The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Listening: From Monitoring to Strategic Decision Making

The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Listening: From Monitoring to Strategic Decision Making

Philippa Dods
16 April 2018
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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.

What Happens Online in 60 Seconds

What Happens Online in 60 Seconds - Meltwater Social Media Listening for 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.

In particular, it will cover these categories:

  1. What is social media listening?
  2. Why we should use social media listening.
  3. The benefits of social media monitoring.
  4. What types of data can be measured with social media monitoring?
  5. How is this data recovered?
  6. The different ways of using social listening.
  7. How to start your social listening project.

What is Social Media Listening?

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.

What is Social Media Listening - Meltwater Blog

Why We Should Use Social Media Listening

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.

Social Insights

“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.

The Benefits of Social Media Monitoring

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:

  • Social media listening makes it possible to listen to a wide audience – of several million, from any corner of the globe, in a range of languages
  • It avoids the risk of response bias commonly found in surveys and interviews
  • It’s a quick process as the entire system is automated. The data is monitored and analysed in real-time
  • The process requires less budget, less time and less human resources – only a computer and a social media listening tool are necessary

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.

Social Media Monitoring

Image from musicoomph.com

What Types of Data Can Be Measured on Social Media Networks?

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.

1. Quantitative Data

  • The number of mentions: the number of times a specific keyword (a product, brand, expression or hashtag) is mentioned on social media
  • The scope of the mentions: the number of Internet users potentially exposed to a message, calculated according to the audience of the people that have shared the message
  • The number of engagements: the number of interactions between users and content

Quantitative data can be divided into two categories:

  • Descriptive data: Gives you a trend or key figures, such as the number of new subscribers, engagements, impressions or clicks.
  • Actionable data: Contextualises this information by deepening the analysis. Answers questions such as; Where do my new subscribers come from? What type of content receives the most engagement? At what time should I post to get the most amount of impressions?

2. Qualitative Data

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.

  • Sentiment analysis: The development of semantic analysis technologies has made sentiment analysis possible. This lets us know if a keyword, phrase or name is mostly negative, positive or neutral, and is an extremely useful indicator for assessing the perception of a product, update, company, campaign or CEO. By identifying peaks and dips in sentiment, we have a much better chance of understanding how audiences feel about a particular topic. It’s also useful in determining high positives – which may be due to an influencer having posted about you – or extreme negatives – which is often the tell-tale of a crisis. For a full overview of the benefits of sentiment analysis, read this blog!

Social Media Monitoring

  • 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.

Social Media Monitoring

How is This Data Recovered?

  • On social media networks: Most of the main social media networks have their own range of statistics and analysis tool, accessible through the users business profile. The data they provide can be great to use to understand the performance of your profiles and single posts.
  • With social media engagement management tools: Many social media management tools provide more advanced automated analysis for a more in-depth understanding of the data on social media. For example, Meltwater Engage enables companies to manage all social accounts from one platform and schedule posts to targeted audiences – saving social media managers time and effort – as well as benchmarking against competitors and measuring the impact of media strategies.
  • With social media listening tools: For the most exhaustive analysis possible, it’s best to focus on not only your current community but those interested in your competitors and the wider industry.

The Different Ways of Using Social Listening

  • e-Reputation: Keep track of all mentions of your brand and products to understand how your company is being perceived and what topics are surrounding it.
  • Crisis Watch/ prevention: Anticipate crises and limit the chances of them going full scale by monitoring your brand’s sentiment and potentially negative keywords. This allows companies to react as quickly as possible if something comes up.
  • Crisis Damage: Measure the scale of crisis damage and the impact of your recovery by benchmarking your brand sentiment in the months before and after a crisis.
  • Competitive Intelligence: Analyse the communication, news and reputation of your competitors. Social media listening can enable you to predict trends, remain up-to-date with industry innovation and stay ahead of competitors.
  • Trend Report: Identify key topics that drive conversations in your market. By understanding the relevant themes your target audience is talking about, you can discover technologies or trends that your company could be pioneers in.
  • Lead Generation: Discover exciting new business opportunities by monitoring any aspect of your product or business along with “How To” or “Which Tool Do I Choose,” and engage with these consumers and their community.

How to Start Your Social Listening Project

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.

  • Consider the search mode: searches can become quite complex, so it’s imperative that you filter your searches to only what is most relevant (especially if you are a company with a generic name like Apple). Get to grips with how the Boolean searches work to really amplify the impact that social media listening can have on your brand.
  • Filter in customer service: Some social media listening tools, like Meltwater’s, comes with a dedicated Account Managers, enabling you to get the most out of the tool – not to mention the fact that Account Managers are especially helpful in times of a crisis, which you never know might hit!

social media monitoring

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.

social media monitoringDashboards 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.

social media monitoring

Share your results: Meltwater also offers a branded reporting service, using the insights found thr