Back to Basics: How to Maximize Impact With Social Listening

Business.com / Social Media / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

By monitoring social media conversations about your brand, products, and industry topics, you can create laser-targeted content.

If you’re like the average marketer, these questions are constantly running through your head.

“Do our customers truly like our products, and if so, how much? How many of our potential customers even know we exist? And how many are picking our competitors over us?”

It’s more important than ever for a company to know the answers to those questions, and social listening can help you get there.

By monitoring social media conversations about your brand, your products, and relevant industry topics, you’ll be better able to create laser-targeted inbound marketing content that responds to your audience’s needs.

You’ll also be able to improve your business in myriad other ways, from customer service to product development.

However, a passive approach simply won't work. In one study, 74 percent of B2B marketers credited social media with increasing their leads, yet only 48 percent said that social yields better prospect and lead insights, probably because of a lack of purposeful listening.

You need to actively listen for the right topics, and then actually use that information to refine your buyer personas, “get inside” your leads’ heads and create stronger customer relationships.

Related Article: People Are Talking, Are You Listening? The Importance of Social Media Monitoring

The Traditional Way: Manual Social Listening

When you’re just getting started with social listening, it’s useful to get an informal feel for the social side of your market.

This is easily done by manually monitoring social networks for relevant information. With 1.8 billion people worldwide having a profile on one or more of the major social networks that is, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like, it’s practically a given that by using the search functions of each social outlet, you’ll find the types of conversations that matter in your market.

Row of headphones with Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube logo's "listening"

Manual listening accomplishes two big things. For one, you’ll start to notice how much of a social presence your industry has on specific social networks.

Secondly, you might discover clues that will enable even more detailed social media listening and analysis down the road.

To begin, make a list of all the keywords important to your company. That list should include, at a bare-minimum:

  • Your company name.
  • All of your brand names.
  • Any hashtags you've created.
  • Your main competitors’ company names and brands.
  • Major keywords related to your product and industry.

You’re looking for insights on what the market wants, what the newest trends are and what prospects like and dislike about currently available products and services.

Then, manually log in to one of the big social media outlets. Systematically type the terms from your list into the search box to see what comes up.

For example, if you’re in the cloud computing industry, you might come across Facebook Business Pages for competing cloud services, IT professionals musing about new cloud technology possibilities in LinkedIn blog posts and people tweeting about the most secure cloud solutions for small business.  

Related Article: 5 Tools For The Most Productive Social Media Analytics Monitoring Ever

After doing the above for each social network, you’ll have a better idea of which outlets are worth mining further.

For networks that seem especially promising for your purposes, you might want to dig even deeper.

For example, if your prospects are particularly active on LinkedIn, you might want to join LinkedIn Groups and see the ideas, frustrations and advice potential leads are sharing with their colleagues.

By manually listening to social channels, you might amass some truly useful data.

Automated Social Listening: Tools Designed to Save Time

While manually listening to the market helps, to take social listening to the next level, you’ll eventually have to move on to some of the next-generation marketing automation and social media management tools.

With 79 percent of top-performing companies using marketing automation for two or more years, it pays to learn about the best tools out there and take advantage of them.

Software that can search and serve up relevant social data automatically frees up your marketing team for a crucial task, creating excellent content around the social intelligence that’s coming in.

Three Useful Tools for automating Social Listening Endeavors

  • HubSpot - While it’s a Swiss Army knife of tools for every digital marketing outlet imaginable, HubSpot shines when it comes to managing and automating your social media outreach. Under “Social Monitoring” in HubSpot, you can choose the social network you want to listen to, enter hashtags, brand names, and other keywords of interest, set how and when you wish to be notified (via email or mobile push notifications), and sit back and wait for social posts you can act on to be delivered straight to you.
  • Hootsuite - Hootsuite is for social media only, which makes it a great way to eliminate distractions from other content types and focus on “in the moment” social happenings and conversations you can jump in on. The interface is little different from HubSpot, Hootsuite lets you monitor several custom streams of social feeds at once, organized as columns across your screen.
  • TweetDeck - Given the rapid-fire nature of Twitter, if your industry has a good presence on the network, you might choose to focus on it exclusively and track conversation streams and hashtags as they happen. Twitter’s very own TweetDeck is a platform where you can monitor tweets relevant to your business and products. You can set up custom streams that let you follow specific hashtags and search terms as people tweet about them.

The above tools take a lot of the guesswork out of social listening. While the manual method helps you get a rough, “global” impression for what prospects are talking about (and whether they’re talking at all) on social media, automated tools like the above give you a “dashboard” from which you have oversight and control.

That makes it easy to respond immediately to customer inquiries or quickly create relevant content around hot-button issues.

Beyond the Usual: Niche Forums and Discussion Hubs

So far, we’ve covered listening for industry-relevant conversations on the big-name networks. But to cover all the bases, you’ll want to go beyond the social media giants and listen to your prospective customers wherever they happen to be online.

And sometimes, that’s in a place other than a social network per se.

Here are some of the places you might look:

  • Professional forums and collaboration hubs. Think about where your buyers tend to meet online to collaborate with each other and discuss tricks of the trade. For example, developers collaborate on sites like Stack Overflow and GitHub. Digital Photography Review (DPReview) and ThePhotoForum attract photographers of all stripes. If there’s a forum where professionals in your industry exchange advice or actively work together, that’s where you should have your ear to the ground.
  • Question-and-Answer Sites. Sites like Quora and Ask MetaFilter are places where people often seek serious, thoughtful and well-rounded answers to their burning questions. Find the professional niches where your prospects are within these hubs, and you’re set for some powerful social data mining.  By just “listening” for the nuances of the questions and answers you see there, and eventually, participating on behalf of your company and building a presence—you’ll tap into needs of your target audience that you might not uncover any other way.

Be sure never to limit your search to just obvious social media sites. Wherever potential customers tend to congregate, be sure to hear what they’re saying.

Related Article: Leveraging The Power and Benefits of Social CRM

You might discover just what you need to do to get their attention. 

“Social listening” is much more than just another buzz-worthy trend. It has the potential to truly transform your marketing and other aspects of your business.

By using the above tips, creating natural, powerful relationships with your target market and keeping leads and customers coming back, you will become more intuitive than ever.

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