Social listening includes the process of tracking phrases, words, and sentiments, as well as the analysis of this data.

Though primarily focused on social media, social listening tools typically listen to blogs, forums, and news sources in conjunction with social media outlets. This isn’t a new idea, but these tools allow for automation and scale. Without a social listening tool, you’re stuck searching for individuals’ brand mentions or seeking feedback via reviews or surveys. Social listening is among the best ways to collect voice of customer feedback – and one of the only unsolicited ways.

Many social listening use cases tend to focus on a specific brand image, but it’s possible to surface insights with far more granularity. Social listening can provide insights into overarching image, sentiment regarding public relations campaigns, the specific location of a store, and more.

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Impact of Social Media

We all know the power that social media has in forming opinions. The voice of the customer can be amplified to reach thousands, all from the comfort of home. More than ever, brands need to listen to and monitor what their customers share about them on social media.

Social media has the power to make or break a brand in a matter of a few tweets. Social listening allows marketers and analysts to stay ahead during such pivotal events.

How Social Listening Can Provide Qualitative and Quantitative Data

Unlike other data collection tools, social listening allows you to collect valuable insight directly from the voice of the customer. Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are great ways to quickly gauge how a product, service, or campaign is perceived by your customers.

The zero-party data gleaned from social listening is unsolicited and unfiltered, so it provides insights into potential issues that would typically not be brought up otherwise.

This data, alongside quantitative data about your user, can provide valuable insights that can only be gleaned from a practice that includes social listening. This zero-party data is unsolicited and unfiltered, so it provides unique points of view that users want to share with their followers – offering insights into potential issues that would typically not be brought up otherwise.

How to Select a Social Listening Tool

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The process of selecting a social listening tool can be overwhelming, with lots of options and features to consider.

The first thing to consider is what capabilities you and your team need in order to achieve your goals. Many tools offer a variety of different capabilities and functions. Determining wants and needs will help with the initial round of vetting tools.

If your goal is simply to see the sentiment around your hashtags and keywords, and you have no intention of setting up keyword or sentiment alerts, you can avoid some of the more complex tools available for social listening.

If you don’t have the time or skill to create queries, conduct deep analysis, and perform complex testing, we recommend choosing a turnkey tool for your social listening efforts.

Set and forget, or tinker away? Another thing to keep in mind when searching for your new social listening tool is how much flexibility you want when setting up the tool.

We often get sucked into the features and nuances that can be found in a complex tool, without the time and resources to effectively monitor, update, and create social listening queries. If you don’t have the time or skill to create queries, conduct deep analysis, and perform complex testing on the tool, you may be better off selecting a turnkey tool – something you can “set up and go.” A tool with less complexity will allow you to focus on the data and actions you take from these findings, rather than the nuances of the data being collected.

If you’re looking for unique ways to leverage your social data so that you can listen to and monitor complex queries, a more powerful tool will allow you to customize your listening to achieve these goals. More complex tools allow you to customize queries to specific keywords, locations, users, influencer scores, and much more. Connectivity and integration are also important attributes if you’re looking to connect your social listening to visualization tools like Tableau.

More complex tools allow you to customize queries to specific keywords, locations, users, influencer scores, and much more.

Below are a few common social listening tools to consider:

Sprinklr: Best for those who can dedicate time to creating unique and powerful queries. Sprinklr provides a great amount of granularity in what can be included in queries. This tool also includes visualization and customizable dashboards, which are all custom and will require a hands-on approach to social listening.

Brand24: This tool is great for those looking for a simple and easy-to-use introduction to social listening. Though it does lack some of Sprinklr’s powerful search query abilities and only provides out-of-the-box visualization, it does provide an easy setup for collecting social listening data.

Sprout: This is the “goldilocks” tool for many social listening and monitoring use cases. Sprout provides a relatively simple setup and visualizations to get started quickly, but allows for enough customization to create more complex queries as your needs change.

And Now, Social Listening Strategy

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You now have your social listening tool, but what next? Having a tool but no real plan is like having a race car with only a learner’s permit. You can get around, but you won’t be using it to its true potential. This is why you need to create a social listening strategy.

The first thing to any good strategy is the WHY. Why do you want to start using social listening? What’s your goal? By establishing your high-level goals, you can develop a plan and use this newly acquired tool to help you reach them.

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Brand Image and Sentiment

Brand image is typically the initial draw to social listening – companies want the ability to keep in touch with customers around the world and to see how their brand is being perceived. Many tools will allow you to create unique queries that can be used to listen for sentiment over specific campaigns or products, or to detect overarching sentiment for the brand.

What’s unique about how social listening works compared to other data collection tools is historical data. Social listening doesn’t require that data collection be established to reap the benefits. You’re not limited to data collected since you started social listening. If you’re curious about how your current summer campaign was received compared to last summer, for example, you have access to all this social data no matter when you started collecting social data.

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Social Monitoring

Social monitoring is the act of being engaged in what’s going on with social media as it’s happening. This is where the real power of these social listening tools starts to show. This activity does require some additional time and effort, but it allows you to monitor exactly what is going on as it comes in. If an issue arises, social monitoring allows you to make quick changes to ensure you’re getting the most out of your campaigns.

One way to automate some of the lift that’s required for social monitoring is by building alerts. Many social listening tools have features that allow you to build in alerts when the tool detects a change in sentiment or specific keywords. Notifying your social media team of these potential issues enables you to take quick action, whether by responding to the post or making necessary changes to remedy the situation.

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Visualizing and Analyzing Your Data

You’re coming around the last corner and can see the finish line. Now’s not the time to let up. Visualizing and analyzing your data is the most important part of making informed and actionable recommendations to your teammates.

This data is unique, since you have a direct and uninterrupted understanding of what the customer is saying. The voice of your customer shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a direct look at the customer’s experience and allows your team to take action to resolve, adapt, and evolve.

Unique metrics to keep in mind when analyzing your data are reach and influence. Reach is how many users were exposed to this post, whether directly or through sharing. Reach can take a post that would regularly have only minor exposure to overnight fame. Influence is a metric created by the number of followers/likes a user gets on average. This metric shows the weight that a post can carry if the user has a high influencer score.

The voice of your customer shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a direct look at the customer’s experience and allows your team to take action to resolve, adapt, and evolve.

Visualization of this data can be achieved in two ways. Most tools will provide some sort of standard tool visualization, which will cover a majority of the needs when it comes to social listening analysis and includes sentiment analysis and keyword mapping. If a more complex analysis is required, or if you want to include other data sources such as Google Analytics, a data visualization tool like Tableau will be required to include these data sources.

Using Social Listening Data for Optimization

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The time has come for activation. It’s an exciting endeavor to make changes to how your site or business operates to better meet the needs of your customers – and deliver optimal digital experiences.

The qualitative data you glean from social listening tools will inform potential optimization campaigns to increase conversion rates, changes in marketing dialog to attract customers, and changes to your products. Quantitative data will allow you to make informed choices when creating A/B tests to help improve your website. Taking a look at your user demographics can provide great insight into how to optimize and build a unique digital experience just for them.

You can use zero-party data to gain insight into user sentiment, then use this information to optimize your site, product, or brand. When used with other tools such as website analytics, A/B testing, marketing analytics, Customer Data Platforms, and other data points, zero-party data can help you understand your users’ entire digital experience with your brand. Adding social listening to your tool belt can provide an intimate understanding of the sentiment around your brand that’s otherwise hard to achieve.

Need help with your social listening efforts, or just want to discuss the possibilities? Connect with our social listening experts.