social listening guide

Complete Guide to Understanding Social Listening

If you’ve been struggling to keep a tab on online conversations, it’s time to learn more about social listening.

To put things into perspective, there are 350 million photos that are uploaded every day on Facebook. There are 8.95 million photos and videos shared on Instagram daily. And there are about 280 billion feed updates made on LinkedIn annually. We’re not even covering platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, Quora, Reddit and others yet.

What we’re trying to say is that the number of social media conversations happening at any given time is massive.

From seasonal trends to debates around ongoing topics, brand campaigns and more, there is just too much going on.

And believe it or not, if your business is not listening to social conversations, you are missing out.

But to be able to understand the conversations happening in your audience segment, joining every platform seems like too much work.

Imagine logging into each account every day and scrolling through endless posts. It’s going to take you hours…even maybe the whole day! By the time you put that information to good use, the topics of conversation have probably changed,and it’s time to repeat the exercise.

But there’s a smarter way out. Social listening.

Before you go looking for a social listening definition, hold on. This guide is going to cover every thing you need to know about it and how you can get started.

The only social listening guide you need to read

What is social listening?

Social listening refers to the process of analysing the conversations and trends across the internet. This does not just include posts or comments around your brand, but also the industry as a whole, giving you insights into what your audience is interested in and what grabs their attention.

Keeping track of these conversations not only gives you insights into your target market, it also allows you to discover opportunities and make better branding or marketing decisions to promote your business.

You may be wondering…”Wait, isn’t that the whole point of social media monitoring?”

Social listening vs social monitoring 

Social media monitoring typically tells you what is being spoken about online. But social listening adds another layer of data on top of it, letting you know why something is being spoken about in a positive or negative way.

Social monitoring tells you what, but social listening tells you why! 

When a business is monitoring social media, they are typically tracking ongoing conversations and responding to them where it seems fit – or taking an action to directly address something. It helps them strike a conversation with the internet user, understand grievances or expectations and take note of that data.

Let’s take this example from Zomato:

On the other hand, social listening not only helps businesses track and respond to ongoing conversations – but goes one step further. It helps them use interactions to draw conclusions about the audience sentiment behind the conversation.

Social Listening gives brands insights into which segment of their audience has grievances, the reasons behind those grievances and a clearer strategy on how they should address this before things escalate on any of the social media platforms.

There is no black and white when it comes to social media monitoring and listening. The two have some overlapping traits and are equally important for brands as the digital landscape grows by the day.

But we are going to tell you why getting the bigger picture with social listening is so important!

Why social listening matters 

Well, the only way to truly know what people really think about your brand and expect from your business, is to listen to their conversations. (Don’t your friends always tell you to listen too?)

Not using social media listening means leaving a lot of valuable insights on the table that could give you a competitive edge in the market.

But let us explain this a little more.

1. Your customer engagement improves

Social listening gives you the chance to engage customers in contextual conversations at the right time to get more insights.

Let us paint you a picture:

A  customer tweets about a purchase they recently made. They’re clearly excited about it because they are willing to share it with their friends on social media. Now if you are using a social listening tool, you can jump right in and welcome them to the community or link them to resources that could help them put the purchase to use. Boom!

Let us paint you a different picture:

Someone is making a purchase online and gets stuck during the check out process. They’ll obviously take it to social media as an immediate negative reaction. Brands like Nike leverage social listening to address it right away!

In fact, you can use social media listening to tune into what your audience is asking online and address it in your content. Walmart does a fantastic job at it!

But that’s not all. They also keep the conversation going based on the sentiments their content generates!

2. You get better at tracking competition

Social listening is more than tracking ongoing conversations around your brand only.. It also gives you the opportunity to know what they’re saying about your competitors aka businesses that are targeting a similar audience segment as you with the same (or similar) products and services.

This gives you insights into the areas your competitors are excelling in, where there’s an opportunity for you to tap into, what campaigns they’re running and how you can improve yours. All of these, in real-time!

Take a look at these two tweets from Pepsi and Coca-Cola:

The long-standing competitors are trying to tap into the same audience emotions, but are doing their own thing with it. While one starts it, the other follows through with something either similar, bigger, better or longer running!

3. You understand the pain points of your audience

Aside from  your competitors, you can actually look at what’s happening in the entire industry to understand your audience better. Social listening uncovers an array of insights about who is doing what and what seems to be working. But more importantly, it highlights what’s NOT working for your ideal customer.

The pain points.

It gives you a peek into how they ‘feel’ about the products and services available to them that are currently in the market. Furthermore, it highlights what other additional value-adds they expect out of them and why.

That data is a goldmine for your branding, marketing and product teams!

