is why, for decades, brands have been investing in focus groups and surveys. But while these can be effective tools, they’re ultimately limited in scope. Now, social media is opening up a whole new world of social listening that allows companies of all industries and sizes to gather data and crowdsource problem-solving.
In this article, we’ve amassed an overview of social listening–what it is and how you can use it to improve your business. Use these social listening tips to key into exactly what your customers want and need from your brand and use these insights to improve your digital footprint so you can become more accessible to your ideal customers online.
What Is Social Listening and Why Does It Matter?
Gathering data from social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn about a specific topic or event related to your brand is “social listening”. The topic may be your brand sentiment, general industry practices, questions people have about your industry or product, or any other topic you’d like to track.
Basically, social listening allows you to tap into what your customers are saying about your brand and industry in real-time.
Social listening allows you to monitor, aggregate, and analyze data, comments, and conversations to inform your marketing and business strategies. As you analyze your data, you’ll find useful insights and trends–like what questions are most frequently asked by customers, the most common complaint in your reviews, or how the pandemic changed how people interact with your brand.
Depending on what you’re looking for, the data and trends you uncover may influence a wide variety of your business’s operations, customer service policies, or advertising strategies.
Social listening is geared towards action and improvement, so once you uncover informative trends, make sure you don’t just sit on them! This tool is most useful when it is being used consistently, and its findings are being implemented regularly. As you gradually improve and tweak your business and marketing models based on feedback from your actual customers, you’ll find that you’re growing faster than you thought possible.
You can perform social listening through good old-fashioned research and elbow grease–or you can invest in digital tools that scan and aggregate data based on your requirements. Whether you do social listening yourself or delegate it to someone in your company, knowing what people are saying about your business is vital.
How To Use Social Listening to Improve Your Online Presence, Build Your Brand, and Connect With Your Customers
This is where the difference between social monitoring and social listening becomes apparent. Social listening isn’t just listening–it’s active listening. This means you’re asking meaningful questions with the intent of adapting and changing based on the answers.
So as you get started with social listening, make sure you’re prepared to make visible and active changes to your business model and products based on the feedback you receive. Otherwise…what’s the point?
There are many ways that social listening can be used to amplify and enhance your online presence and your connection with your audience.
Improve Customer Support
The great and terrifying thing about the digital landscape for small business owners is that your customers have the ability to share their thoughts about your services instantly. This is fantastic when they’re sharing a positive experience. But it can be absolutely devastating if they’re sharing a negative one.
This is where social listening comes in. Social listening allows you to find out how people feel about your brand in real-time. This allows you to address problems, capitalize on praise, and generally take back control of your brand image.
For instance, when you’re actively socially listening, you’ll see a negative review or comment on social media immediately instead of finding out weeks later, when it’s too late and the damage has already been done. This gives you the opportunity to prove that you take their opinions seriously and that your company is willing to go the extra mile to improve their experience.
Respond to the comment as quickly as possible. Apologize, accept responsibility, and offer to make it right. As soon as possible, take the conversation offline and work it out. Once your disgruntled customer is a little less “gruntled”, ask them to update their review rather than deleting it. This prevents the appearance of a cover-up and shows potential customers how they can expect to be treated.
You can also use social listening to predict future customer service trends. If you are seeing a common thread in complaints, start addressing them proactively based on what you’ve learned from past experiences.
Once you’re ready for “advanced” social listening, you can even monitor your competition and use their most common complaints to preemptively correct your own processes. You might even be able to step in and offer your services as an alternative…
Learn More About Your Customers
Customer insights are another excellent benefit that social listening provides. Instead of making a shot in the dark with your next marketing campaign, maybe ask your customers what they’re looking for. You can either ask directly or (if your audience isn’t big enough) scan industry audiences to gather information about what’s trending in your field.
Find out what your audience demographics are–where they shop, what they like, what their everyday concerns are. This can help you build a much clearer picture of the need that your products or services are filling. Which, in turn, should inform your marketing strategies directly.
Is your audience struggling to make ends meet post-pandemic? Offer discounts on your services for those who lost jobs. Do they feel unheard by bigger box stores? Ask for their opinions and win trust by listening and making them feel valued. Social listening isn’t a replacement for strategy, but it can be a fantastic aid in guiding your efforts.
Engaging with your customers is not always easy, but doing it in creative and unique ways can positively impact your business and your reputation. This is especially important as technology and progress level the playing field. When we all have access to the same best practices, tech, and information…how do you stand out?
By building a real connection with your audience.
Any company can set up social monitoring and pull reports. But the companies who succeed will be the ones who use that information to inform every level of their business. This is where small businesses actually have an advantage over the big boys. You’re more agile, more flexible. Take advantage of that by using the information you gather from social listening to take action quickly.
You can also use social listening to learn about your competition. What are they doing well? How can you emulate and improve on that? What are they not doing well? How can you avoid making the same mistakes and profit from their errors?
The more you know about the competition the easier it will be to grasp the industry-wide picture and how you fit into it. Use this information to better serve your customers and your community.
Social Listening Tips
Now that we understand how social listening works and how it can benefit your business, we have some advice on how to implement this practice effectively. Use these social listening tips to focus your strategy and get the most out of your efforts.
#1 Listen Everywhere
Claim your business profiles everywhere so you’ll be notified of mentions and pay attention to which platforms your customers are most active on. This includes industry-specific platforms like Houzz (if you’re a home services contractor) and Avvo (if you’re a lawyer) as well as the more common platforms:
- Google My Business
#2 Learn From Your Competitors
As we mentioned above, there are several ways that you can use social listening to monitor and learn from your competitors:
- Watch their reviews and take note of the most common praises and complaints
- Watch how they respond to negative reviews and how that response is received
- Monitor launches of new products or services
- Watch the hashtags they use to start and enter conversations
All of this information can be used to inform your own strategies. Emulate and improve on what they’re doing right, and proactively prevent falling into the same traps of what they’re doing wrong.
#3 Collaborate With Other Teams Within Your Company
When you learn something new, make sure that the teams involved are aware. All too often, good research goes to waste because of department silos. Sales, marketing, customer support, and production departments all support one another, and there should be a wealth of open communication flowing across team lines.
For instance, customer service may receive complaints about techs leaving dirty footprints through the house. But if you don’t tell the techs and devise a way to fix the problem, it’s going to keep happening.
#4 Be Consistent
You must be consistent in your messaging to establish your brand. This means the way that you talk about your business and what you talk about should always form a cohesive picture of your company values and image.
From responses to poor reviews to customer service calls to product launches, people should be able to tell it’s coming from your brand.
#5 Take Action
This is the most important of our social listening tips. So many companies start these initiatives and gather mountains of information. But if you don’t do anything with the insights you garner, you’re not going to grow as a company.
Take what you learn from social listening and use those insights to improve your business–whether that’s new messaging, better communication, or improved workflows and processes. Change is painful, but it’s the only way forward.
Attend a Surefire Local Marketing Platform Demo
The Surefire Local Marketing Platform allows you to keep all of your social listening findings in one easy-to-access dashboard. Set alerts, respond in real-time, and pull reports on trending information–all from your Surefire Local platform! Request a demo today to find out more!