What is Social Listening?

Social listening is a popular trend these days, a vital tool to diagnose the sentiments expressed by people online towards a brand. It enables companies to understand what the audience responds to best, which can be used to improve brand messaging and create a more targeted and effective marketing strategy.

What is Social Listening?

One of the new buzzwords creeping into every 2021 marketing strategy is ‘social listening’. It comes at a time where businesses have experienced a year of having to readjust and reevaluate their operations and strategies.

All communications between employees and customers have been tested, and businesses that didn’t before, are beginning to understand the value of listening to the people that interact with their brand.

Why should you care about social listening?

The importance of listening is no new phenomenon. Any successful business leader or influential person will tell you that one of the secrets to success is having the ability to listen. It’s not just about hearing, but actively listening with focussed attention to what’s being said, without judgment or preconception. Only by listening first, can you fully understand the speaker’s thoughts and be able to effectively advise, present or sell something to them.

Since the concept of targeted marketing kicked off, companies have conducted surveys and rallied focus groups to gain customer insight on what products and services appeal to their audiences the most. With so many mediums and methods of communication today, there are now even more opportunities for social listening, enabling us to better understand our audiences.

As most brands will have experienced, the online conversation around your business is not always positive. It’s normal to be afraid of what you might hear, however any criticism that exposes weaknesses in your products or services can be incredibly beneficial. Listening carefully to understanding the reception of your offerings and why your customers feel that way is valuable for product development, as it enables you to spot mistakes early, and optimise those areas quickly.

In addition, you will also be in a better position to provide a higher quality customer service — when you have been listening, you will know how best to answer your customers with good netiquette.

4 tips for social listening

  1. Actively ask questions on social platforms, online forums or through surveys

    To find out what your customers want. Even something as simple as a poll on an Instagram story can offer a lot of insight, when you ask the right questions. Maintaining these online conversations will help you uncover what’s working for your brand and what’s not. By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to see if there is something you’ve missed the mark on, and what else your customers would like to see from you. Additionally, always keep in mind your buyer persona so you know who needs to be involved in the conversation.

  2. Be flexible to change in society motivations

    The values of many customers will fluctuate with social and political trends, so it’s important to be aware of where the wider conversation is going. We often assume we know how someone else is thinking or what they’re going to say, but effective social listening will require you to stay focussed and listen. By monitoring the conversation continuously, you have the advantage of staying on top of your customers’ evolving needs, and where possible, adjusting your products or messaging in correspondence.

  3. Learn from your competitors

    It’s incredibly useful to follow the public feedback and conversation customers are having with your direct competitors. When they are discussing the things that they like/dislike or what more they want from the brand, this will be relevant information for your brand too. You can use this insight to your advantage and use it for your own product development. The same goes for any criticism the brand faces — by listening to this, you can be one step ahead and ensure your brand doesn’t make the same mistake.

  4. Create a Social Sentiment report and analysis to monitor all mentions of your brand online

    This includes your brand name, product names, campaign names, competitor names, branded hashtags, C-suite employee names, as well as tags and content reshares across all social platforms. You can use analysis tools such as Hootsuite and Digimind to create the analysis report, which would not only include details of engagement, but would also break it down by positive, neutral and negative mentions, giving you a clear overview of how your brand is being received and portrayed. You can use this to streamline your social listening when wanting specifically target areas for improvement, or societal movements for example.


Emily Da Silva

Digital Marketing
Emily D'Silva is a digital storyteller and content creator. In addition to creating content for businesses, she also contributes to online international publications on topics focussed around business and marketing, tech innovation, design and culture and sustainable solutions.
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