When it comes to your brand’s reputation, social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Regardless of the industry or size of your business, chances are people have been or are currently talking about you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or other social media channels. Cultivating a positive reputation and following discussions on social media is vital to the success of all companies, and social listening is a valuable tool for this practice. If your business isn’t utilizing social listening tools, now is the time to start. 

What is Social Listening?

There are two components that make up the practice of social listening. The first part is scanning social media channels for any conversations that involve your brand as well as your competitors and any other keywords related to your business. The second part is studying these results and determining what actions need to be taken. Taking action is what separates social listening from social media monitoring, which is a practice that is focused solely on collecting data from your social media channels such as engagement and reach.   

These components work hand-in-hand to allow you to deliver the messages that your target audience needs to hear. Without monitoring your social channels you’ll never know the conversations that are already taking place, and without taking action that monitoring won’t lead to the results you crave (positive engagement, lead generation and, ultimately, new business). 

Why is Social Listening Important?

The benefits of social listening speak for themselves. People are already talking about your brand and your industry online, and you won’t be able to engage with your target audience and identify their needs without listening. Engagement is an important aspect of your social media presence. Whether they’re asking a specific question or giving you a positive shout out regarding your product or service, your audience will appreciate your responses. People like to know their voice is being heard. 

Social listening also allows you to assess your performance as a brand. If you’re seeing overall positive conversations about your business, keep up the good work and join in on the conversation when possible. If you’re seeing complaints or concerns about your business, listening and understanding from their point of view will reveal any changes that you need to make to your business strategy. We all think we’re doing a good job, but without listening to what others are saying, it’s impossible to know the true reaction. 

How Can You Use Social Listening?

The revelation of your audience is one of the key benefits of social listening. Through this practice, you will gain an understanding of the likes and dislikes of this audience and how you can effectively reach them. It also paints a picture of what your audience is saying about others in your industry. Knowing what people are saying about your competitors is equally as important because it gives you valuable insights into where you fit in the marketplace. If you see a positive conversation about one of your competitors, there may be an opportunity for you to implement something similar. If you see a negative conversation about one of your competitors, you’ll have a better chance of preventing that outcome for your own business. Knowing what not to do is just as necessary as developing a plan that works. 

Analyzing the chatter about your industry can also identify influencers or advocates to potentially partner with your business. Pay attention to who is talking about your industry, specifically those that have a large following; these experts can be beneficial in your marketing efforts. Just make sure that they disclose that they are being paid for any posts that publish on your behalf, lest you be involved in another Fyre Festival controversy. 

Social Listening Tools

While many of you are likely already active on social media, knowing where to look, how to analyze the data and implement any necessary changes can be a daunting task. Luckily, there are many tools available to assist you in social listening, including Hootsuite, Mention, HubSpot and Sprout Social. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the statistics, consider a subscription to one of these services so you can focus your time and energy on content creation. 

As we usher in a new year, now is an ideal time to improve your social listening efforts. Compile the data from your previous conversations, determine what worked and what didn’t and, most importantly, share this information with the rest of your team. Everyone needs to be on the same page to ensure that your business strategy along with any social media efforts are accomplishing the goals you set for the year.