Social Listening for Small Business

Social listening for small business is especially powerful, as one good social listening tool can be used to service multiple purposes in your organization.
Social listening for small business is especially powerful, as one good social listening tool can be used to service multiple purposes in your organization.

Social listening tools run the gamut from free to paid, but they follow the same adage as most things in this world: you get what you pay for.

That being the case, I’ve seen a lot of discussions on LinkedIn Groups and the like wherein people debate whether or not paid social listening tools for small business are worth the spend.

Having spent a good chunk of my career helping SMB’s and nonprofits with their marketing plans, I’ll voice what may be a counterintuitive opinion here:

A lot of the confusion around social listening lies in the misapprehension that, because social listening tools monitor social media sites specifically, these are tools that should be used for social media marketing specifically – and social media marketing is still a murky discipline for a lot of us, often without well-articulated business goals that make finding the social media ROI a bit like a treasure hunt without a map.

Social listening is essentially a social search: good social media monitoring tools are harnessing Big Data (which is a problem, not a solution) to cut through the noise of gozillions of conversations happening simultaneously on social networks, and giving you the insights to actually establish those well-articulated business goals that any business initiative should have.

In that way, social listening tools aren’t so much a Swiss Army Knife as they are a spoon: just about everyone in the company can find a use for them.  That being the case, good social listening tools can make the spend worth it by allowing multiple users to set up multiple profiles.  So, if you’re trying to figure out a way to get a spend through your boss for a social listening tool, the best way to do that is to make sure that your software is servicing a legitimate business need.  And so, without further ado…

5 Ways for Small Business to Get the Most out of a Social Listening Tool

1) Competitive Analysis – doing competitive analysis used to require a long, drawn out and often expensive process with external contractors and agencies who would measure difficult-to-quantify things like “share of voice” and “aided brand awareness.”  These days, social listening can be used to benchmark yourselves against your competitors, in a variety of clever ways:

  • Positioning: what are your competitors saying about themselves – and is it resonating?  Take a look at how your competition is positioning itself and its products, and see if they’re getting any feedback from their community that might inform your own marketing efforts.
  • Product: are your competitors giving any clues as to what they might be working on?
  • Share of Voice: which one of you is getting more engagement?  Vanity metrics like “followers” aren’t the best measurement of a social marketing program, in which engagement is the main goal; RT’s and mentions, on the other hand, are a good thing to examine.  Bonus: you may be able to find some solid influencers for your own brand this way.
  • Awareness: Is their brand awareness growing or shrinking – and how does that compare to yours?  One way to tell is to look at whether engagement is growing or shrinking, and whether the folks engaging with your and your competitor’s brand are the same small group of people, or whether it’s growing.

2) Creative Direction – Advertising is expensive, and you don’t want to hit an email list without testing your subject lines.  Twitter is a really great way for subject lines and messaging: try different taglines, hooks and positioning, and see what gets you the most clicks.   This method also works well in crisis communication: if you’re using trying to manage a PR crisis, check to see whether your message is resonating with your customers in a way that suits your brand.

3) Product Research – Your competitors aren’t the only ones talking about products: industry influencers and consumers are talking, too.  Put in general industry searches – you never know what you’ll find.

4) HR – Do you know what your employees and prospects are saying about you?  Sites like glassdoor cater to the detractor, so it’s not always easy to get an accurate view of how you’re perceived out in the world.

5) Market Trends – There are industry influencers and consumers, and then there are investors.  All three are worth listening to when you’re looking at market trends, and any good social media monitoring software will have community features that allow you to tag and follow influencers.