Every company knows the importance of building a solid reputation and loyal following on social media. If you’re not ‘social listening’, you’re missing a huge trick in terms of your digital marketing efforts and overall online success.
But conquering social media isn’t easy. Businesses that use the various social platforms as merely broadcasting mediums are unlikely to find success. The only way real value is realised is by leveraging social media to connect with, engage and build a rapport with the people who matter to your business.
One of the best tools available in your digital marketing toolkit is social listening. But what is it and how can you take advantage of it as a business?
What is Social Listening?
First and foremost, people often confuse social listening with more general social monitoring. But while they are somewhat similar and definitely complementary to one another, social listening and social monitoring are not one and the same.
Social monitoring, which involves stuff like replying to comments, tracking mentions and other interactions, is a piece of the overall social listening puzzle. It helps brands compile data and gather information about what’s already happened.
Social listening, on the other hand, goes several steps further, analysing the bigger picture surrounding all those mentions and comments to help shape a company’s future social strategy.
In a nutshell, social listening goes beyond social monitoring and delivers more valuable insights that can be utilised going forward.
With social listening, brands can:
- Track their overall health & growth
- Create content their audiences crave
- Discover new opportunities
- Generate new ideas for future marketing campaigns
- Improve the customer experience
- Shape strategic product/service decisions
- Generate and nurture new leads
By determining the root causes of social conversations, brands can develop and implement long-term strategy changes to address them. There’s a good chance said changes will lead to the creation of content that brand followers actually want; new products and services based on industry trend and consumer pain points; and an improved customer experience overall.
Social Listening vs. Social Monitoring: An example
Let’s say you’re a cake shop owner who bakes fresh cakes every day of the week. However, for whatever reason, you don’t always use the same supplier for all your ingredients.
You have a regular customer who comes in every day to buy their favourite cake. One day (it’s a Tuesday), said customer complains that their favourite cake doesn’t taste right. You apologise and offer them a refund – maybe even another cake for free. You chalk it up to experience and think nothing of it.
The same customer then buys their favourite cake again the next day and all is well. The following week, however, the customer comes in on a Tuesday to buy their favourite cake. Again, they complain that it doesn’t taste right. You offer them a refund and apologise profusely once again.
You wonder what’s going on. Is the customer just imagining it? But it’s their favourite cake, so they know how it should taste and can discern any differences in the quality, right?
By solving the on-the-spot issue (offering a refund and apologising), you are doing social monitoring. By investigating the root cause of the issue i.e. why the cake isn’t right every Tuesday, and resolving it, you are doing social listening.
This simple process can prevent future refunds and ensure one of your regular customers is always delighted, making it win-win.
Popular Social Listening Tools
With so many potential sources of data and social platforms to monitor, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to utilise tools to help you get the most out of your social listening initiatives. Fortunately for you, there is a multitude of social listening tools available, and many of them can be taken advantage of for free in the first instance.
Here are 8 of our favourites:
Brandwatch is a social listening and analytics tool that tracks literally billions of online global conversations, including news, blogs forums, social media and much more, every day. In fact, Brandwatch enables businesses to monitor an incredible 90 million different traffic sources across the Internet.
While you can’t start utilising Brandwatch’s three offerings – Analytics, Vizia and Audiences – for free, you can request a hands-on demonstration, so you can see how it could positively impact your existing marketing goals.
Sendible is a bells and whistles social media management tool which, among other things, enables brands to seize opportunities through social listening.
By monitoring keywords and mentions across a host of social platforms, blogs and review sites, businesses can use Sendible to easily highlight whether what people are saying about them is positive, negative or neutral.
While Sendible doesn’t boast the traffic source coverage of Brandwatch, it can be trialled for free, although brands will realise the most value from it by signing up to one of the competitively priced monthly packages.
Hootsuite organises all of a brand’s listening data into tabs and streams.
When it comes to Twitter, Hootsuite is particularly powerful, allowing brands to drill results down to specific geographic regions. This is excellent for when you’ve launched a new product/service in a particular area and want to get a feel for how it’s being received.
Hootsuite has a free one-user plan, which is ideal if you just want to try it out. The cheapest small team option will set you back $99 per month.
4. Sprout Social
Sprout Social is similar to Hootsuite in that it offers a variety of social media monitoring and engagement tools. One of its proprietary features is the so-called Smart Inbox, which allows businesses to monitor all their mentions and messages in one place.
Moreover, the discovery feature enables brands to track other mentions on Twitter and Instagram that don’t specifically tag the company’s social profile. This is particularly useful for keeping on top of important keywords.
Sprout Social can be taken advantage of on a free trial basis, with monthly prices starting from $99 per user/per month.
Agorapulse intuitively funnels all of your brand mentions, comments, replies and saved keyword searches into a single inbox (like Sprout Social) for ultimate ease of use. This enables businesses to easily keep track of their key conversations across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
By setting up various rules, you can glean all the insights you need without lifting a finger (well, almost). For example, you could setup a rule that returns every tweet containing a link back to your website. So, even if your brand is mentioned (tagged) directly, you can still keep abreast of any discussions revolving around it nonetheless.
Agorapulse has a free trial option, as well as paid solutions starting from $39/month.
Buzzsumo is primarily a content analytics tool, but one that can help you extend your social listening efforts beyond just social media.
The extensive monitoring tools Buzzsumo provides enable brands to track what’s being said about them on blogs and news publications, as well as social media. Alerts can be configured based on keywords, backlinks and even authors to ensure businesses are always kept in the loop on what’s being said about them.
Buzzsumo’s parent company is actually Brandwatch, and you can start using the former for $79/month.
Last but certainly not least is Mention, which is a social media monitoring solution that has bespoke analytics, social listening and competitor intelligence features.
Mention helps brands pull together all of the activity that concerns them across multiple platforms, including, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and more, in real time. This is particularly effective as it allows businesses to interact as mentions happen and not after they’ve passed by.
Once it’s all configured, Mention enables brands to quickly and easily monitor what people have been saying about them. Furthermore, with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter integration, companies can respond right from their Mention dashboards.
For single users, Mention costs just $29/month and there’s also an option to create bespoke plans to suit your individuals business needs. There’s also a free trial option, so you can take it for a test drive before you commit.
Talkwalker is an online reputation management system. Talkwalker emphasises the importance of analytics while doing social media listening. That’s why they offer real-time text and image analysis and automated reports. The free version includes the most important features but displays mentions for the last 7 days max. Anyway, it still gives you a chance to eavesdrop on social media.
Talkwalker offers a large list of social sources to track backlinks and social channel demographic insights in the freemium version. This is scaled up heavily in the more expensive large agency versions for global campaign management reach.
Want to start social listening, but still aren’t sure where to start? Here at visu.al, we are big social listening proponents and have achieved significant results using this powerful digital marketing technique.
A really good example of social listening in practise can be found on our website. Check out our Helvar – Social Landscaping and Analytics case study now and discover how we helped Helvar take its social engagement and ongoing awareness strategies to the next level.
Here at VISU.AL our objective is to navigate clients through the world of social media intelligence. Our social team specialises in extracting brand value from qualitative, quantitative, comparative and competitive data. You may already have a in-house tools, or simply need to partner with an agency to show you a better way to provide actionable insights. We’ll with you and provide you with the key support needed to optimise social listening for your brand.