Monday, August 22nd, 2016 | 7 min read
Social listening is a powerful technology, but not on its own. Only with the proper people, processes, and technology can brands harness social listening to its fullest potential.
It’s an important objective. With social strategies, tactics, and tools consolidating into fewer platforms, social listening is becoming more of a fundamental business function than a niche solution used exclusively by analysts.
The striking power of social listening and the speed at which its has become a vital tool can be challenging for brands trying to stay ahead of the curve, but any fears or reservations can be eased by centering the listening process around the customer journey — specifically the stages of: Awareness, Consideration, Acquisition, and Retention.
Doing so ensures that a brand’s social listening strategy is comprehensive and supportive of an overall approach that prioritizes the customer at every turn.
When most marketers think of awareness, they think of creating buzz and making sure that people recognize a logo. While this is an important part of awareness, marketers can take this one step further and ensure that consumers are aware of key brand attributes.
To that end, social listening improves brand messaging by analyzing spikes in volumes and identifying conversation themes that are driving solid levels of engagement.
The real value, however, is derived from subsequently publishing content and tagging it in a way that aligns with social listening categories: by content type, theme, and campaign, to name a few.
Planning successful, insight-driven content thus requires a tagging structure that supports key business objectives rather than one that has overlapping – or worse, free form – tags that don’t provide enough clarity for subsequent reporting.
Once a company’s social output is aligned with a consistent brand voice and supports key business objectives, content becomes a powerful way to better understand the audience — and social listening is the tool for doing so.
Strategic queries can help companies ascertain whether particular audience segments are interacting with specific types of content, and whether there are recurring themes in the types of engagement and inbound messages they receive. Brands can listen to learn if certain products are gaining more attention than others, and across which platforms.
With social listening, and the corresponding tools that automate, tag, and generate reports, each piece of content becomes an opportunity to gather insights about who the audience is and what they’re saying
All social activities—including listening—should lead to the key business priority: driving people to act.
Consistent publishing and well-defined audience segmentation is hardly valuable if it doesn’t ultimately drive revenue or reduce costs and risk. Fortunately, social listening can be used to identify purchasing signals and gauge how interested an audience might be in buying something.
Proper identification allows companies to drive prospects down the funnel more effectively and decide on the correct level of engagement, whether it comes in the form of discounts, one-on-one conversations, or pre-canned responses—all of which can be further supported by optimized paid strategies.
With customer insights generated by social listening, companies can harness concrete datasets to support their paid content and engagement strategy.
The acquisition phase can be tricky because it often requires the most resources when executing and scaling. A subject matter expert must be able to source keywords that the social listening platform can use to predict an intent to buy, while a paid analyst needs to be able to run, optimize, and report on ad campaigns that can be quickly adjusted to match evolving customer tastes.
These important tasks are made possible by a seamlessly integrated system that can route insights between teams that rely on common data points for varying uses as well as an enhanced tagging structure that identifies messages signalling a high probability of driving a sale. Better understanding how social efforts drive conversions elevates the value of social across the enterprise beyond just the social media practitioners.
While driving sales is a major goal, retention is just as important in order to ensure customer longevity in a world of saturated markets and fickle trends.
Loyalty is built by providing unique customer experiences, quickly identifying and analyzing common servicing opportunities, and routing brand loyalists into advocacy networks where they can cultivate awareness and love for the brand.
Similar to its role in the acquisition phase, social listening can be used to identify conversations that signal a customer service opportunity: complaints, inquiries, compliments, and the like. These messages can then be routed to the right teams so that brands can provide memorable experiences—both on social and live—for their customers (McDonald’s is a great example of this).
It is particularly crucial for brands to identify messages that require immediate attention. A triage workflow utilizes social listening to spot messages with critical key words: “I hate…”, “where can I buy…?”, and “I enjoyed…” Companies can ensure that they’re fielding the most important messages first with an extra listening layer that prioritizes messages by potential level of influence.
Over a longer period of time, all customer care-related conversations sourced by social listening can be analyzed in aggregate. Brands can analyze conversation spikes to identify underlying issues that can inform important changes across the business.
Messages flagged as coming from influencers (based on a pre-determined methodology that accounts for words in their bio, follower count, etc.) can be used to build ever-growing lists of influencers and advocates for engagement. What’s more, these groups form the basis of an advocacy network that extend a brand’s reach amongst their own followings — building trust and support in a more human, personalized manner.
Social listening goes far beyond analyzing brand mentions or overall conversation volume. Used correctly, it can influence content, allow companies to understand their audiences, drive sales through more efficient acquisition, build relationships with potential advocates, and ultimately, drive true business change.
On its own, it may be fairly useless, but with the right people, processes, and a tool that supports scalable, enterprise-level initiatives, it can be one of the smartest investments a company can make.