Word clouds, like this one that measured the social sentiment around the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding Proposition 8 and DOMA, are themselves a useful infographic. Word clouds are a great way to get a quick idea as to what’s trending, and a good tool will allow you to dig into a term that surfaces and see the context around it.[/caption]

Get Better Results: 3 Tips for Smarter Social Listening

You might wonder why a company that sells B2B software solutions would be interested in listening to the social chatter around the Supreme Court’s decisions on same-sex marriage.

Well, at the highest level, here’s why: finding the conversations that matter to you is the first step in crafting a sound social media marketing strategy that leads to word of mouth.  First, though, you have to find those conversations. With 1200+ results surfacing on an average social media monitoring campaign (well, that’s the number if you’re using a comprehensive social media monitoring tool like Meltwater Buzz), your job becomes a lot easier if you have a software platform that addresses your social media marketing workflow.

Social listening is, at its core, a social media content search.  Your results will be as good as your query.

  •  Know Why You’re Listening | Social Listening for Smarter Business

This may sound obvious, but understanding both the business and marketing goals for a social monitoring program will help you craft better searches, and in turn will yield better results.  Think about what you’re planning to do with the data before you fetch it.

(And now, for more on why a software company cared about listening for the social sentiment surrounding the hotly debated topic of same-sex marriage…)

One marketing goal we have is to demonstrate the power of our software by showcasing its relevancy in real-time, real-world events.  With two seminal Supreme Court marriage equality decisions coming down at the same time, we knew that there would be a lot of social media chatter around the issues – and we knew that the issues would be heavily covered by press.    We set up some generalized searches before the rulings to get a read on what people were saying, and set up more specific searches based on those findings.  The data was eventually visualized in an infographic (below) that was pitched to press outlets with an audience appropriate for our products.  Mashable picked it up, leading to word-of-mouth in the form of over 1000 shares.

  • Narrow Your Searches | Social Listening & Search Modifiers

All social listening tools have limits on the number of results your account can return at any given price point: hey, the data isn’t free.  Because professional tools pull in millions of data sources every hour, it’s a good idea to add filters to your searches – especially if your brand name is a commonly used word like “apple.”  If you’re monitoring social sentiment around a specific brand or event, consider putting in modifiers that give you the story you want told.  (For tips on better Boolean searches, check out this article.)

The DOMA/Prop 8 campaign search didn’t just have “DOMA” and “Prop 8” searches set up.  We also set up specific Boolean searches that involved Supreme Court justice names (though nothing terribly interesting came out of them), and names of specific organizations that we knew would be particularly vocal.  The Human Rights Campaign absolutely dominated social channels, with both their red equal sign image and their #marriageequality hashtag. If you’re in a consulting or agency role, these sorts of organization-specific searches and the insights associated with them are what can lead you to a compelling client pitch.

  • Look at the Word Cloud First | Social Listening & Data Visualization

Comprehensive tools yield comprehensive results.  Once you start analysis, the word cloud is a quick way to cut through the noise and get a high-level look at the central themes in your search results.  The word cloud is also a great way to find additional narrowed searches that you may not have considered.  Once you dig into the context around the words in the cloud, you will see the actual stream of content that led to the word.  This not only gives you a full picture of the conversation (was someone just RT’d a whole lot on Twitter, as was the case of Seth McFarlane in the Prop 8 word cloud, or is there a lot of organic chatter around a certain term?), but it also allows you to identify influencers in your target social communities (in this case, Seth McFarlane and Barack Obama were the popular kids).

The word clouds we found in our initial Prop 8 / DOMA searches gave us a read as to the tone and the content of the social conversation.  This allowed us to narrow in on certain themes to get additional information.

So listen up, and listen well, because finding the conversations that matter to you is the first step in crafting a sound social media marketing strategy.  By listening to what people are saying about you, you can get the insight you need to turn social conversations into customers, and customers into advocates.  Social media is a relationship marketing discipline, after all, good relationships require good listening skills.

The full infographic, as picked up by Mashable, is below:

This infographic, created after a deep dive into the word cloud gave us the context for all the social buzz surrounding Prop 8 & DOMA, was picked up by Mashable and shared over 1000 times.