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The importance of social listening

Selling online is more viable than ever before, however doing so comes at a cost – direct access to customers. BETH WALKER explores options for overcoming that challenge by utilising social listening.

When I graduated from college my father and I looked at buying a new car.

At one dealership the salesman jumped into a pitch about how the car I was sitting in was one of the most comfortable cars he’d ever driven. He pointed out the convenience of the interior layout and how, as a right-handed person, he found this the best car to purchase.

I’m left-handed. Everything he had said was helpful and informative, however, as a left-handed person, as soon as the salesman landed on his closing pitch, I knew the car I was sitting in was not for me.

Nowadays, we have the opportunity to sell our products or services in various ways including online media such as blog articles, social media posts, videos, and email.

The challenge with digital marketing is that, unlike with face-to-face sales, you don’t have the benefit of reading someone’s body language or facial expressions. If they leave our website, we don’t know why. It’s not all doom and gloom, however.

We can still ‘hear’ what our ideal customers are saying online by implementing ‘social listening’

What is social listening?

Social listening is the practice of analysing the activity and conversations trending around your industry, including your brand, and then using those insights to make informed marketing decisions.

Social listening helps a business understand what target customers are thinking, what their needs are, and how they are searching for information about your product or services. You can use social listening to create content that answers the why, where, and how messages your buyer persona is looking for, using the keywords they are currently using online.

Make it a priority

Is social media promotion a part of your content marketing strategy? Do you publish blog articles, share industry-relevant content, and engage with other social users who ask questions about your products and services?

If you aren’t leveraging these free platforms yet I hope you will soon. However, it’s important to make sure that you plan your strategy to connect with your buyer persona on their preferred social platforms.

A few years ago, you could easily assume that promoting your content on Facebook would help you reach a good number of your potential customers, but there has been a shift.

Edison Research reports that Facebook has an estimated 15 million fewer US users compared with 2017 and this drop is in the 12 to 34-year-old age group.

It’s also important to note with Facebook specifically, user time is decreasing.

In 2016 the average user spent 50 minutes per session. By January 2021 Statisita.com reports, “the average time spent by day by American users on Facebook was 33 minutes”.

In February of this year, a Digital 2022 Australia report revealed the average Australian was spending three per cent less time on the platform than in the previous year. So, if Facebook isn’t the guaranteed connection space it once was, how do you know where your customer is spending their time online? For jewellers it begins by establishing a social listening plan.

Strategic approach

Creating a social listening plan starts with what you know. Create and review a ‘buyer persona’ – a detailed description of someone who represents your target audience – and then visit the websites where you interact with your customers and take notes.

From there ask yourself a few questions: Is the information you curated still accurate; are your customers still active in these online areas? You can also establish what are their likes and dislikes and what problems are they looking to solve?

As you are reading the social media interactions, observe the words used to identify your industry.
Also, note who they consider your competition. Next, head to your competitors’ social platforms, such as their Facebook page, and do the same thing.

Once you have spent some time taking notes, review the information you have gathered. What are the keywords that your potential and current customers are already using? Make a list of all the relevant words that you see in your notes as well as those you know are common to your niche.

Establish a tracking system that helps you see how the keywords are flowing together so you can best understand the context of what people are talking about not just how many times a specific keyword comes up. Do people commonly connect certain keywords with negative comments? That’s important to know.

You will want to keep your system flexible as you do this but a few things you may want to consider tracking include:
• Industry keywords
• Your product name(s), including common misspellings
• Your brand name and handles
• Your competitors’ brand names, product names, and handles
• Your business slogan and those of your competitors
• Your branded hashtags
• Industry relevant hashtags
• Names of people in your business such as your CEO or owner and handles
• Key names and handles of competitors

If you know that your business name is often misspelled or that specific industry terms are misused track those as well as commonly used abbreviations.

There are online services and tools that will help you gather all this information so you can quickly sort through all the social mentions regarding your brand.

We love Buzzsumo for social monitoring, but there are many tools to consider. Hootsuite lists 10 additional social monitoring tools to check out.  

The largest benefit of using a tool for social monitoring is that this will help you easily track all the social websites at the same time. One thing you may notice is that your competitors are mentioned more frequently on different social platforms because they have a presence where you do not.

Finding value

Using a social monitoring tool pulls in any mention of a keyword. This means you may quickly gather large quantities of data which you will need to sift through. You will need to take time to sort what is helpful and applicable versus that which is ‘noise’.

A few categories to track should include:
• Sentiment – what is the overall opinion of your business?
• Total mentions – how many times are you mentioned weekly?
• Active social platforms – where are your customers most active?
• Pain points – What are the problems that customers are looking to solve?

"With fewer opportunities for face-to-face interactions in today’s digital world, social listening is an excellent way to keep a pulse on many aspects of your business as well as your competition.”

Track this weekly or monthly. Regardless of your choice, you want to make sure that you are watching trends. Are brand mentions increasing? Is positive sentiment continuing? What time of day or days of the week are customers most active?

Where are your industry keywords trending the most?

Once you have a better understanding of your customer’s current needs, you can use this information to create a content strategy for the next quarter that will best help solve your potential customers’ issues and to educate them on areas of your products or services where they are unclear.

By incorporating the information you gather directly from your customers into your content calendar you will increase your opportunities to earn their trust and establish yourself as an industry expert.

Keep a record

Of course, you will only know if all your hard work is paying off if you track your efforts. It’s important to make sure that you don’t include vanity metrics in your data gathering.

Increasing your social following or interactions feels great, but are those people coming to your website as well? Are your leads converting to customers?

To save time tracking data, create a digital dashboard for analysis.
Social listening requires attention to detail that should not be cut short, however, data analysis doesn’t need to be a hassle.

Once you know the key metrics you want to track, establish a system that allows you to see all the information in one location at a quick glance.

There are many free options for dashboards. You may want to choose a dashboard that will alert you when you hit your key goals for the period.

That way, if you are tracking analytics weekly but you hit your goal three days early you will know immediately with an email alert and can make a note to consider adjusting your plans.

Social listening is an important part of understanding your potential and current customers’ requirements.
With fewer opportunities for face-to-face interactions in today’s digital world, social listening is an excellent way to observe many aspects of your business as well as your competitors.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beth Walker

Beth Walker writes for US-based SMA Marketing, which specialises in digital marketing strategies for businesses. Visit: smamarketing.net

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