It’s impossible to quantify the number of conversations happening on social media. Every second of every day, people discuss breaking news, share personal updates, trade inside jokes, and more. They also take to social media to discuss the products they buy and the brands they buy from. Modern marketers can’t allow these conversations to fall on deaf ears — and that’s where social listening comes in.

In today’s blog post, we offer a comprehensive guide to social listening. Keep reading to find out what it is, how it benefits modern marketers, and what you need to keep in mind to create a successful social listening strategy! 

What is Social Listening?

Social listening is the process of listening to the conversations of your customers and potential buyers on social media. Through this practice, marketers are able to collect vast amounts of valuable data concerning their brand, products, customer needs and preferences, competition, and much more.

Social Listening vs. Monitoring: What’s the Difference?

One of the biggest misconceptions marketers make about social listening is to assume the practice is the same thing as social media monitoring. Not sure what the difference is? Let us break it down for you.

Though similar, social media monitoring is simply the process of watching @mentions and comments pour in via your social profiles, mobile apps or blogs. However, not all conversations relevant to your brand will appear in your notifications. 

In fact, according to one recent study, only 9% of Tweets that impact your company are actually directed at your brand (source) – meaning, most conversations about your brand are happening without you. In short, social media monitoring merely scratches the surface of valuable social information.

Social listening on the other hand dives deeper. By tracking relevant keywords, phrases, and events, organizations that implement a social listening strategy are in active pursuit of the conversations that provide meaning and context to their brand.

When executed effectively, this practice paints a clearer picture of a brand’s entire social media presence, and provides teams with many valuable brand and industry insights.  Armed with this information, an organization is able to take action and engage with their audience in a more meaningful way.

The Benefits of Social Listening

Considering the data it provides, it’s really no wonder that your marketing team can benefit from implementing a social listening strategy. However, in case you’re in need of a little extra convincing, we’ve compiled a few key benefits you can expect from implementing this practice:

1. Strategy measurement. 

Successful social media marketing is often a trial and error process. To drive success, your team must be vigilant when determining which tactics work and which don’t.

Social listening allows you to identify strategic wins and losses in real time – from the posts that garner the most social engagement, to the time of day they’re most active. This information can be used to tailor nearly every aspect of your social media strategy, including content types and post cadence, to ensure optimal results.

2. Content marketing. 

Any seasoned marketer will tell you, business success lies in your ability to deliver content that resonates deeply with your audience. However, this cannot be accomplished without a true understanding of who your audience is.

As discussed above, social listening provides access to valuable insights about your target audience, delivered straight from the source. Better insights can not only help determine what topics your prospects care about most, but can effectively uncover significant buying motivators you may not have previously recognized, including any pain points, concerns and questions they share.

Use these insights to guide your content strategy, from the subject matter you focus on, to the format you choose. The end result is content that not only speaks directly to your prospect, but can successfully move them through the buyers’ cycle. 

3. Lead generation. 

Since its inception, social media has quickly become a major source of leads for many organizations. In fact, according to one recent report, revenue increased for 24% of businesses when they utilized social media for lead generation. (source)

Social listening boosts lead generation by allowing your organization to track social conversations that are relevant to your business or industry. When executed effectively, social listening can uncover new potential prospects your team can then nurture with meaningful conversations and interactions.

4. Reputation & crisis management. 

Social media makes it easier than ever for current customers to provide transparent feedback about their experience with your company. Social listening allows you to track and analyze patterns of sentiment amongst your current customers, be it good or bad.

While positive mentions are ideal, not all your customers and prospects are going to sing your brand’s praises. Social listening allows a business to stay on top of negative sentiment and tackle potential crises while they’re still small. 

5. Influencer marketing. 

Unless you’ve lived under a rock the last few years, you’re probably familiar with influencer marketing –the process of leveraging the popularity of social media influencers to promote your brand. This innovative strategy has taken the marketing world by storm for good reason: Recent studies show that it can produce 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of advertising annually (source).

However, successful influencer marketing depends on one major factor: Choosing the right individual to support your brand. Luckily, social listening can once again aid in your efforts. Through strategic analysis of industry related conversations, your team can effectively identify which influencers and industry celebrities resonate most with your target audience.

6. Competitive analysis. 

Social listening not only provides insights into your own company, but it allows you to keep tabs on your competition. While it’s important to listen to your consumer, it’s equally important to listen to your competitors. Are your biggest competitors beating you when it comes to social media and if so, how? Social listening can provide you with these answers.

7. Product development. 

While you may think your organization offers a top notch product or service, in reality, your customers – the individuals who actually use your solution – may think otherwise. And for better or for worse, they’re probably sharing these opinions on the internet.

Social listening can uncover your customer’s true opinions of your product or service. This information is not only helpful in immediate situations (i.e. uncovering/fixing bugs or defective features), but can guide future product development to deliver solutions that exceed your customers’ needs and expectations.

