Social listening is a fairly loose term. In fact, there isn’t any set definition for it. If you want a simple definition though, consider this: social listening is short for social media listening where an individual or a team watches and studies how the relevant brand or business name is performing amongst the audiences on social media platforms.
Social listening is generally an opinion and feedback assessment system that operates over the popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Social listening is an alternate use of social media platforms for businesses that allows them to tap into the marketing analytics potential of these platforms. Social listening allows businesses to gather key information pertaining to various aspects of their target audiences, products, services, brands, and even the operational side of their business.
Those of you with marketing pedigree will realise that, for a marketer, nothing is more important than accurate data gathered from a sufficiently large sample size that yields some actionable intelligence. Social listening is tailor made for that but it is much more than just a marketing tool. In this post, we will attempt to describe all the various uses/benefits of social listening. In other words, we’ll explain why social listening is important.
As mentioned, the most obvious and the most common use of social listening is marketing analytics. Social listening is one of the ways through which a business or marketer can evaluate the impact of one or more of their marketing campaigns. Strategically implemented marketing campaigns tend to be based on tangible data, which could be quantitative or qualitative. For people, brands and businesses have a persona and they engage with them on the basis of how they perceive them. Concerted marketing campaigns, whether online or offline, have the potential to either change these personas or add new components and facets to them.
When such marketing campaigns are run and take hold amongst the audience, it results in a change in the way people talk to and talk about the brand or business. If this change in the nature of engagement can be measured, the business can end up with a lot of critical information on the performance of its marketing campaigns. The same information can then be used to tweak and improve future marketing campaigns.
Another way through which social listening is helpful in promotion is market research. While marketing analytics are done after a marketing campaign has kicked off or finished, market research is done before the marketing strategy or campaign has even been conceived. In fact, seasoned marketers and businesses undertake in-depth research of relevant markets before initiating any marketing campaign so as to ensure the most efficient use of their resources.
There are various ways through which a business can conduct market research, and the most obvious is through direct surveys with their customers. However, direct surveys and studies can be very tedious especially when compared to social listening where businesses can simply find out what people are saying about them amongst themselves.
In a way, social listening is about finding out what audiences think about your brand or business. It’s about evaluating what your reputation is in the market. This is why social listening is such a key component of reputation management. If you have a clear idea of what your reputation is in the eyes of your customers and target audiences, then that will define your future marketing campaigns and operational practices.
For instance, consider a situation where a mistake from your business or a faulty product has resulted in the customer posting a scathing review through his social media account. There have been numerous situations where such reviews have gone viral and created a crisis for the business concerned. Uber and Delta Air are prime examples of how this happens.
If a business is listening to its audience on social media platforms, then it may be able to pre-empt such reviews from going viral. For instance, the business could contact the initial reviewer and appease him in some way. This may result in a retraction from the customer. While retractions are great at preventing negative publicity, a second post explaining how the business dealt with the problem is even better.
Social listening makes customer service more potent and efficacious. Reputation management is often associated with crisis management i.e. the viral negative review. The customer service side of social listening is one step before crisis management. In the previous section, we explained how a negative review crisis can be averted by early contact from the business.
Through this early contact, your business would be doing nothing but offering exemplary customer service. Your response will be so good to the customers’ problems that they’ll be impressed and will praise you instead of criticising you. As per studies, great customer service responses to public negative reviews often result in the offended customer becoming a lifetime customer as opposed to an opportunity lost.
All the benefits of social listening stem from the fact that you can find out what people are thinking about your brand, business, products, and services. While their thoughts fall on the marketing side of things, they also have relevance for operations. For instance, when you find out what they think about your products, you can incorporate their suggestions and feedback into your future product development efforts. Flaws can be removed, additional features can be added, and even completely new products developed based on what people say.
Similarly, you could find weak points in your process flows and supply chains by knowing what your customers go through when they use your services. It isn’t all about improving faults though. You could also find out what people want in a specific industry or product segment. These discussions will not be directly associated with your product but they will pertain to it because they’ll talk about your market segment. When you figure out what people want and what they lack, you can consciously work towards providing them with those things.
Social listening can also be handy in human resource management and employee satisfaction assessment. However, this would only apply to those businesses that have grown to a point where they have a large workforce.
For a business owner or even the senior management, it can be very difficult to keep tabs on all departments, divisions, and branches. This can be made possible through social listening. For example, the bigger companies always keep a tab on websites such as Glass Door where employees have the ability to post reviews for their employers.
Whenever large companies spot something negative coming out of their existing or ex-employees, they go about resolving those flaws in their internal human resource management processes. Since happier employees are more productive, social listening provides a way for a business to improve its efficiency levels.