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Social Listening: Everything to Know Before You Start

Social Listening: Everything to Know Before You Start

Home Blog Digital Marketing Social Listening: Everything to Know Before You Start

3.8 billion.

This is the amount of social media users out there (WeAreSocial, January 2020). In 2020, this represents about 49.5% of the world’s population. 

As a result, we see a LOT of fresh data published and shared each day online. 

Here’s a snapshot of the estimated amount of information circulating each minute in 2019 on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

Social Listening - Social Media Usage in 60 seconds

Source: World Economic Forum, 2019.

This means two things:

  1. There’s a LOT of information created each day on social media platforms only (not even counting blog posts, news articles, forums and review sites).
  2. This noise makes relevant social media messages inaudible for your business.

Yet, businesses cannot afford not to have a strong social media presence as their customers certainly use social sites. That’s true for all types of businesses, regardless of their business model (B2B, B2C, B2B2C, etc.). 

In short, you need a strong social presence to capture your audience’s attention.

More importantly, they may already be talking about your brand, competition and/or problems you can help solve on social networks. 

But if you’re not able to make sense of all the social media noise and keep track of those key conversations for your business, you’re missing out – big time.

In this comprehensive blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know about social listening. What it is, why is it relevant for your business and how to use it to identify key conversations, watch your competitors, and deliver a better customer experience.

To go a step further, download: 

  • A cheatsheet to choose the right listening tool for your needs
  • 6-Step Guide to Kickstart Your Social Listening Strategy

What is social listening?

Social listening is a technology that shows you what is being said on social media, without you having to go looking for it.

It lets you:

  • Know what’s said about your brand, as it happens.
  • Track social media mentions on top social media platforms.
  • Evaluate the tone, influence and reach of those social messages.
  • Analyze relevant data and identify trends.
  • Create aggregated reports to understand the big picture and share it with your colleagues and clients.

Now, if you’ve been on the lookout to learn about social media listening, you’ve probably encountered another term: social media monitoring.

How does social listening differ from online monitoring?

It’s a bit confusing.

Most people (we included, in the past) mistakenly use both terms to talk about the same thing. But in reality, there’s a slight difference between the two.

Social media monitoring

To monitor: “To observe, record, or detect with instruments that have no effect upon the operation or condition.

Social media monitoring is about collecting data (quantitative):

  • How many times was your brand mentioned?
  • What is your overall brand awareness?
Social-Listening-social-media-monitoring

Social media listening

To listen: “To give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing

Social media listening (or social listening) is about understanding and analyzing this data (qualitative). Why is this happening and how can you leverage this data to grow your brand: 

  • Who is talking about your brand?
  • Where was your brand mentioned?
  • How are they talking about your brand?
  • What are the trends you should worry about?
  • How does your brand compare to the competition?
Social-Listening-social-media-listening-qualitative-data

In short, social media monitoring will tell you what’s happening, while social media listening will give you an explanation as to why something is happening.

This is something to keep in mind when looking for free tools. Advanced tools like Mention excels both at monitoring and at listening.

Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s dive in.

Never miss a relevant conversation about your brand with social listening

Let’s face it, 10 years ago, managing one’s social media accounts wasn’t as time-consuming as it is today. First of all, social media wasn’t as broadly adopted by your target audience and thus wasn’t playing a central role in your marketing strategy. 

You maybe had a couple of social accounts, if any, and you weren’t sure if you were going anywhere with it.

Oh, how things have changed, eh?

Social-Listening-oh-boy

Indeed, things are a little different these days.

Today, social media isn’t just for chatting with friends and most businesses have somewhat of a presence on social media. What’s more, it has become a powerful sales tool

At the very least, your business needs to be there to answer customers and stay connected.

This is, of course, easier said than done as your target audience is likely active on a LOT of different social sites, may it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest or even world-famous sites such as Reddit. 

As a result, you don’t have the manpower to know what they may say about your brand and industry on all of them at once. At least, not without a little help. 

That’s why we have social listening tools.

All brands can benefit somehow from social listening.

