The volume of conversations taking place on social media at any given moment is huge.  To put a number on it (or a few):
  • 6,000 tweets are tweeted each second
  • that’s 350,000 tweets per minute
  • or, 500 million tweets each day
  • or, 200 billion tweets per year
 And that’s just one social platform!  To borrow from Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, ‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room’. So, if your audience is talking about you, or better yet, talking to you, you’re going to want to pay attention.  Using social listening, you can eavesdrop on conversations and analyse trends surrounding your brand or industry as a whole; guiding you to make informed marketing decisions. The purpose of this blog is to walk you through this process, the do’s, don’ts and everything in between. So, let’s get listening.  

Before you start

 Big or small, you should clearly outline what you would like to achieve from your social listening, though the chances are, you’ll find out a lot more than what you were searching for along the way.  Your goals will be specific to your brand, but here are a few tangible questions some brands aim to answer using social listening:
  • To understand consumers’ interests: what are they interacting with besides your brand?
  • To gain insight from your competitors: what is your opponent's approach and how does your strategy compare?
  • Reputation and community management: time to respond and engage with your fans.

Choose your social listening tool

 It’s time to shop around! Every business has different needs, so there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a tool, but we advise that you pick one which offers the following:
  • Automated Sentiment Analysis technology to detect the emotion of user language
  • The ability to track tagged words in real-time & pull historic data
  • Access to data from social platforms important for your brand
  • Analytical features to help you interpret your data
 Many tools offer a trial period, so why not give a few ago to make sure they’re right for you, and then hone in or broaden your approach depending on the results.  

Choose your keywords

 Put simply by @eskimon, ‘you wouldn’t just walk into a party and only join conversations about you’.  Throw a wide net beyond just your brand or product mentions to draw insights around related trends. For example, it may be useful for a CBD beauty brand to track conversations under the hashtag #CBDbeautymovement to gauge wider public perception of similar products and keep tabs on relevant trends. So, put apart time to choose the relevant keywords for your brand, making sure to include common misspellings and suffixes, as well as slang and abbreviations around your topic.  Hypothetically, if I were to collate keywords for a tech company called Pear, who sell a range of products such as myPhones, myPads and myBooks, I would need to consider how my audience would spell and hashtag this brand and all of their products.  As such, I would need to include the broader brand-related words and hashtags. Pear, #pear #peartechology, #peartech, #pearproducts As well as narrowing down into specific products: myPhone, myPhones, #myPhone, #myPhones, #pearmyPhone, #pearmyPhones Which can proliferate further into specific models and varieties: myPhone XL, #myPhoneXL, #blackmyPhone, #whitemyPhone As well as slogans and campaigns:  #thisismyPhone  It’s often worth duplicating some keywords to include a date or location, for example #myPhone2020 or #myPhoneUK. You get the picture.  The syntax may differ by platform, but most tools should follow that pattern. Here’s a checklist to help you kickstart your keyword compilation: 
  1. Brand name & handles
  2. Product(s), models and varieties including common mis-spells
  3. Slogan and hashtagged slogan
  4. Relevant industry hashtags
  5. Brand representatives e.g. CEO, ambassadors, prominent influencers
  6. Campaign keywords & hashtags
  7. Competitor handles, names, products, campaigns & slogans.
 Choose your social platforms: where is your audience centered? When choosing which platforms to focus your social listening on, choose the ones most used by your audience. If you don’t know which this is for your brand, go broad - you don’t want to risk ignoring a chunk of your audience!  While there is no hard or fast rule, for B2C brands this is commonly Instagram and Facebook, while B2B find most of their conversations occur on Twitter and LinkedIn. While it’s worth keeping in mind which platforms are most useful to leverage your brand, a lot can be said for the omnichannel approach. Provide Support found that 9/10 consumers expect to receive a consistent experience over multiple contact channels. So, to maintain your customers expectations prioritise, but don’t limit, your online brand presence. 

Clean your social listening data 

 Social listening data can sometimes be noisy, picking up irrelevant information which can potentially skew your results. For the most part the effect will be negligible, but it’s worth checking to avoid invalid insights.  Often, if something isn’t right you can spot it. A common diagnosis is the misinterpretation of homograph words. For example, if I was collecting social data on the hashtag #CBD, and there was a viral tweet complaining about commuting into London’s central business with the hashtag #CBD, this will skew my results in a number of ways.

To rectify this, you can use specific word combinations to filter and exclude data which might skew results. In this case, you’d exclude any posts which include CBD alongside words such as city centre, district and commuter zone. Think of it as raking your data with a fine-toothed comb.

The key takeaway here is to never assume your first set of data is reliable, check and recheck before you make any deductions! 

Analyse data for content strategy 

 It’s time to listen to your audience!  In the context of social listening, the term ‘analysis’ can be somewhat ambiguous. There are countless ways in which you can explore your data, usually depending on your initial goals. That said, here are a few common ways to experiment with your data to get the ball rolling: 
  • Examine the sentiment towards your topic - check for consistency.
  • Measure the peaks (and troughs) of mention volume.
  • Check for seasonal patterns in online behaviour.
  • Differences in demographics.
  • Note the topics frequently mentioned in combination with your brand.
  • Keep track of and importantly, interact with, your brand advocates.
  • Assess where you stand against your competitors. 
 

Implementation

 Social listening provides a myriad of consumer opinions, useful to inform anything from product development and branding, to blog and social content. 

It could flag up an item that slipped through quality control or highlight a malfunction in your new app. It could inspire fresh flavour combinations for your product development or give you the newest recipes ideas for your website. It could help you understand which industries will benefit from your services, or find out where in the world you’re in demand.

Make sure you communicate your findings and ask for input from wider teams too - they may have questions they’d like answered and will almost certainly be able to benefit from the new information you provide.  

The bottom line

 Social listening is a hugely powerful tool. When used correctly, it’s the next best thing to reading customers’ minds. Most of the time, your audience is telling you what they want, you just have to go out there and listen.  We hope this guide has provided you with a blueprint for your social listening practice. If you would like to know more or have any questions, just get in touch!