Social listening for small business 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 business are worth the spend. Having spent a good chunk of my career helping small business 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 gozillions 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…
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:
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.
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.
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 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.