When most people hear the term social media listening, they immediately think of brand management and the perceived perils negative comments or feedback can have on a brand.
And while social listening does help with brand management, to help you keep or generate more customers, you need a comprehensive social listening plan that goes beyond brand management.
A comprehensive social media listening plan focuses on what your customers and community say about how they feel about your brand or brands and, more importantly, what they want or need (from you or your competitors), how they want it, and when.
Using this valuable information, you can build a community of people interested in what you offer and allow them to get to know, like and trust you. You can create a product or service they are looking for and provide a better customer experience that will keep them coming back and singing your praises.
So, what is social media listening?
Social media listening is the art of “listening to” – i.e., monitoring – your social platforms in real time for any mention, discussion or feedback from your customers, prospects or community about your brand as well as your industry, competitors and any specific topics or keywords that relate to your business.
You then use these important insights to improve your products or services as well as your customer experience, helping you gain new customers.
For example, when working with a restaurant client, we geo-targeted words such as “I’m hungry” and “restaurant” on Twitter and then started a dialogue with the people who used such phrases within their tweets. We either offered them a coupon code for a free appetizer or told them what we had on special that day.
In this post, I share with you the key elements you need to create a basic social media listening plan. I also give you tips on how you can incorporate what you learn to improve your offer, enhance your customer service and generate new customers for your business.
Use a Social Media Listening Plan to Get More Customers
Determine your goals and create a plan
When creating any plan, your goals should always be your starting point.
Without knowing the goal(s) you want to achieve with your plan, you will be taking random actions ending in random results.
Use your business goals as a place to start or determine what you hope to achieve with your social media listening strategy. It could be as simple as:
- improving customer and community engagement
- managing your brand’s online reputation
- improving customer service
- staying on top of industry changes and trends
- generating new leads and customers
Once you determine your goals, decide what metrics you will track for each to measure your progress. If you can’t measure it, how will you know when you achieve your goals?
You can then use this information to build a social listening plan. As part of your plan, you will want to identify:
- which social channels you will follow
- what topics or keywords you will track
- which competitors (if any) you will track
- what metrics you will track
- how you will respond to engagement (both positive, neutral and negative)
- who is responsible for monitoring, tracking and responding to social media engagement
- what is done with the weekly/monthly/yearly reports to improve the results of the identified goals
Remember that a plan is only as good as your ability to implement it.
If you have limited resources, start small with your most important goal or social channel. Work on achieving the results you identified before incorporating additional goals or channels into your plan.
Choose your social media listening tools
Choosing the right social media listening tool is vital. Which tool you choose will largely depend on factors such as:
- your budget
- the size of your business
- the number of social platforms you use
- the number of keywords you want to track
- whether you want to track your competitors
- whether you need a tool that provides additional services (social media management, CRM, analytics, etc.)
While some tools are free or have free versions, most social listening tools are subscription based.
Depending on your needs, you may find the free tools will do the job for you.
Many businesses, on the other hand, will need a more robust, paid social listening tool that will monitor the entire internet, all social channels and keywords you have selected. It’ll provide you with deeper insights than a free tool will, based on the information it gathers.
Keep in mind, most paid tools do a have free trial period. You may want to test several of them before making your choice.
Social media listening tools
Here is a list of some effective social media listening tools:
Sprout Social: This tool is a not only a powerful social media listening tool but also a social media management and CRM tool. This can help you save money, despite its higher price tag, as you have to pay for only one rather than three separate tools each month. You can engage with your leads and reply directly to them from the tool.
Brand24: This social listening tool provides you with social insights into and sentiment analysis of what people say about your brand online. You can engage with and reply to any social conversations directly from the tool. It has a package for small or new businesses as well a larger enterprise version.
Agora Pulse: This is a social media management as well as social listening tool. You can easily set up relevant brand-listening parameters to track relevant conversations about your brand. Monitor and reply to any brand engagement right within the tool’s clean and straightforward interface, or pass the tasks off to a teammate. (Get 2 months free with Agorapulse here.) You can also check out its free tools here.
