What comes to mind when you hear “social media?” You most likely think photos and comments, or content creation and community management. With social media being so visual, it’s easy to see how these would be top of mind. But, there’s an important aspect of social that often gets missed: social listening. Social listening is about finding and being part of customer conversations online. It’s a practice that can strengthen any marketing plan and help you stay on top of brand mentions. In this guide, we’ll take you through how to maximize your social media listening and the tools you’ll need to do it.

What Social Listening Is (And Isn’t)

Social listening often gets confused with social monitoring. They often get grouped together because they both inform a good marketing strategy. Simply put, “monitoring tells you what, listening tells you why.

Google Alerts is one social media listening and monitoring tool that many know and love. Say, for example, you’re looking for mentions on your recent clothing collection. Google Alerts can send you an aggregated list every time your business comes up. From here, you might take a look at the comments and posts to get an idea of what conversations are taking place. With these conversations, your team can create content and brainstorm new customer solutions.

When you set news alerts for your brand or industry, that’s called monitoring. You’re on the lookout for any relevant mentions – whether negative or positive – to know what others say about you and your competitors. Listening takes that one step further.

How Social Media Listening Can Help Businesses

What exactly is the importance of listening to customers online? The true power of social media is in its ability to create connections and build trust. Customers buy over time. And with brands that align with their personal values. This requires a recognizable position in the market.

Through social listening, businesses uncover why clients and customers speak about them and either build on that momentum or deescalate a potential crisis. “Brand awareness, customer service, influencer marketing, competitive analysis and social selling” all make up a good social listening strategy.

One great example of social media listening done right is Stitch Fix. A customer shared feedback on Instagram that a recent buy had malfunctioned. Stitch Fix immediately took action. They referred the client to their Client Experience team and provided an email. Social listening helped Stitch Fix turn around what could have been a negative experience. The e-commerce brand showed their exemplary customer service. Where in your current marketing strategy can social listening be helpful?

Another reason to hone in on your social listening? Keywords. By listening on social media, your business can stay aware of industry trends and topics. There will often be times when your strategy needs changing in real time. This includes keeping an eye on current events and modifying the content at a moment's notice.

Listening Tools To Get Started

We’ve already mentioned one social listening tool that can help your team get started for free: Google Alerts. But there are many other tools that can help you listen and provide in-depth analysis.

TweetDeck, for example, is platform-specific. It tracks any mentions of your brand or business on Twitter. TweetDeck also:

  • Shows you trending topics
  • Allows you to search for specific terms, and
  • Notifies you about what’s happening on one (or multiple) Twitter accounts

For a more robust solution, try Hootsuite, BuzzSumo, SumAll, Hubspot, Keyhole or Mention. These social media listening tools aren’t platform-specific. So you can manage a Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Wordpress, etc. all from one tool.

When picking a social listening tool, first identify the data you need. For example, are the demographics of people mentioning your brand important? Or does your team need to focus on the reach of accounts and public sentiment? The social media listening tool, Mention, gives you an in-depth competitive analysis. With this tool, you can see how your business ranks in the industry as well as the best times to post for engagement.

BuzzSumo, on the otherhand, is a great option for content analysis and to find the right influencers to partner with. It lets you search for specific topics or websites. You can see either how your brand’s site is performing or the performance of competitors.

Hootsuite, SumAll, Hubspot and Keyhole are all-in-one tools. These social media listening tools perform many functions, including managing social media platforms, providing monitoring for businesses and integrating social listening. Keyhole provides hashtag analysis, great for platforms like Twitter or Instagram. Tools like Hootsuite and Hubspot allow you to track mentions in real-time. SumAll is an affordable option for businesses who need a simple, easy to use solution.

How To Improve Listening On Social

Every brand and business can improve their social media listening skills. Using a tool is the first step. It’s always important to select a tool that ties into your marketing goals and to select the metrics you need. Once you do, a social listening tool will make it easier to track and help you stay aware of that information.

Next, be responsive. Customers want to know you're listening. That’s why it’s a good idea to delegate one person who can respond to clients and customers within 24 hours. This lets your audience know you care and want to help them find solutions.

Finally, be social! Join in on the conversation. As an authority, your business is in a position to share resources and highlight experts in the field. Buyers will love it and look to you as a fountain of knowledge. Being there when customers need you most is the reason why social listening is necessary.

A strong social media listening strategy can help your business uncover new opportunities. With social listening, you'll dig deeper into customer conversations and better support clients. Online conversations tell you why customers are talking about you. Maximize on these notes with a social media listening tool and find ways to take part. Conversations are a two-way street after all. And listening will open that first door!