Social media presents businesses with challenges and opportunities. Chief among these is the direct access we all now have to billions of people. Anyone with an internet connection can publish their views on any topic, brand, or issue, at any time.
For businesses, this means unprecedented access to markets and market intelligence. Any business, regardless of size, can promote themselves, their services and products to vast networks of people, quickly. And, if you know how, it means having access to what is essentially the world’s largest focus group.
Conversely, it also means being overwhelmed by information and the speed at which opinions are shared and movements mobilised.
It can be difficult to know, let alone control, what’s being said about your brand, products, stakeholders, or competitors. A single post can very quickly escalate and become an issue and then a crisis.
Done well, social listening can alert you to mentions of your business and so pre-empt issues and mitigate crises. It can also help you identify and make the most of opportunities e.g. growing interest in topics relevant to your organisation.
What is social listening?
Social listening is the process of finding and analysing mentions of brands, products or topics on social media and in online forums. It allows us to see what’s being said when, where, and by whom. When done well, the process results in a clear understanding of how you’re perceived by your online audiences.
It also goes beyond monitoring mentions – listening involves finding and collating relevant conversations and deducing and documenting actionable insights.
How does social listening help?
Social listening supports businesses by using publicly available online information to help them understand how and why they’re being discussed online. It provides context to help guide communication and operational plans and responses.
Here are three ways social listening can help:
- Monitor an issue or a crisis. Timing is everything, especially when it comes to a crisis. Social listening lets you see and capture conversations as they happen. This timely intelligence can be the difference between managing a crisis successfully, and the missteps that irrevocably damage reputations.
- Track your brand against competitors. Social listening allows you to compare what people are saying about your brand with what they’re saying about your competitors. You can see what language and phrases people are using, the tone in which they are describing your business, and what most commonly gets associated with your brand and your competitors.
- Understand the market. Social media networks give us access to the biggest online focus groups in the world. Before you launch a product or service, or decide on the messages you want to communicate, conduct social listening to understand how you’re perceived, trends that you might be able to leverage, and any risks to avoid and mitigate.
How do you do it?
There are several online tools available to help you monitor, analyse and respond to mentions of your brand and/or topics relevant to your organisation. They capture and present mentions of your brand/topic in real-time using specific keywords and Boolean queries.
Of course, these technologies need human input. And, as always, the better the input, the better the outcome.
The creation of the Boolean query is arguably the most important phase of the social listening process – it ensures you are gathering the most relevant results while eliminating the irrelevant mentions or ‘noise’.
Once that’s done, we collate and categorise data, applying our experience as reputation and change specialists to analyse this information and discern clear and meaningful insights and recommendations.
Social listening is not something you want to cut corners on. Do it properly, and it will return valuable insights that can help form positive, robust relationships with stakeholders, customers and clients; and differentiate your organisation.