If you’re looking for ways to improve your brand, products, services, and overall customer experience, start engaging in social listening.

What Is Social Listening?

Social listening is the act of monitoring mentions and comments related to your business or industry that appear online. By following keywords and conversations related to your brand, offerings, and industry-related topics, you can get a look at what customers think about you, your competitors, and your market. 

You can engage in social listening by reviewing comments and posts on social media, message boards, comment sections, review sites, and hashtags. Social listening includes looking at content that specifically mentions your brand and also seeking out conversations that mention topics related to your industry as a whole.

Why Is Social Listening Important?

There are many ways that social listening can help you learn about your customers, gauge customer sentiment, manage your brand reputation, build brand loyalty, and improve your overall brand and customer experience

Social listening helps you see:

  • What problems customers have — which allows you to position and shape your offerings and marketing messages to solve them.  
  • What questions customers ask — which allows you to identify barriers and confusion as well as create content that answers questions. 
  • What solutions/features customers want — which allows you to take new approaches to your offerings. 
  • Where customers are in the buying process — which allows you to find leads for your sales team.
  • What other brands are doing wrong — which allows you to see gaps to fill to capture customers not satisfied with other brands. 
  • What other brands are doing right — which allows you to find a path that might help you please your customers in similar ways. 
  • What customers think of your brand — which allows you to see where your brand needs to change or improve. 

Social listening allows your brand to use online conversations to learn about your customers and market. 

But there is another side of social listening that is equally important — the customer service side. 

Many customers use social media and digital communities as a platform for sharing customer service issues. When people have a problem with a brand, they may not call customer service. Instead, they may Tweet at the company or post a poor review to Google or send a Facebook message. 

Social listening isn’t just about using feedback to improve your brand and attract new customers. It’s also about finding feedback that helps and keeps existing customers.

How to Engage In Social Listening 

Now that you know how important social listening is, let’s look at a few ways you can start to use this practice within your business.

1. Decide what you want to monitor. 

Consider what topics are most important to your brand or industry, and create a list of the terms and conversations you want to follow. Your list may include: 

  • Your brand, product, and service names
  • Competitor brand, products, and service names
  • Industry keywords and buzzwords
  • Branded hashtags
  • Your social media handles
  • Names of prominent public figures who work at your company

Pro Tip: Also follow common misspellings of your brand name, products, services, or other terms related to your business. You want to make sure you don’t miss any mentions of your brand, even if they are spelled incorrectly.

2. Set up a social listening system. 

Once you know what you want to track, set up a system that makes it easy for you to monitor the conversations. There are a variety of social listening tools that can help with this.  

  • Hootsuite: Track hashtags, mentions, and comments across social channels and also manage responses to customer comments. 
  • Google Alerts: Set up a Google Alert for top terms and phrases related to your brand, and receive an email anytime they are mentioned on a website or in a blog post. 
  • ReviewTrackers: Curate, monitor, and respond to reviews about your brand as they appear across 100+ review sites.

3. Set up a system for responding and engaging. 

To manage the part of social listening that is primarily tied to customer service, set up a system to manage your responses and engagement. You need to have a plan for handling customer complaints and praise as they come in. 

  • The task of social listening can be blurred across multiple departments. Social media might think it’s their job, while customer success also feels responsible. To successfully engage in social listening, decide and clearly define who is in charge of managing online customer service matters.  
  • Create plans for how teams should respond to certain types of comments. Train your team to mitigate complaints as well as engage with positive comments and feedback.

4. Set up a system for learning.

The powerful part of social listening is hearing what people say, understanding why they said it, and creating a plan for what to do about it. Set up a system that helps your team understand the conversations people are having and create plans of action based on what they learn. 

  • As mentioned earlier, the roles in social listening can be blurred across multiple roles. So clearly identify who is going to manage social listening as it pertains to using it to improve customer experience. 
  • Decide what you want to track. Tie topics to your brand and marketing goals, and decide if you want to track: top questions, themes, and/or sentiment about specific products, services, locations, people, or brand. 
  • Decide who needs to be involved. Depending on your goals and what you are tracking, set up a system for sharing what you learn with your sales, content, marketing, customer service, and/or product development teams.

Continue to Improve Customer Experience

Social listening is just one way that you can learn from your customers to improve the way they experience your brand. For more ideas on how you can improve customer experience, check out our free ebook. Download The Ultimate Guide to In-store Marketing to learn how to create exceptional in-store experiences by exciting and engaging your customers.