A Guide to Social Listening: Your Social Media Secret Weapon

A Guide to Social Listening: Your Social Media Secret Weapon

This guest post was written by Dane O’Leary of TrustRadius, a review site for business technology. Dane O’Leary is a writer, tech journalist and regular contributor to TrustRadius where he shares his knowledge on the latest trends in B2B news and technologies. He has written editorials, articles, and blog posts for some of the most popular publications on the web, including Android Authority, Phone Arena, NeilPatel.com, and Millennial Magazine.

social listening

After search giant Google, social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are among the most highly-trafficked, most-used digital platforms in the world. By the close of next year, it’s estimated that nearly 2.8 billion people will be on social media, a figure that represents over 35 percent of the global population. You needn’t be a rocket scientist to see the potential these channels have in being able to reach such a substantial portion of the human race.

Social media has immense value for marketing and sales not only because of the size of the audience, but because we tend to of share our experiences and opinions on products, services and companies with our friends and family online.


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In practice, social media marketing refers to using social media to route traffic to your website, boost sales or improve brand awareness. It includes creating and sharing content and engaging your audience. It also includes social listening.

What is social listening?

Social listening refers to observing and analyzing the discussions people are having on social media about your brand.

It goes beyond social monitoring, which is more about simply compiling all your social media mentions and interactions. By comparison, listening is about interpreting those mentions and interactions, analyzing them and reflecting on their significance and implications. Or as Dan Neely, CEO of Networked Insights, poignantly explained it, “Monitoring sees trees; listening sees the forest.”

It’s important to note, though, that listening doesn’t require you to be a passive observer with zero contact or input. Part of social listening is knowing when to engage and become part of the discussions happening naturally around your brand. In some ways, your responses are the most important part of social listening as they facilitate more discussion and make lasting impressions.

Putting together a social listening plan

Start by creating a list of keywords, phrases, and/or social handles to track. You might consider including competitors and some competing products or services. If applicable, add catchphrases or jargon commonly used in your industry. Then log into your social media accounts and begin entering the keywords, phrases and names in your list as queries in the search bar.

The results can be quite telling. You might learn about issues and perceptions about your organizations that you didn’t know about previously. You could learn about complementary products or services that users are mentioning alongside your own brand, giving you candidates for potential partnerships in the future. As you collect and analyze the search results, you’ll see what thoughts and feelings surround your organization, which is useful for directing your marketing efforts.

Once you’ve assessed the discussions, you can start participating in some of the discussions. For instance, if a user has a question about how to get hired at your organization, answer it. When there’s someone having technical difficulties, give them solutions to address the problem or have them contact you on an alternate channel for technical support. The idea is to support and promote the discussions while showing your audience that you’re listening and value their feedback. In turn, this recognition promotes brand loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.

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