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A Guide to Social Listening

There was a time not too long ago when dissatisfied customers took their complaints right to the top of a company, emailing or even calling to voice their problems to the highest in charge.

These days, though, they skip direct contact altogether and, instead, shout it to not one person, but to the entire world via social media. And that’s why, since your customers are no longer telling you their pain points and critiques or even what they love, you’ll miss out on some important feedback if you’re not on top of the game.

This is where social listening comes in.

Social listening: A crucial part of your digital marketing strategy

Social listening is how we monitor and respond to online conversations to understand what customers are saying about our brand and industry online.

For example, plus-sized women’s fashion retailer Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel campaign knows what it’s all about. They’re n tune with not just the fashion needs of their customers, but also the psychology and desires of how their customers want their fashion advertised and represented to them.

After the backlash against a recent Victoria’s Secret ad campaign that presented insensitive marketing tactics focused on an unachievable “perfect body,” Lane Bryant retaliated with their #ImNoAngel tagline, promoting the idea that sexy is more than just body size. Body acceptance and body positivity are desired by all women—shoppers of Victoria’s Secret and Lane Bryant alike.

By listening to your audience this way—both for good and bad—you’ll hear honest feedback that can be illuminating for your company, especially in terms of how you can better your strategies.

You’ll also spot patterns and learn who your customers are and what they want and desire from you. These insights will inform your future decisions in marketing, which is the sweet spot every business should strive for: knowing your audience well enough to predict their needs.

After all, being in tune their pain points and greatest desires is what draws loyal and even lifelong customers.

Social monitoring vs. social listening

The first step to a successful social monitoring strategy is to be an active participant in all relevant digital platforms, from social media sites like Instagram and Facebook to customer feedback sites like Angie’s List, Yelp or Epinions.

Tracking your??social media metrics and engaging in conversation (asking questions and responding to both compliments and critiques) is critical for being a part of the conversation around your brand. Be active and speedily responsive.

Try to solve your customers’ problems or pain points individually, and use that feedback to inform changes and new strategies. Find your most outspoken followers and reach out to them for collaborative opportunities.

Maybe they’d like to sample a free product in exchange for a social media review, or any other initiative that will allow them to share feedback about your brand with their followers in a way that’s mutually beneficial to you both.

You’ll need to take a big-picture approach, too, and monitor the conversation around your industry and your direct competitors. Set up a social listening strategy so that you’re notified any time your brand is mentioned. These are some of the key phrases and words you should follow:

  • Your brand or company name and any related social profile names or hashtags.
  • Names of products or services relevant to your company/brand.
  • Names of your competitors (as well as their social handles and product/service names).

Join as many social media platforms as possible and monitor them closely to distinguish patterns among those that are most successful or lively for your brand and among your consumers.

You’ll also want to keep abreast of your closest competitors and others who are relevant in your industry. Learn from their mistakes and watch the ways they handle their successes. This (along with the specific feedback you get from your customers) will be helpful when you want to try out adventurous new tactics. It will also be invaluable for when you’re navigating the ebb and flow of your digital marketing plan overall.

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