Imagine you are a coffee brand that is soon to launch its first collection. With social listening, you can tune into your market to see how your target customer feels about the coffee sachets available to them right now.

Let’s assume:

You see a myriad of conversations around the filtering of the coffee in the present market, to realise that the quality that exist right now is lacklustre. . That’s an indicator enough for you to go back and check if yours is! Same holds true for the flavors available and the ones that they ‘wish’ they had.

92% of internet users resort to social media when they have a bad experience with a brand or a purchase they made. Use this behaviour to get you actionables that help you grow!

4. You identify influencers, advocates and detractors for your brand

Influencers and advocates are people who take to social media to share their experiences and knowledge on topics of interest. But more importantly, they are people who can have a huge influence on how their network (followers and fans) feel about you, as well as your competitors.

With social listening, you can identify conversations that tip in your favor, the initiators of the conversation, what motivates them and the overall sentiment they are generating with their following.

According to surveys across industries, 89% of businesses say ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other marketing channels. But it all depends on finding the right influencer who truly believes in what you do and can ‘naturally’ promote your business.

What’s more? You actually get to identify your detractors in a timely manner. Social listening gives you the opportunity to reach out to these people, offer a resolution and stop the bad word of mouth around your brand, before it gets out of hand! You can even take note of conversations that are fuelled by negative emotions to prevent people from reaching the point of becoming detractors.

5. You discover new sales opportunities

Customers are no longer seeking deals and discounts when interacting with businesses. The things that they are looking for  are value and an experience that’s unmatched.

No matter what segment or industry your business is in, customers love it when you take the first step to solve their problems. Whether that’s something your marketing and sales team was currently focusing on – or not!

And it goes without saying, this is because they no longer like being ‘sold’ stuff. They want to be able to see the value in everything before investing their money and time in it.

Social listening enables you to reach out and build connections with those who show an intent or interest in your business. It also lets you understand the information you’d be required to share with these people to strike contextual conversations. This doesn’t just get you more sales opportunities, it also helps establish your name as a brand that is informative, authoritative and out there to ‘help’, resulting in more word of mouth referrals for you!

6. You manage crises better

Ever heard of brand stories going viral when customers accused the business of not ‘understanding their situation’ better?

Well, it’s common.

Nearly 49% of consumers tend to share negative experiences online. It’s their way of seeking a resolution from the brand, getting them to respond faster and also alert those like them who may be thinking of making the same purchase.

With social listening you don’t just get alerts on ongoing conversations, but you are also able to segment them based on positive,negative and neutral sentiments.

If you suddenly seem to be getting a lot of positive engagement, seek the reasons behind it. Join in the conversation, invite these happy customers for interviews and reverse engineer their journey with your brand. This will help you recreate the same experience for new customers.

Similarly, if you see a rise in negative sentiments, look at the marketing and PR campaigns you recently ran. Identify the reason around the negative word of mouth, acknowledge them, offer a resolution and fix the processes before things get out of hand!

Concrete reasons for you to focus on social listening, right?

Now it’s about getting started the right way.

How to get set up for social media listening 

First things first.

If you believe that simply staying logged in to all the social platforms is the answer to being able to keep track of conversations, you are wrong.

You’ll always miss out on the conversations happening parallely on other platforms while manually monitoring one.

What’s worse is that you wouldn’t be able to tap into the ongoing conversations in online forums or blog comments that tend to run in multiple threads.

Step 1: Identify your social listening goals

Take a look at your branding, marketing, sales and customer service processes. Identify loopholes and gaps, and take note of what would help you address those better.

The next step is to  start listing down the goals you want to achieve with social listening. Having clear KPIs on social listening will help you analyse whether or not the effort is paying off.

For example, one of your KPIs can be increasing the customer lifetime value (CLTV). This means you will need to listen closely to the conversations from the people using your product/ service online.

Step 2: Define what you are listening for and to

By that we mean choosing the right keywords for your brand that you want to be notified about. Or mentions of your competitors that you want to keep a close watch on to stay at the top of the market with your offerings.

For example, if you are  running a fashion and apparel brand, listening to keywords around a local meat shop will not help you get any actionables for your promotional campaigns.

A few things that you should be listening to closely include:

  • Own brand name and your social handles
  • Product and collection names
  • Brand/ products’ common misspellings
  • Competitors’ brands/ products/ social handles
  • Industry buzzwords/ trends
  • Current slogan and your marketing messages
  • Competitors’ slogans
  • Key stakeholders and their names
  • Competitors’ key stakeholders and their names
  • Campaign names and keywords associated with them
  • Branded hashtags
  • Competitor’s branded hashtags
  • Unbranded hashtags related to your industry and audience

PS. The keywords you listen to will evolve over time. Your social media listening tool should be able to highlight these new phrases for you!