8. Customer service. 

For the most part, many of your prospects and customers will be connected with your brand on social media for one specific reason – customer service. In fact, according to a recent survey, 31% of consumers interact with brands on social media to gain direct access to customer services and product experts. Of that same demographic, 81% of Twitter users expect a same-day response to questions and complaints, whilst 3% expect an answer within 30 minutes (source).

With strategic social listening practices in place, your organization will be able to create a more streamlined effort to track these requests and provide accurate assistance. Timely, appropriate, and helpful responses not only ensure customer loyalty, but show prospective clients how great your company is to work with.

5 Steps for a Successful Social Listening Strategy

We know what you’re thinking: Sure, social listening can produce a ton of valuable insights and opportunities – but how do you go about obtaining it all in an effective manner? Worry not, we’ve got just the solution you’ll need. Keep reading for our tips, tricks and best practices for establishing an effective social listening strategy.

1. Define your social listening goals.

The first step in your social listening strategy should be to identify specific goals. In other words, what would you like to get out of this process?

Goals not only ensure that your time and resources are not wasted, but they also lay the foundation for the rest of your strategy; from determining which insights will provide value, to which keywords you should track to find them. 

Obviously, the goals you set will differ depending on what’s important to your organization. A good rule of thumb is to correlate your social listening goals with the overall goals of your marketing department – i.e. lead generation, engagement, etc.

2. Determine your target keywords.

Develop a keyword strategy to help you sort meaningful conversations from the rest of the noise happening on social media. There is no exact formula to determine which keywords will serve your efforts best. However, there are a few general ideas that can start you in the right direction:

  • Your brand name, social handles, product/service names, and slogan.
  • Your competitors’ names, product names, slogan, and handles.
  • Popular industry topics and buzzwords.
  • Names of key people in your company and your competitors’ companies (executives, spokespeople, etc.)
  • Campaign names or keywords.
  • Your branded hashtags and those of your competitors.
  • Unbranded hashtags related to your industry.

Hint: If you know that certain keywords are often misspelled, or abbreviated, be sure to include these variations in your strategy.

Social listening is often a trial and error process. Don’t get discouraged if your first go doesn’t produce the results you were looking for. As you begin to better understand the language your audience uses, your keyword strategy will evolve. The trick is to learn from your mistakes and then fine tune your strategy.

3. Invest in the right tools.

If you haven’t noticed yet, social listening is a pretty involved process. Luckily, there are now a number of different tools marketers can use to streamline their efforts. These tools often come with advanced tracking capabilities that not only allow you to listen to customers and track competitors, but are also often able to make tedious tasks, like sorting meaningful data from the noise, much simpler. As an added bonus, many tools can even automate reports to prove ROI of your efforts.

For the most part, these tools will look relatively similar to one another at first glance. However, it is important to note that no two tools are exactly the same. Your marketing goals, budget, and resources will determine which tool is the best fit.

For more information on what you should be looking for in a tool, check out these blog posts:

4. Make it a collaborative effort.

Remember, the impact of social listening extends beyond the social media manager.  The insights you glean can provide value to a slew of other departments, from customer success, to product development, to HR. However, what provides value to your customer success team, may have little meaning to the marketing department.

Think about it this way: Would you trust a marketing team member to take over the customer success phones for the day? Probably not. So, why would you let them provide assistance on social media?

Social listening produces too much diverse information for one person or department to process and handle effectively. So, it’s important that your organization gets the right individuals involved in the social listening process.

5. Take action.

It’s important to remember that social listening is more than simply tracking metrics. It requires you to take action with the information you’ve collected.

For example, let’s say you leverage social listening to gauge your audience’s response to a new product. All of your metrics suggest the product is performing well. But, through social listening, you discover that many of your customers have expressed frustrations about the product’s interface.

You take action by reaching out to the customers who have issued complaints. You ask for additional feedback and offer suggestions to help the customers use the product more effectively. Then, you bring these social complaints to your product team. They leverage this feedback to make tweaks to their product interface ahead of its next update.

Final Thoughts on Social Listening

There’s no denying that social media is a challenging landscape for marketers to navigate. Each platform has unique features and capabilities, not to mention the audiences of millions who use them every single day. Keeping up with every single mention of your brand might seem like a daunting task.

But, it’s important to view social media as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Social listening allows you to understand your audience in ways that were once impossible. It enables you to know what your customers and prospects want, need, enjoy, and dislike. These insights are the building blocks of a successful marketing strategy. If you haven’t been listening, the time to start is now.

For more insights on how to improve your marketing efforts, contact one of our sales reps today. ZoomInfo, powered by DiscoverOrg, offers the comprehensive B2B contact database you need to scale your entire strategy and achieve lasting business growth.

About the author

Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is a content marketing director at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact data solution.

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