We know something about this. We’re “Mention. Most of the mentions we receive each day on a social platform like Twitter aren’t even directed to us. We’re mostly mentioned in conversations in which users ask to “@mention” people.

Sadly, not everybody knows how to Twitter.

Social-Listening-ok-boomer

But that’s okay because we have Mention to help us out (big time).

Using Mention, we sort out the sheep from the goats and focus on the actual conversations that are directed to us or are about us, thus eliminating all the “please @mention your friends” noise.

Social-Listening-thank-you

That’s not all. 

31% of company mentions on Twitter don’t include brand @handles. Thus making it harder for brands to catch relevant conversations.

This is something Target excels at. Using a social listening tool, they identify and jump on to any relevant conversation about them.

That way, they can maintain high-level customer service.

Now, social media is not only about you (in fact, it’s mostly not about you), and brands with very little followers can too benefit from social listening.

How so?

By keeping a hear out for market trends and evaluating what the competition does right. With the right knowledge, small brands have everything they need to work on the right things and grow.

Lastly, we know too well that data is worth nothing if you can’t use it

A social media listening tool will also provide you with insightful reports to help you understand the “why” and “how” hiding behind any mention of your brand.

Check the stellar & live dashboard we have on @Nasa (we like space stuff).

social-listening-Nasa-Dashboard

Track every social channel from one place

This is the key point. You could go from network to network searching for any mention of your brand name.

But there are two bigs flaws to this strategy:

  1. It’s a waste of your valuable time.
  2. You will miss things.

There are too many sources, too many customers, and too many voices. And when you do finally miss something, it could end up being a costly complaint from a valued customer, or an endorsement from a powerful influencer.

But you don’t have to risk it. A social listening tool picks up every mention of your brand on social media and pulls it all into one place.

Social Listening - all from one place
When creating an alert using Mention, you can select the sources you want to listen to.
Social-Listening-mentions-sources

That way, you can see everything said about you as it happens, from one plan, thus saving you a whopping amount of time.

Social listening to jump on key conversations about your brand, products, and services

You could be providing the best service in the world, your brand is only worth what your customers are willing to invest in it

And today, a brand can only be successful if it has the means to take care of its customers.

If there’s something I learned working in marketing is that people complain all. the. time. Before social media, brands could rely on call centers and hard mail to deal with complaints and help customers in need. It was a private and potentially lengthy process.

A study relayed by Convince and Convert revealed that show that 47% of social media users directly reach out to brands on social media (thus publicly) to complain.

What’s more, another study from Altitude shows that 80% of consumers demand that brands answer to their social messages within 24 hours. Beyond that, brands risk losing their customers to the competition.

Now, social media can also hurt your brand if you’re not paying attention.

Social listening to identify potential threats

Social media is a fast-moving, high-intensity space. It’s where things “go viral,” after all. For this reason, brands need to watch carefully for negative press. One disgruntled former staff member, or an unhappy client, can post virtually anything they like online. And if that message gains traction, you’ve gone from one person saying bad things, to thousands.

It may seem dramatic, but a brand crisis can catch you when you least expect it. And if it does, you’ll be glad that you caught it early and had a chance to limit the damage. That’s why social media monitoring should be part of any crisis management plan.

Mention Pulse Alerts to be notified ASAP when something happens

Pulse Alerts are one of Mention’s key crisis management features. If there’s any radical increase in mentions of your brand (or anything else you’re listening to for that matter), you can be notified via email and/or via text message.

Because they defend controversial causes, Doctors of the World relies a lot on Mention to identify both foreign and domestic threats against their own people. If they catch a viral conversation mentioning gatherings and other forms of physical intimidation, they can notify both the local law enforcement authorities and their own security to prevent any situation to escalate from bad to worse.”
Clémentine Bourreau, Customer Success Manager @Mention

Control your reputation online

Here’s an example of a negative conversation about video games.

