If you’ve been working with social media for awhile now chances are you’ve come across the term social listening. You might have ever been asked by a client or boss to compile a social listening report or set up some conversation monitoring.
Social listening differs from standard social media monitoring in that it goes beyond “owned” conversation (such as on your Facebook business page) to learning from the “earned” conversation (across the full spectrum of public social media).
A teacher once smugly told me we have two ears and one mouth, and they should be used in that ratio. He wasn’t wrong, but he was smug.
You can learn a lot from listening in on the conversations happening around your brand. Social Listening is just as important for your social media strategy as posting relevant and interesting content. Learning what makes your audience tick, how they talk about you, and even discovering great user generated content.
Think of social media like one giant focus group. In fact, it’s better than a focus group because the people talking are already actively engaged with your brand, and their opinions and observations are offered unsolicited.
Social listening keeps you on the pulse of your audience and helps you find new audiences you might not have tapped into yet. It can also be used to see what people are saying about your competitors, giving you a sneaky insight into their customer’s conversations across the social sphere.
Social listening can be done manually or automated with platforms that allow you to set up hashtags, handles, and keywords to monitor. Doing it manually on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter is very time consuming and can be challenging with standard search features, but might be necessary in some cases like monitoring specialized forums and niche Facebook Groups where a particular conversation is emerging.
Due to its open platform, and short-form style posts, Twitter is the biggest and best social pool where listening should occur. Agorapulse offers the flexibility to monitor your own brand, as well as others, in a bespoke feed from Twitter. The relevant posts it brings back can then be tagged and assigned to the relevant team member to handle. That goes for Instagram geo-monitoring too.
Agorapulse tends to be misspelled from time to time, so they’ve set up a search for both Agorapulse and Agora pulse.
If you’re just getting started, try sticking to the strictly relevant stuff. Direct conversation occurring about your brand is easiest because you already know what to look for. I call this “looking in the mirror.”
Once you have a grasp on what the conversation about your brand looks like, you can start “looking out the window” and listening to what is being discussed in the space around your brand. If you’re using a listening platform like Agorapulse, you can even create searches for posts with a positive or negative sentiment!
An example of these principles in action was a social listening report I ran for a well known canned tuna brand from Australia. Truly riveting stuff, I know.
They wanted to know how consumers discussed tuna online. Once I was done compiling all their brand mentions, I then ran keywords and mentions for their main competitors. This allowed me to see what social share of voice the client’s brand had in comparison.
I could now look “out the window” with some good understanding and context around the product category. It turned out that people had a lot of opinions on tuna, and they were more than happy to express them. I moved into the broader conversation around tuna. How people talked about it: as a snack, as a source of healthy protein, as a totally gross smell in the office.
From this exploration of the conversation I found out the conversation around tuna had shifted from just a stinky snack, to part of the “fitspo” movement on Instagram. I gave this insight back to the client with examples of posts from each category of conversation. They were shocked they hadn’t thought of targeting the fitness community before, and could now adapt their messaging strategy with some concrete reasoning to justify the shift!
Finding actionable insights is the goal for social listening, but it isn’t always easy. Some brand conversations are much more prevalent than others – it definitely helps if your product is interesting and not just functional! If your brand is a home building material supplier you might have more trouble finding content than say, a flavored milk brand. Trust me, I’ve conducted social listening reports for both.
The other challenge is shifting through posts when there’s a huge volume of conversation coming back. If you ran brand mentions for Ford cars, and just used “Ford” as a keyword, you would bring back opinions on Harrison Ford’s latest movie and a hundred other uses of the word.
Agorapulse allows you to use negative keywords to filter out irrelevant conversation, and saves you the grueling task of doing it manually. (See the earlier search example of Agorapulse and Agorapulse to get a sense of how to set up such a search.) Getting a good quality feed of posts might take some time, but once you set it up correctly you’ll be tuned into the greatest audience insight any marketer could dream of!
Get started with these simple social listening tips and you’ll be able to add “social analyst” to your resume in no time. Good luck!