The Complete Guide to A Winning Social Listening Strategy

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Sproutsocial offers a concise yet complete definition of Social Listening:

Social listening is the process of tracking conversations around specific topics, keywords, phrases, brands or industries, and leveraging your insights to discover opportunities or create content for those audiences.

Sproutsocial

This definition carries two essential components of Social Listening: the process of obtaining relevant data around a topic, and the skill of obtaining valuable insights from it. Acquiring a large amount of data is worth nothing if you are not equipped with the right skills to analyze and extract value from it.

This article will focus on how to build a Social Listening strategy that will set the ground for obtaining the highest possible value from the data you collect through social listening tools.

Why Is Social Listening Essential for Your Online Success?

Social Listening in Numbers

Is Social Listening actually effective for businesses? If so, how much?

The fact that “93% of shoppers’ buying decisions are influenced by social media – because 90% trust peer recommendations against only 14% who trust advertisements” (Business2Community) is one of the strongest arguments in favor of Social Listening. It shows how important it is to have a strong social profile and to maintain a respectable online brand in every online channel.

In addition to that, only 24% of brands do social listening. Add to that the fact that less than one third considers their Social Listening strategy effective (Dashburst) and you have less than 8% of the brands taking real advantage of the process. Therefore, anyone who seriously invests in an effective strategy for the tool has great chances of becoming one of the leaders in Social Listening in its business’ industry.

It Helps You Identify the Industry and Competitor Trends

Social Listening helps you learn from the mistakes of your competition.

By following online mentions and conversations about your industry and competitors, you develop a multidimensional knowledge base about what works and what doesn’t for your target market.

You will learn faster about industry trends, demands, and innovations, and you will collect data about your competition that will constantly show you how their brand strategy is being implemented in the online world.

By providing you a wide variety of data about your competitors, Social Listening helps you learn from their mistakes and avoid repeating them!

It Helps You Attract New Customers and Collect Feedback from Current Ones

More than 80% of the U.S. population has a social networking profile, and many of them constantly share their opinions, desires, plans for the near future, as well as their impressions about companies and brands.

Social Listening allows you to obtain more granular data into your target market preferences and to use the information to optimize your online marketing strategy. This allows you to better connect with potential customers and present your business as the ideal fit to the specific demands of your audience.

Analyzing feedback and customer service is also paramount to business success and can be facilitated through the usage of Social Listening. Since 34.5% of customers rank social media as the top choice for customer care, you should seriously consider listening to your brand mentions and customer feeling in the social networks.

It Helps You Create a More Efficient Content and Web Strategy

The benefits of Social Listening easily extend beyond your own brand and website. Another dimension that is very important for your business is the capability of identifying online influencers who are willing to establish key partnerships.

Social Partnerships are one of the most effective ways of expanding the reach of your brand while simultaneously raising the online trust on your business.

Social Listening offers you a systematic way of monitoring the online presence of influencers and choosing those who you believe will be the most beneficial for your web strategy. 

Getting Ready for Social Listening

Getting Ready for Social Listening
Source: Freepik

But how can you build a winning Social Listening strategy? What are the main components you must consider? How can you constantly optimize it?

The following three elements form the essential foundation for any successful Social Listening strategy.

1. Defining Who You Want to Listen

Before you go further and start running your Social Listening campaigns, it is important to understand not everything is as easy as it seems. There are no miracle tools when it comes to Social Listening: relevant insights are obtained through hard work and precise data analysis.

If you start listening to every single industry you believe is important and to every business competitor, you are likely to run into a huge amount of data that is considerably hard to analyze. Therefore, start by defining who you want to listen to.

Be specific about what the most relevant influencers and companies in your industry are (perhaps you want to check the Pareto Principle section of this article for a more detailed approach on how to do that).

Start by collecting data from a small pool of brands and online personalities to better understand the structure of the data and how you can shape your analysis accordingly.

Once your analysis tools are efficient for your relevant market, you can expand the sources of information you are listening to.

2. Defining What You Want to Listen to

Defining the topics and conversations you will listen to follows the same principles as discussed above.

Start by asking yourself: what are the most important topics that dictate the landscape and trends of my industry? Among these, what are the most relevant ones nowadays?

If you are unsure about how to answer these questions, you can start by setting up Social Listening for exploratory research. Once you have enough data, analyze what are the trendiest topics and update your strategy accordingly.

3. Defining Where You Want to Listen

Social Listening is not restricted to social media networks. It might be the case you want to focus on Reddit threads, for example. When defining the online sources of information, consider asking yourself the following questions: which online communities produce the most usable data for the topics you are following? In which platforms do they interact? How does the data they produce look like?

There are several sources of data that you might consider listening to:

  1. Online comments and feedbacks for your business or for your competitors
  2. Online forums such as Reddit
  3. Social media websites
  4. Online review websites
  5. Influencers’ websites and social profiles

These are just a few examples, and the actual channel you want to monitor might vary according to the industry you are in.

Social Listening Best Practices for Success

Once you have defined the three essential elements above described, it is time to fine-tune your strategy and implement some of the best practices for Social Listening.

Set Up a Strategy to Analyze Your Data Beforehand

This extends the previous discussion about how important it is for you to have an action plan before taking action to collect and analyze data. Social listening provides a wide variety of information on many different topics, so being able to navigate through this sea of information is essential for a successful Social Listening strategy.

An approach similar to the incremental principle of the Agile methodology is recommended here. Strategy improvements are done through iterations that incorporate and validate the new knowledge and build upon your already established knowledge base.

Use Insights about Your Competition as a Tool for Learning Good Practices

Your business or website does not need to be the only source of information about good and bad practices in your industry. An overflowing amount of data about your competition’s strategy, business practices, strengths, and weaknesses is available to be readily accessed.

Setting up dedicated channels to listen and to map your competition’s online behavior will show you which marketing channels they use the most, what are the most common keywords used for advertising, whether their customers are happy with their service or not, what are some of the customer demands and complaints, among other key information that you can profit from.

Share the Information and the Reports with All Relevant People Involved on Your Website

If you have one or more people working on your website, you will want to share the information with them. Actually, the process of cleaning and analyzing your inputs to produce the reports is extremely beneficial, as it will provide you with many other insights that are not easily identifiable if you look just at the raw information.

If you have a customer service sector, for example, you want them to be fully aware of the comments, complaints, and suggestions that are made through social media channels and other sources. The person or department responsible for the marketing of your website should also be aware of what the competition is doing and how you can create a strategy that will win in the market.

Final Words

Social Listening is an extremely powerful process and, when properly set up and optimized, delivers you high-quality data about your business and industry. While it might present a relatively long learning curve, the benefits of Social Listening definitely overweight the initial challenges of fine-tuning the process. The sooner you start creating and implementing your Social Listening strategy, the sooner you start enjoying its incredible benefits!

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