Step 3: Get a social media listening tool

As we said before, listening to social media conversations manually can be overwhelming. Identifying and analysing the sentiment behind those conversations can be extremely time consuming!

If you want to be able to tap into current conversations, trends and buzzwords, you need a foolproof way to manage social listening.

This is where having one of the best social listening tools like Circus Social comes into play.

Circus Social is the most intuitive social media listening, monitoring and analytics tool provider that gives you insights beyond ongoing conversations. It comes with a sentiment analysis module that helps you understand what is driving the online conversations and how you can leverage them to promote your business better.

Generate your social media listening dashboard here.
  • Daily Social Media and News Monitoring
  • Daily Brand Health & KPI Monitoring
  • Campaign Monitoring
  • Real-Time On-Screen Alerts and Notifications
  • Crisis Management and Mitigation
  • Competitor Tracking and Intelligence
  • Influencer Discovery and KOL Tracking
  • Powerful Audience Insights
  • Real-Time Alerts and Automated Reports
  • Trend Spotting and Predictive AI
  • Sentiment analysis and segmentation

Not sure how to implement social media listening? Book a demo here

Step 4: Put the actionables to work!

Don’t just listen to social conversations.

Make sure you implement the insights and actionable items you gather from them as well. Generate social listening reports on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and share them all your teams along with the actionable items that fall under each one’s roles.

Create tasks for the actionable items set and the KPIs to measure the performance. This will help you keep track of what’s been implemented and what’s pending, monitoring the impact it has on the word and growth of your business online.

A social listening tool like the Circus Social platform equips you with everything you need for effective social media listening and digital intelligence.

To be able to leverage it all, there are a few tips we always recommend!

Social media listening tips 

1. Make sure you listen everywhere

First things first, identify all the channels that your audience actively uses to interact with one another or engage with brands.

Knowing where your audience is talking is as important as what and how they’re talking about anything related to you, or your competitor.

This should not just include social media platforms, but also online forums, communities and websites they tend to engage on. Look for those that are specific to your market – in your local language.

2. Learn from your competitors (the good and the bad)

Don’t just use social media listening to learn about what people say about you. Use it to also get a peek into what they say about your competitors.

Take note of and learn quickly from the campaigns that generated  positive responses and those that resulted in negative reviews or sentiment.

Learn from their mistakes and successes and implement them in your strategies.

3. Collaborate with other teams

Social listening gets you a wide range of information around the whole company, the target market as well as the industry.

This data is beneficial for many different departments in an organisation. Right from those working on the branding, marketing, sales, product development or even customer service.

For example,

If you see your customers talking extensively about a topic or wanting more information on it, include it in your content marketing strategy and create a blog or an ebook around the same topic.

Similarly, if you see customers struggling to put their purchase to use and seeking answers in online forums, you should create knowledge centers, how-to guides or maybe even have your customer service team follow up with them!

4. Embrace the conversations

Once you start tapping into social conversations regularly, you will be able to identify what is happening around your brand. You will also be able to see what the general sentiment around your business looks like.

So when something changes, you will be aware of them instantly!

If you see a sudden change in how people are interacting or engaging with your brand, or the sentiment around your campaigns, you know the perception around the business has changed.

That is an indication for you to embrace the conversations and bring in the changes that will help you get back on track!

5. Identify patterns and trends

Humans have a certain range of emotions associated with certain things – and these tend to remain more or less constant.

Look through your social listening insights and trace patterns that may have repeated over time. This could be seasonal. This could also be based on certain ranges of products/ services that you promote every now and then.

Clearly and carefully take note of patterns that get you a positive response and those that tend to tip towards the negative, and align them with your overall business growth goals.

6. Put all that data to work

The last and the most obvious one, yet not done so often – put your data to work.

About 51% of marketers say social listening plays a crucial role in their strategising. But that also says 49% of marketers are shying away from using social insights in their campaigns.

If you are not taking action, you are only doing social media monitoring. That is not social listening!

Remember, social listening is not just about tracking social media metrics. It is about gaining insights into what your existing and potential customers want from you, and identifying ways in which you can give them that.

But just as with other marketing tactics and business growth strategies, you should be tying social listening to tangible metrics that help you measure success.

Get more social listening tips here.

Social listening metrics matched to your business KPIs 

Business KPI: Brand awareness

Metric 1 – Volume of Conversation

This not just includes the @mentions of your brand, but also the references to your business when there is a conversation happening online. While these aren’t conversations addressed to you necessarily, it’s a good idea to keep watch on what people are saying to join them at the right moments!

