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5 Ways Small Business Can Use Social Listening Tools

Mar 10, 2024

Social Listening for Small Business

Social listening for small businesses is especially powerful, as one good social listening tool can be used to serve 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 businesses are worth the spend. Having spent a good chunk of my career helping small businesses 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 to cut through the noise of gazillions of conversations happening simultaneously on social networks and giving not just the marketing teams, but all departments throughout an organisation 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 your marketing team is 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

Competitive analysis is an essential part of every business strategy. While a competitive analysis used to require a long, drawn-out and often expensive process with external contractors and agencies, 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 with relevant followers? Take a look at how your competition is positioning itself and its products and see if they’re getting any feedback from relevant community members that might inform your own marketing efforts. Don't just jump in and implement the insights you find, dig a little deeper and watch how conversations progress over a few months - you might find an interesting trend. If you're a small business, it's wise to look at other SMBs to ensure your budget can achieve the same things.
  • Product: Are your small business competitors giving any clues as to what they might be working on? How can you combat this with your own strategy? Again, don't be hasty and change company direction just because you know your competitor is working on something. Use the insights you find to explore deeper, for example, run an industry keyword search on the insight you've found to see if there's a progressive spike in engagement. Just because your competitor is doing something, doesn't mean its right. For example, you may find that conversation around a particular topic is dwindling, suggesting it's not a strategically wise move to follow suit.
  • Share of Voice: Which one of you is getting more engagement?  Vanity metrics like “followers” aren’t the best measurement of a social marketing strategy. Afterall, followers only bring something to the table if they engage with you. As such, instead of followers, use engagement as a success metric.
  • Awareness: Is their brand awareness growing or shrinking amongst relevant audiences– and how does that compare to yours?  One way to tell is to look at whether engagement is increasing or decreasing, and whether the folks engaging with you and your competitor’s brands are the same small group of people, or whether it’s growing.

2) Creative Direction

Twitter is a really great way for testing subject lines and messaging on your follower. You can post the same article days apart and try different taglines, hooks and positioning to 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.

Using real audience data from your followers is a sure way to increase positive engagement. It's wise to document what you find and use the insights to pave way for your future content marketing strategy, for example, if you notice a trend in that your community responds better to humour, you may wish to lead with this tonality in a future advertising campaign.

3) Product Research

Your competitors aren’t the only ones talking about products: industry influencers and consumers are talking, too. Put your small business's brand name as a general industry search term – you never know what you’ll find. If your brand only recently launched, it's unlikely you'll find conversations about your company, however, what relevant followers have to say about your industry as a whole/ competitor's products is equally as important and forms the basis of a good R&D strategy.

4) HR

Do you know what your employees 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. None the less, it's important to understand what people think of your brand as this can considerably impact the people you attract working for your small business. Skills are critical - and so is a good brand reputation to plug the skill gaps you may have.

There are industry influencers and consumers, and then there are investors. Insights from 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.

Hopefully, this article has explained how your small business can leverage social marketing, and social media listening, to inform the strategies of your entire business rather than just the marketing team. For a more comprehensive view on social listening across the business organization, check our free social listening guide, or take a listen to our social listening webinar, both of which take a deep dive on how to best use social listening throughout your company.