Social Listening: What Is It and Why Should You Care?

Simon Orgulan
10 min
January 12, 2024

Wouldn't it be nice if you could press your ear against the wall and immediately know what those who have come in contact with your brand are saying about you, your products, or your services? That’s the whole idea behind social listening in a nutshell (and yes, we’ll show you how it can be done).

There’s way more to it than that, of course; otherwise, this article wouldn’t stretch as far as it does now. To give you a bit of a preview, we’ll cover:

- The right approach to social listening

- How your business can benefit from it

- Differences between social listening and social monitoring

- And more!

Social listening is as much data crunching as it is a catalyst for communication. With the help of this powerful technique, as you address the concerns of your target audience, you’ll not only know who they are, but also what they’re passionate about, what they like and dislike about your products and services, and how well your latest social media marketing campaigns are performing to tweak your plan as needed.

Since social listening is such a broad and comprehensive topic, we’ll give you the rundown while outlining the most important aspects of it to understand as you work on implementing it into your overall strategy. Let’s get started!

Social listening is a 2-step process

At its core, social listening boils down to 2 essential components:

- Monitoring

- Analyzing

The first step mostly revolves around staying on top of what people are saying about your products, services, and brand on various social media channels, while the second step is about learning from these findings and devising a solution on how to best proceed.

When these puzzle pieces align, you’ll have the insights and knowledge necessary to better serve your customers and build upon the feedback provided. In addition to that, there are other reasons why you should implement social listening into your overall social media growth strategy that we’ve summarized below.

How social listening helps your brand become the best version of itself

If there was ever a time to embrace a self-critical attitude, this has got to be it. The reason being is not to bring yourself down – to the contrary! It’s about plugging the holes in your digital approach and becoming the best you can be, all in the name of letting it be known that you’re a business that cares about its customers.

For those willing to put in the work of bettering oneself through social listening, many rewards await. Call it good karma if you will, but all it really is, is a refined strategy intertwined with optimization. In case you still don’t see the value social listening can bring to your brand, here are the reasons why you should start investing some time in it:

1. Gain valuable insights into what your products and services are missing

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your products and services are the next best thing since sliced bread, but in reality, hardly any market offerings are without their share of shortcomings. Here’s where social listening comes in; by staying on top of what your customers are both praising and criticizing about you, you can access a goldmine of information you’d otherwise have to pay a sizable chunk of change for, entirely for free!

Then, all you need to do is keep refining your craft as you work on resolving the flaws your customers have kindly pointed out to you, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a true market leader. If you can swallow your pride for just a little bit and keep your ego in check, you’ll see that they’re giving you golden nuggets of wisdom on a silver platter without asking for anything in return. And that’s powerful information you can work with.

For example, they may say that the SaaS solution you’re selling is great, but it tends to get congested during peak hours. See if you can use their feedback to pinpoint the source of the congestion and try to determine if maybe the solution lies in upgrading your servers or optimizing a process inefficiency or two along the way.

2. See how your customers perceive your brand

Learning how your customers perceive your brand is a win-win scenario. Either you’ll get to take pride in knowing that the vast majority of people are happy to be a customer of yours, or you’ll get a massive to-do list of the things that still need some improvement, thus giving you solid direction on what you should be working on next. With social listening, it’s impossible to lose!

Keep in mind that social listening is by no means a one-time thing. In other words, it’s not something you do once and never repeat again. What you should be doing is entrusting the task to someone on your team or hire a social media manager if you don’t have the time to do it yourself, but no matter how you decide to approach the matter, social listening is something that should be done periodically to see if your brand is moving in the right direction.

For instance, you might find that your brand is doing well overall, but that there was a one-time event that put a big black stain on it. Without social listening, you’d never be the wiser. And – if you do it often enough – you can be the first to respond and address a potential issue before it gets out of hand.

3. Increase customer loyalty by interacting with your followers and responding to the comments they’ve left

Speaking of responding to your followers, can you imagine how awesome it feels when a company shows its human face and actually takes the time to initiate a conversation with its customers? That cool and humble guy could very well be you. When a customer feels acknowledged, validated, and heard, you’ve just won yourself a member of your tribe that will stick it out with you until the very end.

If the person you’ve reached out to with something as simple as thanking them for their purchase or helpful advice responds positively to it, you’ll increase your chances of earning business from them in the future. Of course, the more time and effort you put into crafting your response, the more likely this is to happen; copy-paste responses simply don’t cut it any more in this day and age.

All in all, by focusing on giving value and being as helpful as possible, you can’t go wrong. Respond often enough and people will start to notice, thus boosting your customer loyalty in the long run.

4. Convert more people

At the end of the day, one of the primary things you should be focusing on is converting more people and making more sales, no matter what kind of business you’re running. Some people may be on the fence of becoming your customers, but aren’t quite sure about it yet. Social listening is a golden opportunity to reach out to them directly, address their concerns, and gain another customer!

For example, you may stumble upon a conversation between two social media users that revolves around discussing your products and asking the other person’s opinion about them. Perhaps there is some sort of misunderstanding that person has about them or simply isn’t convinced quite yet. Whatever the reason may be, you can inject yourself into the conversation right then and there to clarify things and perhaps even lure them in with a nice new customer discount.

This way, you won’t be perceived as someone who’s spamming their feed, as long as you give some sort of value. Best of all, apart from a small chunk of your time, this strategy doesn’t cost you anything, quite unlike running a paid ad would. Think of it as free advertising and you’ll understand the power of doing this.

