The ‘social age’ has allowed us to tap into the valuable opinions of the general public, meaning that marketing professionals no longer have to rely on customer surveys to learn from their target market.

The ability to analyse data from social channels and tap into exactly what people say and think has undeniably changed the marketing and branding process – after all, a staggering 6,000 tweets are produced every second – that’s a lot of data. However, this is not being tapped into by all organisations. Most companies are monitoring their social mentions, either through the channel or by using a platform, but brands of all sizes can benefit from social listening: analysing relevant social data from your audience, your target market, or your competitors to create a proactive strategy and achieve social success.

A common misconception is that social listening is for ‘big brands’, but we disagree. The focus of any marketing/branding/social/communications department is essentially the same – no matter the size or industry. All organisations want to perform well in the following 5 areas:

Brand Reputation / Customer Service

Whether you’re B2C, B2B, a nonprofit or a government department, what people think and feel about your organisation is important to you. So rather than hearing about an annoyed customer, an unpopular decision or poor service in a news story or formal complaint the following morning, why not be an active part of the conversation? After all, Twitter found that 60% of consumers expect a response from brands within an hour and 68% of customers will leave a company because of its poor customer service. A colossal 80% of social customer care inquiries start on Twitter, therefore it pays to be on top of all of your mentions.

But, Twitter tells me when I’ve been mentioned for free? While you do receive notifications for your tagged tweets, there are no alerts for untagged mentions of your brand, specific products or an employee. Take Yorkshire Tea as a recent example. They received huge backlash after the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, posted an image on Twitter featuring himself and a very large bag of Yorkshire brew. Many users tweeted insults at the brand, such as ‘I’m out. Tory by association.’ Yorkshire Tea’s loyal following was under threat after the untagged tweet, which the brand confirms they ‘weren’t asked or involved’ in. Alerted in the first instance by the backlash from their customers, social listening would have alerted the social team to the original untagged mention, and they would be able to contain and report on this crisis. Sentiment analysis is also useful in flagging negative tweets around the brand, both tagged and untagged, in real-time. This helps you prioritise your replies and get back to users with issues swiftly and efficiently.

Social listening also proves useful if your brand or hashtag is spelt wrong, as without it you’re missing out on relevant mentions that you should be aware of. Communications departments in the police force or the air ambulance are able to find users tweeting about accidents, and give them relevant information, while train companies can respond to questions around delays and timetabling issues.

Social listening allows you to be proactive in your media presence, rather than have a limited reactive strategy, and will help to grow your brand as “85% of customers are likely to recommend …[ you] to others after having a satisfactory interaction online”.

Engagements

Everyone wants a successful social channel. No matter the industry or the customer-focus, all marketers aim for engaging content, regular interactions and growth. Social listening helps you to attentively build and curate a community around your brand, by replying to untagged mentions and using the insights and analysis to guide your strategy, analysing what worked and what didn’t. For instance, if a charity has lots of mentions from donors and fundraisers, social listening enables you to reply to users who are directly helping the cause. A personal response also makes a donation the following year much more likely.

By performing the same analysis on your competitors, you can analyse how a successful engagement rate is achieved in your industry and create informed marketing campaigns in the future. For instance, simply benchmarking a company hashtag against a competitor’s, or one campaign against another, you can work out how successful your social content is. You can use the data to tweak your strategy accordingly, improving the success of your channels and you can then easily report on the improvement of your online reputation while driving traffic to your organisation. By keeping track of this growth, you will also effectively prove the value of social. This can be especially helpful when planning next year’s budget, making sure that social has the funding it needs to continue to be successful.

Customer Insights

Development in social analysis is the ability to better understand your audience. By analysing the Twitter data from your mentions (both tagged and untagged), you can learn more about your current and prospective customers, by finding out what they think about your brand, as well as their other likes and dislikes. By piecing together all of the common interests of your audience, you’re able to understand your market context and cost-effectively test brand assumptions. This informed approach helps you to justify future campaigns in knowing exactly who you’re talking to, and what makes them tick.

The same approach can be used to profile your target audience, or a competitor’s, to see which hashtags and content are most effective. This way you can curate your social channels to generate content which you know will appeal to your audience, driving up engagements and creating a loyal social community. This will also increase client acquisition as you gain presence within the market, and cuts out a huge amount of time and work by showing you exactly what to share.

Similarly, you can drive insights for other areas of the business using social listening. Product development can analyse tweets made about your products, and others in the market, to identify pain points and fill the gap. Or, you could benchmark the social mentions of different ice cream flavours, analyse the sentiment for vegan sausages or even just see the demand for takeaways in a specific area. Using data to reinforce your business decisions is far more powerful and makes sure that your product is relevant to the market.

Sales and business development can use the technique to find new prospects, by either searching for people asking for recommendations in your market or by searching for users who are having issues with their current product or service and reach out to them on that basis.

Research & Development can also use the listening to view how public opinion has changed over time – for instance, the increase in the use of the phrase ‘plant-based diet’ over the last year, or even gain competitor intelligence. By collaborating with other teams, you may be able to tap into their budgets too and bring social listening on as a shared tool.

Powerful campaigns

You can also use this data to drive your marketing campaigns. For instance, if you were Netflix, and you knew that your customer base and target market also like ice cream and Friends, a campaign featuring Jennifer Aniston watching Netflix and eating Ben & Jerry’s is most likely to be a successful one. Similarly, if you were an insurance company you might track reports of break-ins in specific locations and target your print ads in the newspapers and bus stops of that region. You can be creative as you want to be with social listening – it is simply having access to the data and the ability to deduce insights from it.

Reporting is key to producing powerful campaigns. Not only can you look at previous work to continually improve your approach, but it can also be used to forge new relationships. To obtain new partners or sponsorship for a campaign you can report on the publicity that a previous partner received using retrospective social data, and put this forward to them in a pitch. Football clubs often use this to attract sponsors for their kits, in showing the ROI of their investment in their association with them.

Social listening also helps you to keep up to date with changes in emotion and trends in the market. For instance, Gillette’s advert ‘We Believe: The Best Men Can Be’, came at the same time as the rising #metoo movement, showing that the brand had listened and changed their tact from punchy macho ads to a thought-provoking statement.

Source: BBC News

Good influencer partnerships (journalist or social)

Finally, you can use social listening to find the most influential journalists and social influencers in your sphere. With the ability to search Twitter bios as well as tweets, you can quickly and easily identify journalists who are influential in the industry and are worth approaching. This targeted approach is an easy way to build relationships with them and find new avenues to get releases out there.

Similarly, you can find social influencers including bloggers, YouTubers, forum commentators and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter users who have a good following and are influential within the market. By curating relationships here, you are able to build the beginnings of a social influencer strategy. You’re also able to find influential people who already love your brand and are natural advocates for your organisation. By discovering this, you can reach out to them and offer opportunities to work together.

Monitoring is only the beginning when unlocking the potential of social analysis. The future will focus on developing this further, and crucially rather than simply hearing what users are saying on social media, organisations will start listening and applying their findings.