Metric 2 – Reach of mentions

Reach is a metric that shows how many people have actually seen your brand name, and it need not be directly proportional to the number of mentions you get. This metric is often dependent on ‘who’ mentions your brand.

Metric 3 – Share of voice (SOV)

The share of voice metric basically takes into account the number of mentions you have versus the number of mentions your competitors have,, to calculate how much of the target market you take up in comparison to your competitors.

Business KPI: Conversion rate

Metric 1 – Engagement

The engagement metric typically covers a number of actions that your audience takes on social media and other digital channels. It includes likes, follows, social shares, comments, direct messages, link clicks and similar. This metric comes under social listening because each user will have a different reason for engaging that way.

Metric 2 – Number of leads

While engagement gives you an estimate of conversions, the number of leads you actually generate have a direct impact on your sales. A lead is basically a potential buyer of your product/ service. So when you are listening to social conversations, a lead is a person who may have clicked on an ad campaign or followed your page to get more details on your offer.

Business KPI: Campaign target

Metric 1 – Demographic data

When you use social listening and monitoring tools like the Circus Social platform, you can uncover and understand a lot of information about your audience. The languages they speak, where they live, gender (inferred), interests, occupation, the types of online platforms they use, and so much more.

Don’t worry – no social media listening platform or service can track any PII (Personally Identifiable Information) or get information from any Private accounts).

Metric 2 – Influencer analysis

Analyze the most prominent, active and popular voices in your niche. This will help you understand what your target audience gets attracted to and what they choose to engage with. It is also always beneficial to know who your audience perceives as an authority or a leader in your industry to know who you are competing against or who you can partner with.

Business KPI: Customer satisfaction

Metric 1 – Sentiment score

Sentiment analysis is an essential part of social media success today. With social listening tools like the Circus Social platform that leverage NLP, natural language processing, you can identify whether a post or conversation about/ around you is negative, positive or neutral.

Metric 2 – CSAT/ NPS score

When you monitor the sentiment score, you will also be able to keep a close watch on how it impacts the customer satisfaction levels. Based on the feedback framework you use, you should be measuring your CSAT/ NPS score at regular intervals.

Wondering if social listening is for you?

Just as social media presence, social media listening is important for everyone. Let’s take a quick look at the industries that are currently leveraging the insights from social listening.

Social media listening by industry

Travel and hospitality

By leveraging social listening, businesses in travel and hospitality can look into what’s trending in the industry. Some of them being:

  • most searched and talked about destinations
  • the experiences people want and are dreaming of on social media
  • how they feel about the itineraries available to them right now

These insights will not just get you market demand but also actionables that you can implement to grow your business.

Read more about intelligent itineraries using social listening here.

https://youtu.be/cEuDCqR6tLc

Consumer packaged goods (CPG & FMCG)

The demand for goods used on a day-to-day basis changes every season and it is sometimes based on what is happening around us. The global pandemic is a perfect example.There is a general increase in demand for health supplements all over the world! Spotting and building actionables using these trends can help you predict the demand for products or the lack of it, the sentiment around it and how to promote yours to the audience that is actively interested in them.

Here are some reports we generated using social listening for the industry:

Retail

The retail industry (online and offline) tends to see fluctuations in demands for products. These fluctuations also exist in responses to campaigns based on current trends. With social listening, your retail business can continually adapt marketing and sales strategies to fit the current demand and conversations. Take for example how “loungewear” or “athleisure” became a buzzword during the lockdown across the globe!

Here is a report we generated using social listening for the retail industry:

Education

With everything moving to the digital sphere, education as an industry is suddenly seeing an increase in the conversations happening online.

Students are discussing topics, courses, the lack of material and more online. Parents are also a huge demographic in this topic of discussion due to the difficulties they face at home when their children have to go through school at home. As an institute, you can leverage this data to not just plan your campaigns to get more sign ups, but also your curriculum.

Health & Wellness (both Mental and Physical)

With the pandemic changing our lifestyles forever, most of us have become conscious about how we fuel our bodies. From home-based remedies to additional supplements, ready-to-eat meals and more, there are a lot of conversations happening online that when listened to carefully, can get you insights to meet the demands of customers in every way.

Here are some reports we generated using social listening for the Health & Wellness industry:

Does your brand need social media listening? 

With the average time spent on social media increasing to 2 hours and 24 minutes per day (and increasing), there is a lot happening online.

So the short answer is YES.

Social listening if done right can fuel your business growth and how the market perceives your brand, giving you an opportunity to build authority by establishing meaningful relationships.

The purpose of social listening, of course, varies from business to business. So if you want to learn more about social media listening, the importance of social listening and how your business can leverage it, reach out to us today!

Ready to start tuning into online conversations?

Get started on social listening with Circus Social.

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