Social media presents companies with an indispensable opportunity to build their brands, bolster their reputations and adapt quickly to changing trends. To seize this opportunity, businesses must be willing to listen to what their social channels are telling them.
In other words, effective social media managers should regularly monitor and track growth for all channels. They should internalize customer comments and user feedback, and they should analyze, condense and interpret relevant data to track growth and adapt to changing trends. That’s social listening. Organizations that prioritize consistent social listening can yield new insights from the online public that allow these companies to enhance their marketing strategies and grow their customer bases.
New leads can and do emerge through a company’s social media messages – for instance, in a direct message on Instagram. Social managers should promptly respond to potential customers who ask questions via message or comment. Facebook posts a company’s responsiveness metrics on the company profile, making it essential to respond as quickly as possible on that platform to optimize response rates and times. Waiting too long may result in potential leads looking to competitors who may be more closely listening on social media.
In addition to responding to potential customers’ messages, businesses can take a more assertive approach when seeking leads on social media. If a company’s social listening is telling them that demand for their product is high among a certain audience – for instance, a specific demographic group, industry or geographic population – they can target members of that group and consider reaching out directly.
According to HubSpot, “social listening finds root causes behind social conversations and implements long-term strategy change.” This involves understanding current social trends, analyzing data and harnessing the resulting insights to grow the business. In that sense, social listening is a two-part process – the first step involving monitoring and analysis and the second being an actionable response or adaptation.
Social managers should closely watch which types of content tend to earn engagement from their audience, and which often fail to do so. They should use these insights to constantly update and optimize their content calendars. When multiple genres of content – for example, company blogs or industry news – tend to perform well, this empowers social media managers to diversify what they post while retaining confidence in the audience’s interest level.
Marketing and public relations professionals should understand the power of social media listening. According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, social listening can “serve as the map for a treasure hunt. It is already overturning how consumer product companies develop, market, and package their products — and we are only beginning to discover the scope of possibilities that machine learning advances will catalyze.”
Between the 280-character virality on Twitter, the growing influence of Instagram and its influencers, the massive reach offered on Facebook and the continuing growth of LinkedIn, there are countless opportunities for companies to seize a competitive advantage by using social listening effectively.
Social media platforms allow business users to access and export certain social media data, but the following external tools and platforms can also be useful to maximize social listening effectiveness:
Companies need active social media managers that can respond to followers in real time. Research shows 83% of consumers like it when companies respond to their comments on social media. In addition, nearly 7 in 10 consumers (68%) say they like having a conversation with a brand. Importantly, nearly half (48%) of consumers surveyed say they are more likely to make a purchase if the brand engages and responds to its customers via online communication tools.
Companies can see web traffic increase from effective social listening as well – 69% of B2B marketers invest in social media platforms to increase web traffic. Omnichannel communication is crucial to any B2B brand’s marketing strategy, and considering all relevant social channels is critical to a brand’s social listening strategy.
As marketers, in addition to many normally office-based workers, work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, social listening has become even more imperative. According to a report from eMarketer and Gartner, more than half (51%) of marketers are using social listening to gather insights about consumers during the pandemic. In addition, the World Health Organization has been using social listening to combat the spread of misinformation on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The latter example highlights the potential positive applications of social listening. Combatting misinformation, especially health-related misinformation, is one positive use of the tactic. Companies can also use social listening to track malicious social-media actors and report them. Finally, they can communicate business-specific COVID-19 measures by listening and responding to followers’ comments as quickly as possible. In fact, by consistently employing social listening techniques, businesses can gather consumer insights that can end up shape corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals and messaging.
Thomas Jilk is a Senior Account Executive in Mulberry’s Chicago office and uses his journalism and marketing skills to tell compelling brand stories for clients.