The amount of data that is shared online every second of every day is now as hard to comprehend as the size of the galaxy. Every hour, millions of Tweets are sent and Instagram/ Facebook posts uploaded. Keeping track of this data is near enough impossible. Widely referred to as “content shock” or “information overload,” this bombardment of data is making it increasingly challenging for brands to get themselves heard on any platform at any given time, let alone make sense of all the customer information at their fingertips. Fortunately, social media listening can help steer us in the right direction with the added benefit of strategic decision making.
The average day sees 1.4 billion people log on to Facebook, 500 million Tweets sent and 95 million photos are shared on Instagram. How can companies possibly make sense of all this information and then go on to use the data for strategic decision making?
Enter social media listening.
Social media listening tools allow companies to track, manage and analyse billions of ever-changing data-points, to learn from and ultimately, for better strategic decision making. This article will cover the basics of social media listening and how you can use it to benefit your business and brand.
Social media listening is also known as social media monitoring. It refers to the activity of monitoring and analysing messages published on social media networks, around a chosen subject. This includes all of your big social platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, but also smaller community-based and consumer-opinion websites, such as blogs, vlogs, forums and comment sections.
Businesses monitor social to gain an external and broad understanding of what is happening around their company, including their competitors and industry. With a strong social media listening tool, companies can, to name a few, monitor their online reputation, competitive intelligence, predict and analyse trends and search for consumer insights.
Thanks to the implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning into top social media listening tools, monitoring is now automated and completed in real-time. The analysis is usually presented in the form of dashboards, to facilitate easy understanding of the massive amount of data.
The use of social media platforms is increasing. There is a multitude of online platforms that all have their own audience, editorial line, content and purpose. Whether the platform’s key characteristic is written messages or shared images, all online exchanges leave traces on the Web which companies can analyse to better understand their audience and identify social insights. We call these traces digital breadcrumbs.
Pride in London use Meltwater’s social media monitoring tool to make sense of conversations taking place online. Stephen Ward, Deputy Chair and Communications Director at Pride in London discusses the value of social listening. “Social listening helps us better understand whether key messages are resonating or becoming lost in the noise. We measure messages using volume and sentiment metrics. Looking at the tonality of conversations is particularly helpful in ensuring we continue to be objective with regard to the success of our campaigns.”
Pride also use Meltwater to track their community growth and ROI. Their tremendous growth, both online and offline, is clearly reflected in the numbers. “In 2013-2014 Pride grew by 135%, from 2014-2015 growth peaked to 215% and indications suggest 2016’s community growth will follow the same trend. I attribute such positive growth to authentic engagement- reflecting community views in our messaging and bringing them to a wider audience through fully integrated and interactive campaigns.” Says Stephen Ward, Deputy Chair and Communications Director at Pride in London.
“Insight” is a word commonly used by marketing and communications professionals, although it has an ambiguous meaning. We understand insight to refer to the interpretation of an observation. This interpretation opens up a field of investigation, discovery and hopefully action. Today, when we talk about insights it’s largely focused on consumer insights.
Social insights are based on an observation and analysis of social conversations around a brand or problem and, as we will see, can lead to strategic decision making.
Some argue that social media listening has replaced focus groups since can tune into the conversations online using a tool. Here are a few reasons why:
Whilst social media listening tools provide more qualitative analyses such as sentiment analysis and identification of emerging trends, market studies are not completely redundant. It is a collection and analysis of data about target audiences, competitors and environments that aim to increase the deeper understanding of a company. The two actually really complement each other: social insights can be used to prove a trend revealed by a market study, for example.
Simply put, quantitative data gets you the numbers to prove the broad general points of your research. Qualitative data, on the other hand, brings you the details and the depth to understand their full implications. The two are complementary and, in order to fully understand data, both are usually needed.
Quantitative data can be divided into two categories:
Qualitative data helps companies to better understand numbers. This is achieved by listening to online exchanges and conversations by consumers, which are undoubtedly full of useful information. If the quantitative data tells us what’s going on, the qualitative data helps us understand why this is happening.
There are two primary, or most useful, examples of qualitative data: sentiment analysis and trend analysis.
Trend analysis: No one has the ability to read through the millions of posts shared every day, but it is possible to automatically analyse correlations between exchanges and extract conversational tendencies. This is perfect for companies wanting to understand the context in which your brand or product is being talked about, and with which themes it is associated.
Follow our step by step process to get your companies social listening off the ground!
1. Define your goals: What do you want to get out of the tool – do you want to know your consumer better? Stay ahead of your competition? Protect your reputation from a crisis?
2. Determine channels to monitor: Think about your goals and whether they are achievable on the social media channels where your audience hang out. Any good media monitoring tool will be able to showcase which channels your audience is communication on. If, for example, your goal is to drive people to your website, Instagram isn’t the best platform for this as you’re pretty restrictive when it comes to where you can post a link.
3. Choose the right tools: Have a scan of this blog before researching for a tool, 5 Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Social Media Monitoring Tool. We’ve provided a few other tips to help with your search below.
Set up alerts: To really stay on top of your game, set up alerts so that you never miss an important mention of your brand, competitor or industry. You can choose whether you want to be alerted on all mentions or as soon as a crisis or major trend emerges.
Analyse and compare your data: In a couple of very simple steps, you can create a visually appealing page of insights that can be understood with ease. We call these dashboards.
Dashboards are custom-made, so you can be as high level or granular as you want. This typically depends on the person using the dashboard to make sense of the conversation. For example, your social media manager will be interested in starting a conversation with influencers compared to your CEO who may be interested in seeing social media share of voice. The dashboard can analyse a whole range of metrics including trending themes, media exposure, sentiment analysis or share of voice.
Share your results: Meltwater also offers a branded reporting service, using the insights found through social media listening. Similarly to the dashboards, the reports are compiled specifically for you and include whichever stats and insights you choose. You can then share your hard work and the results with colleagues, clients or whichever department the results concern.
Create an action plan: Social media listening is not just about monitoring, but also about taking action. Some tools provide such thorough analysis and actionable insights that creating a plan of action is quick and easy. In the fast-paced, digitised world we live in, being able to make these kinds of plans and decisions quickly is crucial.
Want to learn more about social listening, reporting and engaging with Meltwater? Contact us today!