Brands are built by having good products. They are built when they go above and beyond when solving customer problems. They are built by passionate customers that share an emotional connection and then tell others about their experiences.
But you’ll never know that these people even exist if you aren’t listening.
Social listening is still pretty new, despite the hundreds of blog posts about the topic. The short evolution over the last 5 – 7 years started with listening to brand sentiment and monitoring brand mentions using outdated technologies like Nielsen Buzz Metrics.
Today, it has become much more sophisticated as technology applications are now reporting more than just a number. The following are 8 use cases on why you should make social listening an integral part of your business and marketing initiatives:
- Stakeholder Engagement: What’s the point of listening if you aren’t prepared to engage? I know, I know … I cringe saying this because it sounds like the “brands need to join the conversation” conversation of so many years ago. Deploying social listening gives you the opportunity to find relevant conversations that are happening about your brand and allows you to add value to the conversation by participating. If you aren’t prepared to add value to the community conversation, you may need to rethink your strategy and postpone it until you are ready to do so. Either way, it’s wise to start with listening.
- Build A Strong Community: Once you listen to the conversation and add value to it, your brand will become a trusted member of the community. And as Seth Godin wrote in his book, Permission Marketing, over 11 years ago, you can then “ask permission” to market your products and services to them. The same holds true today. Both Facebook and Twitter spent years building their communities before they decided to monetize them and they are both doing extremely well.
- Create Raving Fans: Friends, fans and followers are great and it sure looks good in PowerPoint presentation when you have a lot of them. But what’s next? Your goal should be to turn those friends, fans and followers of your into advocates. They will promote and defend the brand without you asking. You do that by listening to your customers and then taking action.
- Create Better Content: Social listening can also give you the opportunity to capture trends that are happening in real-time and allow you to insert your brand into the conversation if it makes sense to do so. In this case, you wouldn’t necessarily be monitoring “brand mentions” but rather topics that are trending from the people who follow your brand in social media. While “content is king”, the ability to create the right content, at the right time, in the right channel and to the right customer is better.
- Product Innovation: Companies like Dell, GiffGaff, Lego and Starbucks rely heavily on the community for innovation. They are not only “listening to the conversation” but they are taking the collective feedback from their communities and taking action by innovating their products and services. Not only does this strategy help build products that people will actually buy, but also creates a sense of advocacy because your community will feel emotionally invested into your brand and its products.
- Find Your Target Audiences: Social listening can also work as real-time focus groups and be used as research initiatives. Many technology platforms can extract customer data like demographics, buying and search behavior, lifestyle interests and passions; as well as give you insights into customer pain points about your products or services. In some cases, you can map a customer-buying journey to conversations in social combined with search data.
- Manage Customer Support: Most social listening command centers today are manned by support agents with the sole responsibility of solving customer issues quickly and efficiently. There are several vendors in the marketplace that have this capability. Unfortunately not all brands prioritize this though. Not sure why.
- Just Listen (duh): This one is the no-brainer. Several of the technology platforms are creating “command centers” and pride themselves on their listening capabilities. They have software that scours the Internet and captures all mentions of your brand (or any keyword) in forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube comments, Instagram and you name it. It then provides reports that measure share of voice, volume of mentions, sentiment, community growth, engagement metrics, etc. Just like any relationship, whether online or in real life, most of what you should do is listen. Master that and you’ll be good.
While most social listening strategies today are reactive, some are using it as more of a proactive real-time marketing opportunity. Yeah yeah, we have all seen the infamous Oreo tweet during the Super Bowl halftime show a few years ago. Case studies and blog posts have been written about that real-time moment. Many brands today have tried to follow suit and failed.
The key to real-time marketing is to “listen” to a very targeted audience online (i.e. millennials, IT decisions makers) and create content that “they” care about, not the entire internet. Of course, some brands certainly get lucky, like Oreo. Most fail though.
Building a social listening strategy isn’t like building Legos. There aren’t sets of instructions to show you step-by-step which pieces go where. It’s more like a puzzle and may often require you to force-fit certain pieces in order to make it work. Every company is different. Culture, marketing philosophies, go-to-market strategies and technology deployments are completely different and often times dynamic. Whenever new leadership revolves in and out of a company, you may find yourself taking two steps back with each step forward.
This piece was originally titled “Social Listening: Why In The World Are We Still Talking About This?” and published on Linkedin . It is republished here with permission.
Michael Brito is a Group Director at WCG and also an Adjunct Professor at San Jose State University and UC Berkeley. He is the author of two books: Smart Business, Social Business and Your Brand: The Next Media Company. You can also find him on Twitter or Google+.
About the book: There is a content surplus and an attention deficit in the minds of consumers today. They are highly influential and aiding others down the purchase funnel using organic conversations about the products they care about and the ones they don’t. In order to reach these consumers, brands must create recent, relevant and value add content in order to break through the clutter and successfully change their behavior. Order here from Amazon.
Image Attribution: Copyright: ‘http://www.123rf.com/profile_lucadp‘ / 123RF Stock Photo