social listeningIf you’re not listening to your current or potential customers on social media, you’re not only missing out, you’re missing opportunities. People aren’t taking smoke breaks anymore; they’re taking social media breaks. My friends even use hashtags in daily conversation! When I post a photo on one of my social media profiles, I immediately ask everyone around me their handle or username. Because I’m social media obsessed? Maybe/yes. But that’s another article for another day.

The reason many of my fellow millennials blend social media with personal is because we want to include our peers in our current experience, and continue the dialogue online. Peer-to-peer influence is the golden nugget that brands salivate over, but few are quenching their appetites for exposure by encouraging and listening to the conversations about their product or service.

The State of Listening

Not too long ago, customers used to pick up the phone to call in complaints to companies. Fast forward to the more-recent past, and they’d maybe even shoot over a quick email. Now they’re blasting out complaints to their thousands of Twitter followers. Or perhaps, they’re tagging a brand Facebook page with a particular customer service experience. And while these things can also swing to the positive side, we all know that people are usually more passionate and vocal about negative brand experiences than positive ones. In fact, research has shown that 26% of consumers are “far more likely” to share a negative experience with friends and family than a positive one.

That being said, if you’re talking and posting content on social media channels, you better be taking the time to listen, too. Social media allows you to not only listen to what people are saying about your brand, but also elevate and shape the conversation.

The Power of Social Followers

People like to have opinions, they want to be in the know, and the one that has been there and done that. These same people have the potential to be your best advocate or your most detrimental megaphone holder. By listening in real time, you can mine for consumer insight, keep a pulse on industry trends, gather leads and get a leg up on the competition. What are your marketing strategies for engaging your target audience? What platforms are they using? What content do they want to see and at what frequency do they want to see it? By listening- you may be able to figure it out.

Brand Reputation is No Longer Static

Your brand reputation used to be how you act and what you did. Now it’s what other people say about you online.

So what do you do now? Do some research and utilize tools that will make your life easier to monitor the chatter. Some of my favorite, free tools that I recommend you check out include Social Mention, Google Alerts, and Twitter Search. Professional, paid tools that stand out include platforms like Sysomos, Radian6, Jive, ScoutLabs (side note: I’m not getting any kickbacks from any of these platforms for this mention. However, if someone at their headquarters is reading this – I like cupcakes, compliments, and Prada.)

Gather feedback by setting up an online poll or create a hashtag to direct the discussion. Remember, your social networks are an extension of your traditional marketing efforts. This is your opportunity to make a personal connection with your consumers. It’s your gateway to hear what your consumers actually want, beyond what your normal market research tells you.

How do you monitor what people are saying about your brand online?