Remember these days when almost the only way for people to discover a brand was to hear about it from other people? People actually used to talk to spread information. Now the situation with all the social platforms is completely different, but word-of-mouth marketing is definitely not dead. You can see it because 71% of consumers who enjoyed their experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others.

That’s why brands have to build these great experiences in order to survive the competition. And in order to become powerful, you need knowledge. Knowledge about your audience, about the people they follow, the content they like, etc. In other words, you need to hear the voice of a customer. And the process of finding insights within social media conversations is called social listening.

Key benefits of social listening

Social listening gives your business access to billions of online conversations, which keeps you in sync with the online discussions that matter to your business in real time. It’s a good idea to start a social monitoring campaign if you’re interested in such benefits as spotting social media trends, getting genuine feedback about your product, building strong relationships with customers, preventing social media crises, generating leads, and others. Social listening provides you with a sufficient amount of metrics that help you adjust your social media strategies and understand people interested in your product.

Done right, social listening can be one of the most important sources of insights from customers, giving you the ability to use them in your content, business development, customer service, and marketing campaigns. Statistics shows that social monitoring helps brands increase their activity rate by about 25% and decrease reaction time on social channels by 50 minutes.

And finally, you can use social listening to optimize the way you communicate with consumers, improve your ROI, and establish your position on the market.

Choosing the right social listening tool

Tracking @mentions of a brand and comments on official social profiles is only the tip of the iceberg. People (especially if they are angry) tend to mention brands in plain text, so it’s way more difficult to get these mentions into your inbox. Keeping in mind the fact that there are 500 000 posts made daily on Twitter alone, gathering the information from all major social sources manually becomes close to impossible.

Luckily, there are tools that make social listening work. Choosing the right one may be tricky sometimes. Most of the social monitoring platforms have pretty much the same set of functions and benefits. But some of them are more powerful in terms of productivity and functionality. While searching for a social listening app, pay special attention to those that offer extended and advanced search modes (e.g. Boolean search), historical data, and in-depth social media data analysis (such as demographics, sentiment analysis, etc.).

Major social listening tools are subscription-based. I’d recommend choosing plans with an unlimited number of keywords and the highest number of mentions at a lower price. This social listening tools comparison should do the trick.

Think of these tools while choosing a social listening platform:

  • Awario is a golden mean of monitoring tools. It offers all the features listed above at a very reasonable price. Best for small- to medium-sized businesses;
  • Another great tool is Mention. However, it gives you less data for more money. Will be good for medium-sized businesses;
  • Brandwatch is an extremely expensive tool, but it has powerful statistics and a large variety of integrations. Recommended for agencies;
  • If you aren’t ready to spend money on a monitoring app yet, try Google Alerts. It doesn’t have all these fancy features, but it will still show you if social listening works for your company.

By the way, all the data available to social monitoring apps is public, which means that you’re not violating any policies by collecting it.

How can social listening help your business

Most social listening platforms may be used for purposes beyond monitoring a brand online. And this is great because doing social monitoring is a process that involves looking into such aspects as brand awareness, customer service, influencer marketing, competitive analysis, and social selling. Now I’d love to elaborate a bit on how social listening tools can help you with these things.

Increasing brand awareness

The most outstanding indicator of great brand awareness is a brand name going so viral that it replaces the generic term and becomes proprietary (think of Thermos, Aspirin, or Pampers).

The best thing a social listening tool can do is to get you to know your audience better. First, you need to set up an alert which will start tracking your brand name and industry keywords. You’ll be able to collect such information as countries where your target audience lives, languages these people speak, as well as their gender, attitude to your brand, etc. All this will help you adjust your content strategy accordingly.

Getting to know your audience will also give you the necessary data for reaching useful people and creating target customer profiles for advertisements.

And finally, all the information from social monitoring apps will get you insights on which platform works best for giveaways, contests, and live events.

Marvel’s 10-year sweepstakes campaign resulted in 29 000 uses of their hashtag

Improving customer service

Customer success is basically the relationship between a vendor and a client. But sadly, 96% of brand-relevant messages are ignored if they aren’t tagged with @mentions. And ignoring is definitely not the best strategy for creating long-lasting relationships. Social listening campaigns are here to solve this problem.

Xbox taking care of an untagged mention

Tools that perform sentiment analysis will enable you to filter your brand mentions by negative reviews. Dealing with angry or disappointed customers prior to others will prevent potential scandals or will even help you win a customer back. When handled properly, negative feedback can also be turned into social proof of your value as a company.

But customer success is not only about dealing with angry people. It’s also important to spot and pay attention to positive feedback from customers. A person will be pleased if you find an untagged comment and reply or at least retweet it to the brand’s official profile.

To get these untagged mentions, provide your social listening app with the name of your brand and all variations of it.

Discovering influencers

Another field where you can practice your social listening skills is spotting influencers. These are people who can help you spread the word about your brand. They are usually divided into micro-, meso-, and macro-influencers.

The easiest way to find influencers with social listening tools is to see who’s already mentioning your brand on social media. These people will be easier to reach out to, provided that they are not posting bad reviews about you. It may also be pretty useful to track industry keywords.

After you’ve settled on the list of people you want to become brand ambassadors, the next step is taking action. But note that before reaching out, you should warm them up a bit, maybe offer some perks like a free trial of your product or anything else they might like. And remember: never, never underestimate micro-influencers. These folks have a high level of engagement with their audience, which will bring you the loyal clients you need so much.

This is the list of top influencers for Marshall, the musical instruments manufacturer

Watching competitors

Keeping an eye on your competition helps to learn what works well and what is still not perfect within your company. Without competitive analysis, you just don’t get the full picture of what’s going on.

Competitive analysis works best if you monitor the names of your rivals, their products, hashtags, or other similar information. Drill down to their customer service and be the first to engage with these mentions!

Bringing social listening into competitive analysis campaign helps on each stage. I mean, if you need to identify competitors — start with tracking industry keywords and spotting companies that advertise on social media and the Web.

This is how industry keywords are used to discover competitors

Social selling

The last couple of decades was the time of growth for intrusive advertising methods, starting from television commercials to ad banners to Instagram stories ads. Although ads become native, smart, and less intrusive, they are still annoying to lots of people. Moreover, people become banner-blind because of the number of ads they get, which results in 45% of people not noticing online ads at all.

A good alternative to it is social selling. It’s a type of advertising where you find people who are directly asking for a product like yours. A majority of people ask for opinions online and search for advice on the web before making a purchase decision, so your task is to find these people and be the first to offer your services.

To set up a search you’ll need your industry keywords + special words people use to ask for recommendations. Tools that offer Boolean search or even a dedicated module for sales prospecting will do the job perfectly.

To sum up

My point is that social media listening brings value to businesses on every stage — from building a product’s name to customer service to marketing. Social listening helps you understand and expand your audience, partner with influencers, and spy on your competitors. So don’t stand aside and see what social media listening can do for your business!