Spoiler alert: people are talking about your business on social media sites. They’re talking about your business whether you’re monitoring their conversations or not. Some have good things to say, some not so good. The point is this: if you’re not monitoring and acting on those conversations, you could be missing a golden opportunity.

For example, what if there were five of your customers on Facebook, and every one of them is saying that your customer service, well, stinks. One says, “They put me on hold for 15 minutes.”  Another says, “I don’t know why I call; they never solve my problem anyway.” A third complains, “They don’t care about us—it’s just a profit game for them.”

Here’s the operative question: would you want to know? The follow-up question, of course, is what if anything would you do to address their complaints?

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What Is Social Listening?

Social listening is a marketing strategy designed not only to follow what customers are saying about you on social media (that’s called social media monitoring), but also to take necessary actions to address their concerns, answer their questions, solve their problems and, as a result, improve your business and polish your brand.

Social listening, if done right, is a particularly potent weapon in your marketing arsenal because it gives you the opportunity to build trust and improve customer communications in real-time.  You can do so first by responding to their post, and second (assuming their concern is not unique) by making improvements to your business.

Hootsuite defines social listening in this way:

“Social listening is a two-step process.  First, you monitor social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors, product, and any keywords relevant to your business.  Next, you analyze that information and look for ways to put what you learn into action. Taking action might mean something as simple as responding to a happy customer or something as huge as shifting your overall brand positioning.”

Why Should You Invest in Social Listening?

In practice, of course, social listening is a lot more nuanced and comprehensive than simply monitoring individual conversation threads.  For example, you can use social listening to test the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, measure how well new product launches are going or test how well your customer service agents are performing.

That means, as in all things marketing, analyzing key data, things like the number of mentions and engagement rate.  Effectively analyzing these objective metrics will take you to a more subjective, but equally important, assessment:  the mood (or “social media sentiment“) of your customer base.

That said, there are several key benefits which accrue to a smart social listening strategy, including the following 4:

  1. You’ll engage your customers in real-time:   let’s go back to the negative Facebook posts above.  What if you responded (preferably quickly) to each of those complaints with something like, “I was sorry to read about your experience with our customer service department.  I’ll personally take your problem to them and get back to you within 2 business days”?  Odds are that customer is going to feel a lot better about your business, and to tell friends and family about your response.  Said differently, social listening will help you enhance trust in your brand.
  2. You’ll improve your business:  so, you’ve taken the first step by responding in quick order to your customer’s problem.  Now, you need to meet with your customer service people to fix the problem.  The same would apply if the problem were with your pricing, shopping cart (if yours is an e-commerce business), marketing strategy, product quality or website navigation.  Social listening, in other words, gives you a golden opportunity to improve your business.
  3. You’ll get the skinny on the competition:  how well are you doing compared to your chief competitors?  Social listening will tell you.  You can also do some smart sleuthing, finding out for example what new products they’re launching or how they’re tweaking their marketing strategy.
  4. You’ll find out how customers feel about your products:  if the lion’s share of customers on social media is saying great things about a new product, well, you’ll know you don’t need to make any substantial changes.  If, however, they’re dissatisfied, you’ll find out (specifically) what the problem is and be able to improve those products.  That means increased product quality, customer satisfaction—and sales.