As I review the marketing efforts of major brands around the world, I can’t help but feel like marketing tactics are changing more sporadically now than ever before. Though this statement sounds obvious, it’s something that deserves a closer look. While many brands are just now realizing the value of social media – which probably should have been realized years ago – they’re also coming up with more unique ways to connect with their customers.

Some of these new methods seem, well, crazy to me. Although they are probably effective for that specific brand, in this moment, with timely, poignant content, they often don’t provide the opportunity for brands to receive timely feedback from their consumers. Brands on Snapchat are a great example; while Snapchat is a great way to reach the Millennial audience, there’s no great way for that audience to respond to the brand directly through that medium. So here, I’m challenging you to listen to your audience through a two-way connection.

Listening sounds like such an elementary task. You’re probably thinking, “Duh, of course I know I’m supposed to listen to my customers. What kind of marketer do you think I am?” But let’s be frank. How are you listening to them: Random customer surveys, pop-up questionnaires, feedback from product purchases? No. I’m focusing on social media. More specifically on existing platforms that have proven their worth and are sustainable or rising in value, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Here, lies the real meat and potatoes of your customer’s thoughts, lifestyles, and habits displayed for the world to see. Plus, people are always more willing to share their thoughts on social as they hide behind the guise of their profile. To top it off, you’re not asking them to leave the platform that they’re already utilizing to go answer a survey or questionnaire (which is great for numerical data, but not written feedback), and they’re not required to wait for a new page to load. The information on social is yours for the taking, so now’s a better time than ever to dive into it.

Southwest Social Listening Center

Today I’m sharing five tips to help you not just hear your customers, but actually listen to them. My hope is you can use these tips to apply what they’re telling you to your products and marketing strategy.

  1. Read their comments on social media.

Don’t just read through them looking for good and bad sentiment. Software programs can do that for you. Read through comments mindfully. Listen to the questions they’re asking, the opinions they have, and the needs they seek fulfilled. An hour or two scrolling through your Facebook and Instagram feeds and you’ll have a really good idea of what people seek more of, and what they couldn’t care less about. If you’ve already employed someone to monitor social commentary and activity, have a sit-down conversation with them and ask if they’ve noticed any trends among consumers, both blaring and subtle. Maybe there’s something you can tap into there that your employee just hasn’t had the opportunity to share.

  1. Ask questions.

This seems straight forward, but I don’t think we do it enough as marketers. Provide people an opportunity to explicitly tell you what they enjoy or dislike or want more or less of through a CTA in a post. Ask what their favorite products are and why, what kind of content they’d like to see more of, or one thing they would do to improve existing products. Then tap into the gold mine of information you’re about to receive.

  1. Ask for feedback.

This ties into #2, but more specifically, asks for targeted feedback from your audience. Ask them, “What did you think about this specific product? How did you use it? How did it perform for you?” Talk to your teams; you’ll come up with something creative. Putting these questions in front of the world on social media will not only give you the most raw feedback possible, but refrains from asking people to put in extra effort to answer a survey or questionnaire, as I previously mentioned.

  1. Say thank you.

Always, always acknowledge your customers’ feedback. Show gratitude. Don’t think you don’t have time for it, because showing that appreciation is an incredibly valuable way to build loyalty, or even gain it back.

  1. Take chances.

Want to test a theory or create a new product? Hold a voting contest online, comparing two variations on a product. Worried about your competitors seeing? Be one step ahead of them by preparing some of the work for the products’ release, or only share the bare minimum of information about the products online. You’ll find a way to be sneaky but still gather the feedback you need.

Though broad, I think these five points can be helpful to nearly any brand or product. Leveraging the power of social media to listen for more than just sentimentality can be a powerful and valuable tool, so invest in it as best you can! If you’re interested in more marketing tips, ideas, and suggestions, check back on our blog!