Having an agile approach to marketing is important in a fast-paced digital world. With new trends suddenly emerging, going viral, and disappearing just as quickly, it can be hard to keep up.
Having your ear to the ground through social listening can help you understand what your audience is looking for, engaged with, and on which platforms.
Keeping track of major discussions regarding your business helps you get more visibility on social media and in search results.
More than that, it lets your audience know that you are listening to them and that you care about what they have to say.
What Is Social Listening?
57% of the world’s population uses social media; that’s a lot of content out there.
Social listening is a way of being aware of what is being said on social media without having to manually trawl through every single social platform, 24/7.
Social listening has emerged as a notable trend in digital marketing and is set to continue upwards. It allows you to be aware of what is being said about your brand, track conversations, and analyze data related to your social media impact.
This highlights areas where you may be missing out on vital communication with your audience, whether that’s by tapping into trends or being present on platforms where they are active.
4 Ways Social Listening Can Help Your Marketing
If you forego social listening, you’ll be marketing without a clear sense of direction.
People within your target demographics are talking about your brand on their favourite social platforms, and obviously, it’s in your best interest to know how that conversation is going.
Here are some of the key ways that social listening could help your brand marketing efforts.
1. Better Understanding Of Your Audience
One of the most obvious benefits of active social listening is that it allows you to gain a better understanding of what your target market wants from your brand and other brands like it.
At its most basic level, this could be something like a satisfied customer tweeting about how much they like your product. Netflix, for example, takes advantage of social listening to develop a relationship with its audience.
They regularly take an interactive role in conversations about the shows they host, while establishing themselves as a part of the community.
As another example, you might tune into a conversation where users are talking about an issue that your product or service might be able to solve.
By working to have an active presence in this kind of online discourse, you’ll quickly gain a better understanding of:
- Who your target audience is
- How they tend to engage with brands online
- How your activity on social media is being received by the people you’re trying to reach
2. Better Targeting On Your Campaigns
Leading on from this point, with effective social listening feeding you more detailed information on your audience, you’ll be better equipped to develop well-targeted campaigns.
Without the need for surveys, reviews, and other traditional tools, you’ll have a proven method to monitor the emerging likes and dislikes within your target market.
From there, you’ll be able to incorporate these insights into all your marketing efforts, both paid and organic.
3. Detailed Competitor Intelligence
Social listening can help you get a better understanding of the competition and industry trends, as well as how you fit into your niche. Most people will hear the term ‘social listening’ and think of interactions between a brand and its audience. This is true, but there’s more to it.
Another hugely valuable application of social listening is observe your competitors and the industry at large.
As your competitors adopt new campaigns and launch new products, you’ll gradually gain a clear picture of how your marketing efforts compare to their strategies. These observations also have the potential to reveal gaps in the market or other opportunities that could mean big things for your business in the future!
For obvious reasons, businesses prefer to keep competition knowledge under wraps, making it difficult to understand how major brands are using social listening to their advantage.
However, brand-to-brand interaction is everywhere on social media and shows that many big companies are actively monitoring the competition, for example in the fast-food industry.
Hey, it’s all in good fun! But you can’t deny the politics around social listening and industry awareness.
4. Stay One Step Ahead Of PR Nightmares
With social listening in place, you’ll be able to track changes in customer sentiment and detect major shifts among people conversing about your brand.
Think of it as a warning system, alerting you of risks to your brand equity and providing a generous window of time to rectify the issue.
If you see a sudden increase in social media interaction for your company, you can investigate the causes behind it to get a new perspective on your brand’s standing.
However, in the event that your brand (or even your industry at large) becomes embroiled in something that draws a lot of negative attention, a good social listening strategy will give you a heads-up well in advance.
This will allow you to plan an effective response sooner rather than later, and avoid the root causes of these crises in the future.
4 Tips To Make Your Social Listening More Effective
As you’ve seen, social listening can boost your social media marketing efforts by increasing engagement and reducing bad PR.
If you're just beginning to develop a social listening strategy, or if you're unsure if your current plan is working, here are some suggestions:
1. Study Your Followers
After a short time simply monitoring your audience on social media, you’ll start to notice your most active followers or demographics.
Be sure to follow these accounts back to get a sense of what they’re talking about in other spaces. This will go a long way towards helping you start to see your brand through the eyes of your audience.
When studying your followers, it’s also important not to become siloed in your social listening. If you’ve been particularly successful on a certain platform, there may be a natural inclination to focus a large chunk of your resources on this one area.
However, just because you happen to get great engagement on Instagram doesn’t mean there aren’t important developments happening on Twitter.
2. Craft Thoughtful, Quality Responses
It’s no secret that being responsive on social media is hugely important for your overall success in digital marketing.
People like being acknowledged and appreciated, and effective social listening is just as much about nurturing positive relationships on your social platforms as it is monitoring the conversations that don’t involve you directly.
With Gen Z marketing trends pushing social media platforms to become more eCommerce-centered, it’s more important than ever for brands to get their social media responses aligned with modern expectations.
As you devote more of your resources to social listening, don’t forget to maintain a policy of responding to all direct interactions with your brand, especially with anything negative.
