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How Does Social Listening Work?

Getting a finger on the pulse of exactly who is saying what about your brand is critical to making informed, strategic business decisions. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once said that, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you aren’t in the room”.

As a brand, you really need to be in the room. You need to know what your customers don’t feel comfortable putting on a formal feedback form, but do feel comfortable sharing with their peers when you aren’t around. The fact is, what people say about you when you aren’t in the room is exactly the information you need to truly understand how your business is perceived and whether you’re meeting expectations or falling short.

From transport to tech, retail to restaurants, having a handle on what your audience really thinks about your offerings gives you the insider insight you need to better serve them, develop strategies that align with their wants and needs and pivot when you’ve missed the mark. Social media listening helps you do all of that and more.

There are seven major social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Reddit) but countless niche networks globally. Facebook alone had 2.54 billion actively monthly users at last count, with an approximate 3.1 billion social media users worldwide overall. Performed correctly, social listening allows you to make some sort of sense of that vast cacophony of conversations, opinions and sentiment.

Implementing a Social Listening Strategy

To perform social media listening effectively, five key steps are required:

1. Collection 

The first phase of social listening is to collect the data. The quality of your data is significantly more important than quantity, so selecting relevant social listening tools and networks is important at this stage,

Data will typically be gathered from a wide range of sources, with those sources applicable to the brand in question. Effective social listening goes beyond social networks and encompasses everything from social media platforms to news websites.

Additional data may also be gathered from blog posts and their comments sections; all of these disparate sources help to build a more complete picture of who is talking about your brand and what they are saying. In essence, social listening takes place wherever a conversation is happening. A cross-channel approach gives a comprehensive overview across all key demographics.

2. Quality Assessment

We have seen that quality of data is more important than quantity – yet even the most conservative, finely targeted social listening will still generate vast quantities of data. This data needs to be quantified. Not all of the data generated will be relevant.

It must be reviewed, eliminated where appropriate and organised to allow for more meaningful analysis. This means care must be taken to identify data which may cloud the findings and negatively impact results. This elimination and quality assessment is an important part of the social listening process.

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3. Quantitative Analysis

This aspect of the social listening process contextualises sentiment. Typically, this involves benchmarking your own performance against that of a close competitor.

Quantitative analysis gives you the tools you need to understand where you are now in comparison with rivals while also showing you where you could be headed if you continue to use the same tactics and messaging. This analysis phase is crucial for strategic decision making as it helps you to pinpoint industry differentiators. 

4. Qualitative Analysis

Qualitative analysis allows you to gain a greater understanding of the people discussing the brand and the things they truly care about – along with giving you an overview of how successfully your efforts connect with those interests.

Gaps identified at this juncture are especially helpful for strategic decision making as they highlight where your approach can be modified or improved upon to better meet your customer’s needs and wants. 

5. Reporting

Data means very little without reporting. This stage is just as vital as the collection and analysis activity as it translates your findings into accessible, actionable insights which can then be used as the basis of informed decision making and modelling across relevant business units. 

Having fingertip access to this data, sentiment and competitor benchmarking isn’t just useful for brands planning major launches or directional changes. It provides an invaluable window into how good a job you’re doing meeting customer needs day-to-day. 

The most useful reports are ones that are tailored. Building dashboards and data around key performance indicators directly ties findings back to priority objectives and company goals. Compiling precise figures, relevant analysis and appropriate benchmarking which can then be presented to stakeholders, decision makers, and c-suite executives  to facilitate or progress change often requires a practised human hand.

Don’t Ignore the Process

A structured, process-led approach yields the most effective, useful results. Each stage performs a vital function, helping to systematically gather appropriate data, refine the raw data set into its most useful components and then leverage that data in ways which benefit better decision making with actions such as competitor benchmarking and gap identification.

Don’t be tempted to shorten or streamline these stages, each phase ensures that the output from social  listening is valuable, actionable, relevant and insightful.

If you want to grow your business through social listening, talk to our team today!

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