Social-Listening-Critics-on-social-media

Wolfenstein Youngblood (…) the worst game I’ve played this year besides Anthem

Almost as bad as Rage 2 on so many levels

Sh*t writing

Don’t remind me that I own Anthem

(These are video games by the way).

This is a whole conversation taking place for everybody to see on Twitter, and nobody took the time to tag Bethesda (Wolfenstein & Rage 2) or Electronic Arts (Anthem) directly. Chances are that they could gain control of the conversation by joining it. 

Just as you can go viral in a bad way, a witty and well-timed social media response can spread like wildfire.

Social listening improve your products

Advanced social listening tools like Mention are designed to facilitate team-work. If you identify relevant conversation you or another team member should jump onto, you can assign tasks and they’ll be notified instantly from the app, and via email.

Social listening is also a fine way to evaluate if your current offer matches your customers and market expectations.

You need to know what your target audience thinks about your products and services. 

Now, you’ve probably noticed that people talk freely about absolutely everything on social media.

While that can be frustrating, it’s also a great place to find honest feedback about your brand.

Social Listening - mailchimp product complaint

Start paying attention to what people say about you when it’s not to your face. It can be tough at times, but you’ll learn a lot about your own business.

Most of the above might be technically possible without a social listening tool. But it’s going to cost serious time, which translates directly into money for your business. In the end, the small amount you pay for a good social listening tool justifies itself by the time it saves and the peace of mind in knowing that you won’t miss anything important.

Social listening to keep an eye on the competition

Competitive analysis is all about tracking the competition and gathering information to help you make more informed decisions for your own brand. Today, a large part of the information that’s valuable for you is public, and Mention makes it simple to keep a close eye on the competition. 

Using Mention, you can listen to and analyze:

  • Their overall social media presence & performance
  • The feedback they get from customers 
  • Who is talking about them
  • How their brand is being talked about on social media platforms
  • The trends they associated with
  • What they’re good at
  • What they’re bad at
  • Which conversations they take part in

Why competitive analysis works

Building successful marketing campaigns is not an easy task. In fact, you can never know if something can work for you until you’ve tried it. But you can learn from your competitors’ experiences

As you build your brand, watching the competition will help you to find out what they do well, and the mistakes they make along the way. Look for trends – things that help the best companies excel. 

A retailer, for example, could listen to the competition to anticipate where they will open stores next. They could pay attention to increasing conversations with local partners or influencers in specific areas they’re not operating in yet.

It’s essential to know if your competitors are something to be feared, or to be ignored. This is what a competitive analysis run through Mention will tell you. You’ll be better informed and prepared to craft your own marketing and growth strategies.”
Rodrigo Araujo, Customer Success Hero @Mention 

Different social listening tools for different needs

There are hundreds, if not thousands of tools wearing a “social listening” hat.

Social-Listening-tools-google-search

Sadly, they are not all equally good.

You can, of course, consider using free social media analytics tools like Twitter or Facebook Analytics and retrieve engagement-related metrics.

If your budget is tight, you can also consider using a tool like Tweet Deck to monitor Twitter conversations. Tweet Deck is a great social media monitoring tool: 

  • It’s free to use.
  • It’s great to keep an eye on simple topics and keywords.
  • It lets you schedule tweets.
Social-Listening-tools-tweet-deck

Having said that, Tweet Deck remains a very simple tool. Too simple for businesses trying to seriously leverage social media. 

  • It catches a lot of noise.
  • It doesn’t come with any analysis feature.
  • It’s tough to visualize scheduled tweets.
  • … it only works for Twitter.

Of course, you’ll call us bias (we sure are anyways), but we can only recommend that you consider using Mention to keep an eye on, understand and manage your entire social media performance.

Book a Demo - Mention

Try it for free here.

Everybody’s talking, are you listening?

We truly believe that social listening is the way forward to grow your brand. If you think so to, let’s chat! Book a demo with an expert from Mention.

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Clément René

Clément is Content Marketer for Mention. He creates content to help brands manage their online reputation strategy. If not behind a screen, you can find him reading books in Parisian cafés or exploring the city with his dog.

Content Marketer @Mention