The person who came up with the concept of “social listening” probably didn’t intend for the name to be ironic, but here we are. So many brands treat social listening as little more than another item on the analytics checklist. They look at the numbers, check out the latest social marketing content, come up with an idea, and then work backward to make it fit their own audience. If they’re really ambitious, they might take a spin through the mentions on the company’s branded social pages (before promptly going back to ignoring them).
It’s a small wonder that when these brands listen on social channels, they don’t like what they hear.
Social Watching is NOT Social Listening
Does it really count as listening if you don’t bother to engage with the people who are supposed to benefit from the listening? Your social media audience is made up of a large, diverse group of individuals. Each of them has complex thoughts, opinions, and feelings about your brand, which they’ve developed based on their own experiences over time.
Why social listening and not focus groups? Focus groups take time and resources to set up, and the formal, structured setting discourages those customers from truly speaking their mind. People are more comfortable asking questions of each other about brands on social channels, where it can be much easier to canvas a larger group, at least in the initial stage.
However, the initial stage of data mining is where many brands stop. There are lots of social listening tools that can gather mentions and sentiment at scale, but the truth is that deep social listening requires time, and a willingness to get your hands dirty. Data mining only gives you part of the picture. There is absolutely no substitute for engaging customers directly, contributing to the conversation, and hearing what they have to say for yourself. Doing anything less is a disservice to your brand, and a huge missed opportunity to connect with the people who matter most to your business.
As important as it is to listen well, it’s also important to take the time to think before speaking on your social pages. When you’re ready to create a post or respond to a comment, think about whether you’re really adding something of value to the conversation. So much social content is little more than noise in the eyes of the audience, and creating more noise is just wasted energy. Think first, post second.
Find Them before They Find You
If you really want to do social listening right, you need to go where the people are and see what they see. Start by encouraging employees to log in and listen through personal social handles, rather than your branded accounts. Social connections tend to be less guarded and more honest when they feel like they’re interacting with another person, rather than a faceless brand.
Social listening is really a much more active process than simply sitting back and listening closely. It involves doing a little digging. There are listening platforms that help you find out what people are saying about your brand and where they’re saying it. However, it’s important to go beyond just searching for mentions of your brand—visit the individual pages of your social connections, too. I’ve said before that you need to put your “hearing ears” on and learn why they’re saying what they say!
Remember that the best listeners are often those who have the knowledge to ask the best questions, and the patience to listen to the answers—even if they don’t like what they hear. How can you correct something if you don’t know it’s an issue in the first place? True social listening is one of your best chances to acquire real, unvarnished feedback. The answers you don’t like hearing will often be the most valuable.
Providing the best experience possible means being truly in tune with your audience, and the best way to get there is through human connection. So make deep social listening a part of your brand’s culture. Don’t just watch—get involved in conversations, and use the other data you collect to supplement your conclusions rather than guide them completely. There’s a ton to be learned from interacting with your audience on their level, and you might even have a bit of fun while growing your brand in the process.
“Lose, Gain, and Give” process: LOSE Your Assumptions, Gain Understanding, GIVE What They’re Asking For.