The Power of Social Listening in a Consumer-Driven World

In the social media ecosystem, there are no shortages of key performance indicators (KPIs) that brands rely on to gauge the effectiveness of their strategies – engagement rate, reach, comments, likes, shares, video views, ad clicks, conversions, cost per engagement – and the list goes on.

While we know that a smart application of data can make or break a campaign, it would also serve brands well to remember the reason their audiences are on social media in the first place – to make connections. People crave connections, whether they be with friends, family, influencers or brands, and they’re looking for ways to connect meaningfully. In the same vein, brands should recognize that while ecommerce and sales promotions may pique the interest of audiences, cultivating relationships and making authentic connections is what drives engagement and leads to greater brand affinity.

But conversations between brands and audiences only exist if those audiences choose to respond to what brands are publishing. Together, with the aforementioned KPIs, a strong social listening strategy can add depth to the numbers and campaign statistics, providing direction to content creation, insight for creative innovations and the ability to build valuable connections with consumers.

Audience demographic information

In-platform reporting tools on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter have skyrocketed as valuable assets for any content manager, but from an organic perspective, they really only report on followers and engagement. To find more detailed data about the audiences that actively engage in dialogues about a brand or product online across platforms, even without following the brand, social listening tools like NetBase and Crimson Hexagon are invaluable. Not only do these tools provide author demographics like age, geographic location, and ethnicities, but they also go deeper to analyze authors’ interests and professional industries. This type of knowledge can then be cross-referenced with conversation sentiment and emotions, in order to further segment brand affinities and reactions based on audience types.

Existing conversations

Once these audiences have been established, there are critical opportunities to discover patterns between conversations. These can also be tailored by platform. For instance, are your brand’s younger and more enthusiastic audiences on Twitter or Instagram? Is your 35 – 44 audience critical of the imagery you published, and taking to forums to discuss it? How are your YouTube viewers reacting to your brand’s video, versus viewers on Facebook? Maybe your brand’s content is not being well received on one channel, while garnering strong engagement on another. These qualitative insights can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of how your content is resonating, that would not have been available solely through siloed platform engagement rates and video view statistics.

Identify key brand ambassadors

Many companies oicfind that the best kind of content comes not from the brand itself, but from passionate communities that may follow and engage with the brand. Monitoring existing conversations through social listening can allow brands to tap into these highly engaged audiences, with the opportunity to cultivate them into brand ambassadors. By identifying strong existing brand advocates, companies can utilize those users’ social media authority, harness their influence, and partner on branded content that produces strength in brand positioning, thought leadership, and potentially even product sales. Though the purpose of these partnerships should be rooted in brand storytelling, they can also be leveraged for SEO link building value and campaign promotions, or even geo-targeted in-person event publicity. A 2014 Nielsen study reported that 83% of consumers were more likely to trust third-party recommendations over branded content, rendering influencer marketing to be critical for any digital savvy business.

Tailor brand conversations

Here is where the social listening insights take an even larger role in brand positioning – after analyzing existing conversations and identifying existing brand ambassadors and advocates, it’s important to take a close evaluation of your own brand content strategy. Similar to steering into a curve, if conversations currently exist online that your brand isn’t taking advantage of, a huge opportunity is being missed to lead in that dialogue. These conversations can relate to product offerings and opinions, brand mindshare, advertising feedback, influencer partnerships, competitor performance or customer service. The insights are hugely valuable to almost every aspect of a company’s success, and therefore, key to understanding both your customers’ experience and the future of the brand. Actively participating in (or at least responding to) these conversations allows a brand to engage with audiences, and ensure that users know they are being heard. Once that dialogue is respected, the lines of communication are widened and digital audiences can become more open to messages from the brand, both from a lifestyle and brand story standpoint and from a promotional angle.

Keep an eye on competitor strengths + weaknesses

While it’s natural to put the most focus on internal strengths, weaknesses, and improvements, competitive data analysis can reveal opportunities that may not be immediately obvious without social listening. Many social listening tools provide the opportunity to compare online conversations surrounding multiple brands in many facets, including brand sentiment, overall top terms and themes, audience demographics, and top online platforms. For instance, if specific social platform audiences note a weakness in a competitor’s products, that would present an opportunity to promote your brand’s competing products through a paid campaign strategy on those channels. Or maybe that focus could change your brand’s organic social content approach. These insights can also provide warnings on content or themes to avoid if they are not received positively.

Because of new consumer demands to be both heard and engaged with, social listening has proven to be invaluable for online content marketing. By diving into the data, a brand can take statistics and audience insights, and develop them into a comprehensive, cross-channel content strategy that builds meaningful connections with audiences, and helps to meet strategic business goals.

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