How do you know if the content you’re creating really resonates with your audience? Sure, you can dive into your analytics to see what performs best. But if everything’s falling flat, how can you tell what your audience really wants to see? By using a magical little technique called social media listening. Particularly in a time when audiences’ expectations for brands to be human, authentic, and tuned into key issues are higher than ever, you need to be engaging in social media listening to learn what your audience really cares about it.
What is social media listening?
Social media listening (also known as social listening) is the process of tuning into social media channels to see what your audience is saying, thinking and feeling, then using this information to make decisions about your marketing activities. Sometimes these techniques can be used to help brands monitor their reputation online by keeping an eye out for tags and mentions of their brand or product, and uncovering what their customers love or don’t love about it. This is sometimes referred to as social media monitoring, which differs slightly from social listening, as it focuses mostly on brand reputation.
Social listening looks at the bigger picture. Beyond just looking for brand mentions and responding to comments, social media listening can help businesses develop a deeper understanding of their audience, who they are and what they really care about. It can also help them ‘read the room’ and see how audiences are feeling about topics related to their industry, or even sensitive issues that are happening on a global scale, like the pandemic or social and environmental issues.
Why is it important?
Social media listening is more pertinent now than ever. The events of 2020 affected different people and industries in different ways, making it difficult to predict how audiences are feeling about things that were once considered normal, including in-person events, interstate travel, going to the theatre or cinema, and even eating out. On top of this, audiences these days have high expectation of brands’ responsibility to be clued in to sensitive issues, and any missteps can publicly damage a brand’s reputation.
A study from Sprout Social found that 67% of consumers believe that brands should be weighing in on and raising awareness of sensitive issues on their social media platforms. Whether or not you think it’s appropriate for your brand to weigh in on these types of issues, social media listening can help to ensure that you don’t put your foot in it by posting something insensitive because you’re not aware of something happening in your industry, or on a wider scale. So, beyond just monitoring for brand mentions, social listening helps you keep your finger on the pulse, and gauge how your audience is thinking and feeling about a whole range of things.
How do I do social media listening?
There are a range of paid tools in the market which have dedicated social listening features, and can monitor mentions, hashtags, keywords and comments and aggregate the data all in one dashboard. These include:
These are usually more focused on the social media monitoring side of things, like brand mentions, brand sentiment and competitor activity. But if you’re a smaller brand looking to DIY without paying for tools, there are a few ways you can approach things:
- Monitor your own social channels. Check regularly for comments, tags, notifications, check-ins, and keep an eye on your branded hashtag if you have one, to see how people are responding to your content and marketing activities. That way, if anything has missed the mark, you can quickly jump in to clarify and put your audiences’ minds at ease. Or if something’s performing well, it’s a chance to take note so you can understand what resonated.
- Monitor your competitors’ social channels. Not just their content, but their comments sections as well. Particularly if they’re commenting on any sensitive issues within your industry, it’s a great chance to see how an audience similar to yours is responding.
- Join and monitor Facebook groups about your industry. These can be a goldmine! Depending on your industry, there are likely to be multiple Facebook groups out there in which people discuss products, services and issues related to your industry. They’re often community run, so people feel free to speak their mind about different brands, ask for recommendations and generally let loose on all sorts of topics. You’re not just looking for mentions of your own brand in these groups. Keep your ear to the ground for frequently asked questions and conversations about general trends in your industry. For instance, if you run a skincare brand, you might join a group in which people discuss their skincare routines and concerns. If you notice a trend in people consistently asking for recommendations of brands that offer environmentally friendly packing, you can use this insight to inform future product decisions, and content. This helps you understand what your audience cares about (both in your industry, and in a broader context), and helps you avoid future missteps and create content that connects with your audience on a deeper level.
- Set up Google Alerts. This isn’t strictly social media listening (more like web monitoring), but it’s essentially the same idea. Set alerts to be notified of mentions of your brand, competitors, or keywords or terms related to your industry. You’ll then get an email notification whenever Google indexes an article or new piece of content that mentions any of these things. It’s a great way to stay abreast of anything that could be newsworthy in your industry. Keeping up to date with news websites and current affairs is also a good idea, to monitor for any sensitive issues or events. While they may not seem relevant to your brand on the surface, it can sometimes be considered insensitive for brands to post like it’s businesses as usual when sensitive events happen, so it’s always important to be informed.
What should do with these insights?
Along with helping you to avoid posting anything insensitive, the primary goal of social listening is so that you can get a better understanding of your audience, and use it to create content that resonates with them on a deeper level. Some ways to approach this are:
- Keep a list of FAQs about your industry that your audience wants answered, and turn it into a series of blogs, videos or Instagram posts.
- Get to know customer pain points and create a lead magnet around them to help attract new customers.
- Understand how your customers talk about your industry and product, and use that language in your own content.
- Get a better understanding of the issues your customers really care about outside of your industry, like the environment or diversity and inclusion, and figure out a way to create content that ties these to your brand values.
Do you think you’ll give social media listening a go in 2021? We’d love to hear about your plans! If you need help with your marketing strategy in 2021, our team are experts in all things digital (including creating on-point content that resonates with audiences!). Get in touch to work with us today.