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How to Use Social Listening to Drive Online Conversations

Social listening is used by some of the world’s most successful businesses to tap into what audiences are saying about their brand. But when this technique is used to its full potential, it can go above and beyond mere listening to help you guide the future of your brand in the right direction, and gain an advantage over your competitors.

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Turning Insight into Action

Many businesses think there’re two steps to successful social listening. In truth, there are three steps that you need to take to really derive the most value from the technique:

  • Step 1: Turning Discussion into Data

When you first introduce social listening into your growth and development strategy, your first priority will be to turn online discussions into valuable data. This can be done by generating relevant search terms and using the most suitable social listening tools which scan a wide selection of digital channels to draw data from a variety of online sources.

  • Step 2: Turning Data into Insight

Once your social listening tool has collected the words, the next step is to take a closer look at the actual meaning behind them. This turns your data into insight by assigning context to conversations. It highlights what your audience thinks of your brand, your products, your services, or any aspect of operations that you’ve chosen to listen into. 

  • Step 3: Turning Insight into Action

Step three is about turning insight into action; using what you’ve learnt to gain a competitive advantage, maintain a strong industry position, and solidify yourself as a leader within your sector. And this can all be done by using social listening to drive online conversations in a direction that helps you soar above your competitors.

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Addressing the Biggest Issue of Social Listening

Social listening is key to understanding your audience. The technique itself addresses one of the biggest problems within B2C communications: that customers don’t always say what they feel when they’re put on the spot through feedback forms or surveys. This is a common human trait that experts believe is picked up during childhood. 

It’s easy to lie. We teach our children that honesty is the best policy, but we also tell them it’s polite to pretend they like a birthday gift they’ve been given. Kids get a very mixed message regarding the practical aspects of lying, and it has an impact on how they behave as adults.” ~ University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert S. Feldman

Social listening solves this by analysing organic conversations that take place naturally. But for many, while social listening is capable of solving problems, it can also cause them. And one of the biggest is discovering that the conversations that are taking place online about the brand aren’t heading in the direction you want them to. It’s not always an easy thing to realise or come to terms with, but by acknowledging the gap between where you are, and where you want to be, you have the power to change it.

By tracking mentions, it’s easy to keep track of which way online conversations are heading. But how do you know which way they need to be steered? Social listening. 

Believe it or not, it’s not just small businesses who are uncovering less-than-ideal conversations through social listening. Even major international brands are faced with this, and many are using social listening to drive conversations down the right path.

Ocean Spray Example

American cranberry juice firm Ocean Spray used popular social listening tool NetBase to collect upwards of 150,000 online conversations to analyse. And they didn’t like what they found. They discovered that online conversations were heading in a negative direction. Many conversations revolved around the fact that while audiences enjoyed the taste of cranberry juice, they were reluctant to buy due to the association with UTIs. 

However, they also found that a small percentage of online conversations were heading in the right direction. Through social listening, they discovered that women especially enjoyed drinking cranberry juice as an alcohol-free alternative to red wine. 

So what did they do? They used what they’d learnt through social listening to drive more of these conversations and generate a greater buzz over the ‘fun’ side of cranberry. They even used this insight to create a new line of cranberry mocktails.

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Gaining a Competitive Edge

Ocean Spray successfully gained a competitive edge by listening to customer sentiment, driving conversations in a different direction, and creating a new product line that targeted a gap and generated a new niche market. They gained a competitive edge by entering juice into a subset of the drinks market that their competitors had so far failed to target. 

They moved the conversation away from the medical side to the fun-loving side, driving conversations in a way that minimised the association between cranberry juice and health, and maximising the association with nights out, friends, and social relaxation.

Other brands can do the same. By using social listening, you can easily identify the most strategic direction for online discussions to head in, and turn insight into action by driving conversations in this direction. In doing so, you can discover new opportunities, connect better with your audience and position yourself ahead of your competitors.

If you want to grow your business through COMPETITOR ANALYSIS, talk to our team today!

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