When I graduated from college my dad took me car shopping. As we went through the Consumer Reports checklist of safest and most reliable cars, the salesman came around and jumped into a pitch about how the car I was sitting in was one of the most comfortable cars he’d ever driven. He pointed out the convenience of the interior layout and how, as a right-handed driver, he found this the best car to purchase.
Everything he said was helpful and informative, however, as a left-handed person, as soon as the salesman landed on his closing pitch line (the one he assumed had sealed the deal) I knew the car I was sitting in was not for me.
Nowadays we have the opportunity to sell our products or services in various ways including digital spaces such as blog articles, social media posts, videos, and email. The challenge with digital marketing is that, unlike with face to face sales, you don’t have the benefit of reading someone’s body language or facial expressions as they navigate away from your website. We can still listen in to what our ideal buyers are saying online by implementing social listening.
What is Social Listening?
Social listening is the practice of analyzing the activity and conversations trending around your entire industry including your brand and then using those insights to make informed marketing decisions.
Social listening helps companies understand what your ideal buyers are thinking, what their needs are, and how they are searching for information about your product or services. You can use social listening to create content that answers the why, where and how messages your buyer persona is looking for using keywords they are currently using online.
Why is Social Listening Important?
Is social media promotion a part of your content marketing strategy? Do you publish your blog articles, share industry-relevant content, and engage with other social users who ask questions about your products and services?
If you aren’t leveraging these free platforms yet I hope you will soon. However, it’s important to make sure that you plan your strategy to connect with your buyer persona on their preferred social platforms.
A few years ago, you could easily assume that promoting your content on Facebook would help you reach a good number of your potential customers, but there is a shift happening. Edison Research reports Facebook has an estimated 15 million fewer users in the U.S. compared with 2017 and this drop is in the 12 to 34-year-old age group. It’s also important to note with Facebook specifically, user time is dropping. In 2016 the average user spent 50 minutes, by January 2018 Facebook reported the average time spent on the platform had dropped to 27 minutes.
So, if Facebook isn’t the guaranteed connection space it once was, how do you know where your buyer persona is spending their time online? The answer to this question for your industry begins by establishing a social listening plan.
How to Establish a Strategic Social Listening Plan
Creating a social listening plan starts with what you know. Review your buyer persona and then head to the places online where you interact with your customers and take notes. From there ask yourself a few questions.
- Is the information you curated still accurate?
- Are your customers still active in these spaces?
- Where else are your customers interacting?
- What problems are they looking to solve?
As you are reading the interactions on your social media, observe the words that your customers use to identify your industry. Also, note who they consider your competition. Next, head to your competitors’ social platforms and do the same thing.
Once you have spent some time taking notes, review the information you have curated. What are the keywords that your potential and current customers are already using? Make a list of all the relevant words that you see in your notes as well as those you know are common for your niche.
Categorize and Track Topics
Establish a tracking system that helps you see how the keywords are flowing together so you can best understand the context of what people are talking about not just how many times a specific keyword comes up. Do people commonly connect certain keywords with negative comments? That’s important to note.
You will want to keep your system flexible as you do this but a few things you may want to consider tracking include:
- Industry keywords
- Your product name(s), including common misspellings
- Your brand name and handles
- Your competitors’ brand names, product names, and handles
- Your company slogan and those of your competitors
- Your branded hashtags
- Industry relevant hashtags
- Names of people in your company such as your CEO or owner and handles
- Competitors key names and handles
If you know that your company name is often misspelled or that specific industry terms are misused track those as well as commonly used abbreviations.
There are tools online that will help you gather all this information so you can quickly sort through all the social mentions regarding your brand. We love Buzzsumo for social monitoring, but there are many tools to consider. Hootsuite lists 10 additional social monitoring tools to check out.
The biggest benefit of using a tool for social monitoring is that this will help you easily track all the social spaces at the same time. One thing you may notice is that your competitors are mentioned more frequently on different social platforms because they have a presence where you do not. It’s important to note this and consider if your buyer persona is shifting their social media activity habits.
Evaluate to See What Adds Value
Using a social monitoring tool pulls in any mention of a keyword. This means you may quickly gather large quantities of data which you will need to sift through. You will need to take time to sort what is helpful and applicable versus that which is noise.
A few categories to track should include:
- Sentiment – what is the overall opinion of your company?
- Total mentions – how many times are you mentioned weekly?
- Active social platforms – where are your customers most active?
- Pain points – What are the problems that customers are looking to solve?
Track as often as weekly or monthly. Regardless of your choice, you want to make sure that you are watching trends. Are brand mentions increasing? Is positive sentiment continuing? What time of day or days of the week are customers most active? Where are your industry keywords trending the most?
Create a Content Strategy
Once you have a better understanding of your customer’s current needs, you can use this information to create a content strategy for the next quarter that will best help solve your potential customers’ pain points and educate them on areas of your products or services where they are unclear.
By incorporating the information you gather directly from your customers into your content calendar you will increase your opportunities to earn their trust and establish yourself as an industry expert.
Of course, you will only know if all your hard work is paying off if you track your efforts. It’s important to make sure that you don’t include vanity metrics in your data gathering.
If you create an offer to solve a pain point you will want to segment your email lists so you know how many people downloaded the offer.
Increasing your social following or interactions feels great, but are those people coming to your website as well? Are your leads converting to customers?
Set up a Dashboard
To save time tracking data, set up a dashboard. Social listening requires attention to detail that should not be cut short; however, data analysis doesn’t need to be a hassle. Once you know the KPI’s you want to track, set up a system that allows you to see all the information in one space at a quick glance.
There are many free options for dashboards. You may want to choose a dashboard that will alert you when you hit your KPI goal for the period. That way, if you are tracking analytics weekly but you hit your goal three days early you will know immediately with an email alert and can make a note to consider adjusting your KPIs.
Social listening is an important part of understanding your potential and current customers’ pain points. With fewer opportunities for face-to-face interactions in today’s digital world, social listening is an excellent way to keep a pulse on many aspects of your company as well as your competition.