Social listening – the best practices

Now that you understand why your business should be engaging in social listening, let’s shed some light on what the best practices are.

1. Make a list of keywords to monitor

Before you can get to work, you need to come up with a list of keywords that are in some way related to your brand as well as its products and services. If you’re working with a keyword tool of some sort, this is easier to do, but it’s by no means a requirement.

Simply brainstorm some ideas and think of any words that could possibly describe your brand (hint: you could also go broader by targeting keywords like ‘aromatherapy’ if you’re in the holistic care industry and even any relevant hashtags you can find).

This should be more than enough to get you started and you can always expand your keyword list to monitor at a later date. For starters, start scanning various social media platforms for any brand and product mentions and work it up from there.

2. Scan for common denominators

You should have already developed a solid image of who your typical customer is, but if that’s not the case yet, you can also use social listening as a sneaky method of pinpointing your target audience demographics. Are you noticing that most of them, for example, tend to have a Bachelor’s degree and are married? See if there’s a way to use this knowledge in bettering your products and services somehow.

Another common denominator you should be on the lookout for is whatever that appears to be bothering your audience, whether it has to do with your offerings directly or just in general. Remember how addressing your customers’ pain points is one of the best ways to create an irresistible selling proposition? In other words, if whatever it is you’re selling is designed to address what’s making your prospective customers’ hair fall out and improve the quality of their lives, they’ll be lining up with their wallet in hand whilst begging you to sell it to them.

3. Zero in on opportunities to close a sale and generate leads

As you browse through the social media posts, keep your eyes peeled for prospective customers who may be on the fence about buying your product, subscribing to your mailing list, etc. A little nudge in the right direction could be all they require.

Another opportunity to plug your offerings is a little more subtle than the obvious scenario outlined above, and it has to do with social listening for more general hashtags and keywords that are in some way related to your niche, market, or industry. Then, sneakily insert yourself into the conversation by offering helpful tips.

If the opportunity calls for it, shamelessly plug your product, but don’t force it if it doesn’t feel right; people will check out your profile organically if you’ve been helpful enough.

4. Put out a fire before it gets out of control

At some point, you may stumble upon a heated debate that’s related to a negative experience a customer has had with your products or services. Don’t panic though! Instead, be grateful that you’ve spotted a fire in the early stages so you can quickly respond with the intention of de-escalating the situation.

Whether you were truly at fault doesn’t really matter much – the aim is to kill them with kindness even if the whole thing ensued due to their ignorance or a complete lack of common sense. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation of defending your good name, but no matter what your impulses may have you do, you should resist them and maintain a nice and friendly demeanor at all times.

We recommend you apologize either way, but be clever with how you phrase it. For example, you can say “I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a bad experience.” This way, you make them feel heard without admitting a mistake on your end. After that, you should quickly find a solution to the problem or say that you’ll be forwarding their concerns to the customer support department.

In case you really mucked up, you can always try to bribe your way out by offering them a discount on the next purchase or simply issuing a refund if one is warranted.

Are there any specialized tools for social listening?

Short answer: yes.

However, they’re not a must by any means. Most of them simply allow you to monitor keyword mentions on multiple social media networks from one place. When you’re just starting out, you can take the straightforward approach of using the built-in search engine you’ll find on any social media network of your choosing. It’s raw and plain, but it gets the job done.

What we’re going to give you instead is a cool free way to measure how your social interactions are paying off by making it easy to track how many people have decided to take you up on your offer and click on your links (which can lead to a downloadable guide, coupon, and similar). If you haven’t created your free account on Ocoya yet, fill out the short form and you’ll have access to it within seconds. Then, navigate to the online app’s main page and find the ‘My Content’ section to the left. Click it.

Shorten links with Ocoya to track your performance on social media

In the upper middle secrion of the screen, you'll find a button that links to Ocoya's link shortener. Click it.

Open Ocoya's link shortener

Simply insert the link you'd like shortened and generate the new version that lets you track how many clicks it gets.

Insert the link you'd like to get a shorter version of

Copy your shiny new link and you're off to the races!

Copy your shiny new shortened link and post it to social media!

Social listening FAQs

Q: What’s the difference between social listening and social monitoring?

A: Although the terms share many similarities, social listening is generally a broader concept compared to social monitoring. While social monitoring typically doesn’t involve any form of interaction between you and your target audience (it’s mainly analysis-driven), social listening is the more proactive approach between the two since it often calls for injecting yourself into a conversation others are having on social media.

Q: Social listening can help you find leads – true or false?

A: Correct! As you scour the social media networks for lead generation opportunities, you may discover creative ways to plug your products or services if they address someone’s pain points and make their life easier. In case you have a mailing list, you can invite them to join because that’s where you’ll be giving out more useful tips like the one they’ve just received.

Q: Can social listening help you maintain a good reputation online?

Absolutely. By engaging with your customers directly as they mention your brand, you can show there’s a human face behind the corporate entity by displaying empathy and care. At the same time, it’s a good way to respond to any negative feedback and demonstrate that you’re willing to go to great lengths to provide a positive experience for them.

Social listening combines the elements of analysis with strategic social interaction. With its help, you can gain valuable insights on what words people use when discussing your brand. Whether it be with positive or negative underlying tones, the former will do wonders for your confidence while the latter is a fantastic tool to improve the quality of your products and services to make them even better. By reading all the way to the end, you now know the edge this can give your business as you strive for social media dominance, as well as what the best practices are. Now go out there and apply what you’ve learned!

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