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What Are Social Listening Tools and How Can They Help Your Business?

Social listening tools allow you to monitor and analyze online conversations about your brand. Learn how to use social listening tools here.

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It's always wise to listen before you speak, and social listening tools help you do just that. By listening to social media, you can discover who the social world sees you as among your industry and your competition. You can then use that information to change where you need to and innovate where you want to.

Social listening is crucial for any brand, big or small. Through social listening, you’re able to monitor online discussions centered around your brand or industry, and use that information to create new marketing campaigns, address customer feedback, or improve your products. To start social listening, you can use social listening tools, which are software designed to help you monitor hashtags, keywords, mentions, and other information about your brand.

To learn more about social media listening tools and how they work, keep reading below.

What is social listening?

Social listening is an aspect of social insight consisting of listening to and tracking conversations at a high level on various social media platforms around your industry, your media, and your target audience. The concept refers to analyzing the conversations and trends happening about your brand and your industry and using that data to make more informed marketing decisions. Social listening is a key component of any marketing strategy, as it helps you to understand why online conversations about your brand occur.

If you’re wondering how to market on social media, social listening can help. Social listening explains where and how conversations happen and what people think about you and your industry, not just when they’re tagging you or your brand. The information you glean from social listening can help you form future media campaigns and improve your content strategy and your overall messaging. It teaches you how to outpace your competition, construct an effective and robust influencer program, and even build more worthwhile brand partnerships.

How does social listening work?

Social insight through social media listening works in a three-step process, starting with monitoring, then analyzing, and finishing with decision making. Explore the details of each step of social listening below.

1. Monitoring

Social listening begins by learning from your own by looking at posts on your sites and your hashtags, pages, and handles. Think about asking a question or raising an issue on one of your social media sites and then gathering the comments received on that page. These Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram posts can give you a fast idea of how your audience views a given issue at a given time.

To start monitoring, track your brand in every way you can. You'll want to examine your online content, any mentions of your brand that you find online, as well as mentions of your company's leaders. You're trying to discover how far your company's reach extends and which forms of content perform best. Most importantly, what kind of content do your followers respond to most eagerly? Do they prefer long or short form, video or print, case studies, or short blog posts? When doing your monitoring, try to catch every way that you might be mentioned on different types of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube.

The next step is to track your competition. Where are they? What activity are they generating? You can use Google or other search functions to find your competitors, including those you don't already know. Once you know which of them is active online, consider the social networks they use and how often they post. Does their work engage their readers; does it engage you? Are they responsive? Examine the forms of content they post and the content they link to and promote. If you track views, shares, and follows for their material, compare it to your own performance. In the end, listening tells you what your users want; monitoring lets you find out why they want it.

2. Analyzing

Social listening involves keeping track of mentions of and content by you and other brands. You’re keeping an eye on the ways people are talking about each brand and what they think, feel, and say about these brands and their products and services. At the same time, you’re comparing your performance against that of your competitors. Once you’ve monitored your social channels, you’ll be able to use that data to analyze it and gain insights, such as customer sentiments, gaps in your service, and so forth.

3. Decision making

Monitoring and analyzing information on your social channels are key components of any social listening strategy. Together, they can give you great insight into how people feel about your industry, specific industry topics, and industry brands, including yours. But you can go one step further to discover who your audience is, not just what they talk about. This focuses on the lifestyles of your users and provides a depth of knowledge that can be used to make strategic marketing and business decisions.

Using a social listening tool can help you bring together data from a broad selection of social channels and use that data to identify behavioral patterns or brand engagement in your target audience. You’ll then be able to better understand your consumers for who they really are and connect with them on a more personal level. Not only can you know them, but you can also sort them based on your chosen data ports. For example, you can find out who your most profitable followers are and find ways to increase revenue with groups that aren't yet so profitable.

You can also use information gathered through social listening to make other important decisions, such as product or service improvements, enhancing customer service, revamping marketing campaigns, and more.

What are social listening tools?

When considering a social listening strategy for your company, you need to study the available social media listening tools and determine which will be the best social listening tool for you. However, you first need to understand what social listening tools are. Social listening tools are software that monitors online discussions about your organization, industry, or topic by pulling keywords and mentions of your brand.

When using a social listening tool, you’ll be able to analyze key metrics and data that can help you make informed marketing and business decisions to grow your brand. For example, a social listening tool can do a crawl of the most popular topics and hashtags regarding your brand or industry. You can then use this information to create a marketing campaign to piggyback off of that popularity and reach your target audience.

What are the best social listening tools?

Now that you know what social listening tools are, it’s time to explore the best social listening tools to get the insights you need to create effective marketing campaigns that generate leads and boost your brand. There are several social media management tools that offer social listening features, such as:

  • Hootsuite: Monitor conversations, keywords, mentions, and hashtags across multiple platforms
  • Adview: Geared toward Facebook and Instagram ads
  • Talkwalker: Analyzes blogs, forums, videos, news sites, review sites, and social networks on one dashboard
  • Simply Measured: Allows placing an entire social listening program on a single platform
  • Synthesio: Tracks highly specific conversations in segmented audiences
  • Netbase: Uses Natural Language Processing to focus your listening on the right conversations
  • ForSight by Crimson Hexagon: Filters social listening by sentiment, category, gender, geography, and influence score.