Mention: This social media management and listening tool has fantastic analytics. You can use this tool to monitor not only your own brand but your competitors as well and then compare the results. It offers a free plan.
Get and keep more customers
People buy from people they know, like and trust.
Social media listening creates numerous opportunities to generate new customers, retain existing customers and turn unhappy customers into brand advocates. As you monitor your mentions and interact with your prospects and customers, you allow them to know, like and trust you.
It is easy to get to know and like a brand that engages with you, has conversations with you and treats you as if you matter. Trust is built when someone either sees or experiences a brand that acknowledges its customers’ problems and then works to address them.
Here are some examples of how you can use social media listening to help your customers and community to know, like and trust you.
Engage and share positive feedback
When a customer takes the time to engage with your brand in a positive way, it is important you respond appropriately.
Depending on how they engage with you, it can be as simple as replying or reacting to (liking) their post or comment. Take advantage of the opportunity to engage with them and answer any questions you come across. Those who have the same questions but are not comfortable asking you will appreciate this information too.
From time to time, it can also be helpful to do special shout-out posts (@mentions) to those people who regularly engage with you.
If someone has given you a testimonial or praise, be sure to thank them and share the post on your social channels. This is third-party credibility (otherwise known as social proof) and is invaluable. This is a great way to establish trust with your community and potential customers.
A rarer but extremely valuable kind of engagement is when one member of your community creates and shares positive content about your brand on your behalf. It is a good idea to make a special mention of these brand advocates, share their content on all your channels and perhaps think of a special reward for such dedicated brand fans.
Use negative feedback to create brand advocates
While negative feedback can seem like a disaster, it is an opportunity in disguise. Before social media, it was hard for brands to know how most of their customers felt about their products or services and if they were having problems (or what those problems were).
Today, it is easy to identify:
- a common issue your customers experience with your company or a product/service
- the specifics of who is having that experience and the opportunity to acknowledge and provide that individual with a solution or positive outcome.
This allows you to affect positive change on both a macro (your solution or customer experience) as well as micro (each individual who has posted) level.
Unhappy customers, once you assist them or provide a solution to their problem, can become your best advocates because they know you care about them and their satisfaction. They may even defend your brand from the negative feedback of others in the future.
NOTE: In some cases, no matter what you do or say, you may not be able to satisfy a customer. If that happens, move the conversation to a private space as soon as possible.
If the person is a troll (people who post negative feedback just to get a reaction or response), do not respond to them, delete their feedback and ban them from your social channels.
Join relevant online conversations
Following topics or keywords important to your business will provide you with numerous opportunities to find and join relevant conversations.
Often, these conversations will have nothing to do with your brand. Rather, they will be on the topics related to your industry, business or solutions.
When joining these conversations, it is vital to first listen to what is being said before mentioning your products, services or business.
As you participate, remember you are there to have a conversation and solve challenges – not to be sales-focused. Provide value in advance, and you will sell a lot more!
Provide value in advance
Providing useful resources to members of your community or those with questions is a great way to help them to know, like and trust you.
Help new community members by directing them to a particular resource that solves a problem they are facing. If someone has a question, you can send them to any resource you have that answers that question.
Avoid pushing any sales materials when engaging unless directly asked for it. Doing this can ruin any relationship you may have established.
Get more people on your email list
If you come across someone who is interested in your solution and wants to actively learn more, take this opportunity to get them on your email list and direct them to any free gated content or offers you have, such as:
- case studies
- product trials
Are you listening?
Successful social media listening is one of the most poorly understood and underused business strategies today.
Done correctly, social media listening will allow your business to build a community of people who know, like and trust your brand and want what you have to offer. It can also improve your customer experience, neutralize negative feedback and gather powerful brand allies known as brand advocates.
For those not using social media listening or doing it without a strategy or plan, the consequences can be dire. If your customers are speaking about you and you are NOT a part of the conversation, at best you are missing out on valuable opportunities. At worst, you can be harming your brand image.
Do you have a social media listening plan? What social listening strategies do you deploy to get more people to know, like and trust you? Let me know in the comments below.
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