All of your responses should be quick, empathetic, and tailored to the person you're talking to. Lastly, don’t forget to use a tone that's consistent with your brand identity.
3. Narrow Your Search
When you first set about crafting your social listening strategy, you’ll need to cast a wide net to find out where the most pertinent conversations are happening.
Once you’ve done this, you should aim to narrow your search down to the sections of your audience that are going to have the biggest impact on your social media success.
Depending on your industry and your audience’s interests, you may want to concentrate more of your efforts on certain demographics of people who follow several brands and influencers.
By actively developing your social listening, you’ll quickly be able to determine the most valuable sub-sections of your audience and why they deserve the biggest share of your social marketing resources.
4. Hone Your Early Warning System
Getting a clear idea of what the “baseline” looks like when it comes to conversations about your brand is a good start, but effective social listening doesn’t stop there.
When you pay attention to concerns surrounding you on social media, you have the opportunity to alleviate a situation before it spirals. Take Pepsi, for example.
In 1993, a syringe was allegedly found in a can of Pepsi-Cola. The brand’s damage control methods were on point, so much so that the situation became an actual crisis management case study.
Word travels fast, and though Pepsi knew it was a hoax (which it was), the brand also understood the magnitude of the potential backlash.
They fought hard to reinstate their credibility.
Pepsi didn't make vague statements telling the public to simply trust it.
Before the crisis took off, the business produced four videos, including a comprehensive report on its soda canning process and surveillance camera footage of a woman shopper inserting a syringe into a can of Pepsi.
The rumors fizzled out within two weeks.
Nothing sits still for very long on any social media platform. If you’re analysing comments and trends within the context of conversations around your brand that happened a long time ago, your responses are going to be skewed.
As your social listening strategy takes shape, be sure to devote time and resources to analysing and updating your marketing team’s definition of the “norm” when it comes to online discussions about your brand.
When you have the time and space to respond to online mentions spontaneously, you practice effective social listening, which is the benchmark of reactive marketing.
While you may not be able to create new original content at the fleeting rate of trends, there are some ways to implement immediate changes to your strategy through reactive marketing efforts.
What Is Reactive Marketing?
Having an airtight marketing plan, often signed off weeks or months in advance, is important.
While this can help your ideas come to life in a more integrated way, it can also mean that there is no scope to respond to situations as they happen.
This is where reactive marketing comes into play.
As the name suggests, this refers to spontaneous reactions to current events, trends, or unexpected news. It is the exact opposite of a proactive marketing strategy, which is strategizing before the plan has actually launched.
Social listening can help you be reactive in a way that suits your audience’s needs. It will mean that you don’t waste resources creating and scheduling content just because it’s trending.
Instead, you will be able to decipher where to join the conversation and where to hold back, spotting opportunities that are on brand and adapting accordingly.
3 Ways To Implement Reactive Marketing Into Your Strategy
Now that you know what reactive marketing is, how do you incorporate it into your marketing strategy?
Social listening organically helps you conduct reactive marketing. Using your findings from social listening, you can pinpoint certain spaces where you need to be more reactive.
1. Paid Social
One of the most reactive marketing channels is search and paid media. Whether you do this in-house or work with a paid social media agency, closely monitoring keywords and adjusting budgets is common practice.
As KAU Media Group states, paid social is all about:
“Saying the right thing to the right people on the platform they use the most. Advanced targeting capabilities that social advertising offers, means that prospecting to build your brand is strategically sound. User behaviour on social media is leisurely and therefore people are more receptive to ads. This in combination with engaging ads, makes social advertising the place to be.”
Be as specific as possible with your keywords, especially in light of recent changes to Google Adwords keyword match types.
So, social listening can help you define exactly what your audience is searching for. Though you may think you know your audience, social listening may present some surprising information you couldn’t have anticipated.
Social listening can also help you create social ads that are reactive by tailoring copy to current events, conversations, or trending topics. This will also show your audience that you are on the pulse, which presents your brand as being more relevant to your customers.
2. Finding The Sweet Spot
Finding the balance between planning ahead and leaving room to be reactive can be tricky. By its very definition, reactive marketing is spontaneous and unplanned. However, setting awareness day calendars and aligning this with social listening helps immensely.
Similarly, creating content pillars for your reactive marketing strategy further tips the scales in your favor. Remember that authenticity is key for consumers, so try not to worry about the production value of your methods.
Organic video content, such as TikToks, Reels or Stories, could be the way to bridge the gap between planned and reactive marketing. This means you can create and schedule all your other activities, and then have a quick turnaround for trending content.
3. Choosing Your Platform
While video content is important, creating a TikTok video may not be your best bet if your audience isn't even going to see it. Understand the difference in social activity between generations and use social listening to find your audience and follow them.
It isn’t necessary to be on every new platform. If your audience is largely on Twitter, instead of video content, try to piggyback on hashtags or conversational ‘hours’ that usually happen weekly or monthly.
Use this as your reactive marketing time, rather than creating run-of-the-mill content that may not be as effective.
Social listening may be a new concept in the marketing sphere, but it’s definitely here to stay.
From defining keywords to implementing a reactive campaign, social listening allows you to stay on top of relevant events and opportunities. At the end of the day, you get to engage with new, existing, and potential customers on a much deeper level.
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