How can social listening help your business?

Social listening provides many business opportunities, but there are several key benefits to your business. Here’s how social listening tools can help your organization gain deeper insights into the conversations happening around your business:

  • Understand your competition: Social listening helps your business keep track of how your brand is faring against its competitors and how the public perceives you and your products or services. You can discover the questions that customers are asking about your business and find out who they are in detail. Are there common complaints or problems with your product or things about you that consistently delight your customers? Indeed, you can determine whether your followers generally mention you negatively or positively and why either is happening.
  • Identify influencers: Through social listening, you can identify creators and influencers in your audience who are using or talking about your products or services. This presents a unique opportunity to start a collaboration where both parties can support one another. Through influencer partnerships, you can gain relevancy in a space organically.
  • Generate leads: As you browse through various social media channels to see what users are saying about your brand or industry, you’re able to identify potential leads. Through social media, you can interact with users through comments and direct messages, allowing you to reach out to users talking about your brand and incentivizing them to become a client or customer.
  • Improve customer service: Because you can monitor what others are saying about your brand with social listening tools, you can identify any criticism or feedback that customers are offering. You can then collect this data to improve your customer service by improving your products or services, or by reaching out to the online user directly to handle any complaints.
  • Measure marketing efforts: Social listening tools also offer you the opportunity to perform campaign analysis. Similarly, you can use social media listening tools to examine audience response to your conferences or other events, discovering what is worth repeating and what did not work at all. You can gather data on a campaign reading to your audience and whether it meets your goals. Who among your users does any campaign best with, and why are they reacting that way? Whether your news is good or bad, it can help you evaluate your campaigns and modify them as necessary.

How to start social listening

Getting started in social listening is not that difficult. However, it takes planning and leveraging the power of good tools. Follow these six steps to start social listening:

  1. Outline your goals: To start, sit down with your colleagues and figure out what your goals and budget for social listening will be. Once you know what you want to achieve with social listening, you can begin to implement the steps required to build your program.

  2. Choose a social listening tool: Next, choose your listening and gathering tool. Will you build or buy? Often, third-party providers have invented high-quality and advanced listening tools that don’t require your team to build and create your own. Your tool choice is primarily defined by why you want to listen. You may have one or more specific goals in mind for your listening program, such as understanding your users and keeping an eye on your competition. Or, perhaps you may want to find your best shareable content or your key social media listeners. Different tools can help reach different goals, and those goals should control your choice.

  3. Identify topics to follow: Once you’ve chosen your tool, look for topics you want to listen to, whether it’s conversations around a new product you launched or industry news. You can use these topics to outline your goals to use as the guide to developing your strategy. How you reach a goal depends on where you want to go. Don't get distracted by the volume of fascinating data and forget where you want to go. Consider developing a team to bounce strategy and goals around and take the steps you'll need to get and use your data.

  4. Collect data: Find your data sources. GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) is a good first rule of thumb in data collection, so sift through your data and discard any that won’t prove useful to your campaign. Determine what data will best get you to where you want to go, and then find the best tool and source for that specific data. It’s often recommended to include Twitter in your data feed, as Twitter has hundreds of millions of active users, and is a social media channel that makes it easy to interact with users through discourse.

  5. Measure and analyze data: Once you’ve collected your data, it’s time to measure and analyze it to find trends and information to guide your marketing and business decisions. Focus on your topics and themes. Listen for relevant keywords and phrases, essential hashtags, and mentions from and by your users. Build variations and exclusions, and you'll get relevant, usable data, which can then be used to finetune your listening searches further.

  6. Make improvements: Lastly, use the information you gathered to make improvements. Often, social listening is used to gather feedback and insights from customers. Make their voices heard by taking their feedback and acting on it, whether it’s redesigning a product or service, or rethinking a marketing campaign to be more effective.

Key takeaways: Social listening tools

Social media listening in all its forms is just the beginning of getting beyond a surface knowledge of your audience. Going deeper delivers value as you learn about your audience on social media and dig consistently deeper to guide your digital campaigns. Achieve a better return on your marketing investments by taking advantage of insights into your audience for relevant and specialized content. If you don't immediately have the perfect social listening program, ask yourself what social listening tools are available but you haven't yet considered. Keep changing, updating, and refining the goals of your social listening program and how you can best achieve them.

While social listening can take time to understand, every piece of data you gain and analyze, every hashtag you come to understand, will make you better at social listening and, consequently, better at your business. Social listening gives you the ability to become and remain the best in your industry.

At Mailchimp, you can leverage our social media management tools to further grow your brand and online presence. From organic social posting to creating Facebook and Instagram ads, you can use these powerful features to reach your targeted audience and promote your brand. For more social media marketing tips, browse our resources and follow our social media channels, including Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

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