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Social media: The value of listening

November 25, 2021 / Kate Pattison

Somewhere on social media, someone is talking about your industry, your products or your company. They aren’t necessarily adding hashtags, mentions or names. These posts could contain valuable information for you and your business. Getting access to this data could help you better market your business or provide an edge over your competition. How? Through social listening.

Social listening can give you critical insights into how consumers view your industry and products. It can uncover consumer sentiment about trends and market shifts. It can also provide you with new or better ways to market yourself or reach a new consumer segment.

There are conversations happening all over social media. If you can capture even a small portion of them, you can use this information to your advantage.

Monitoring or Listening – what’s the difference?

Social listening is not the same as social monitoring.

Think of the two as being on a spectrum. Social monitoring lets you know when a consumer is talking about your brand or marketing campaign online. It gives you a chance to respond to specific consumer comments and mentions about your business or brand. It is invaluable if an issue arises as it allows you to respond quickly and efficiently.

Social listening is taking that consumer feedback and information, data about broader industry activities and trends, and analyzing for opportunities for your business. It is a strategic tool that can help improve or enhance your marketing and business development.

Put another way, social monitoring is reactive and immediate, where social listening is proactive and longer term.

Why am I listening?

For small businesses, social listening can provide key benefits such as:

  • Faster access to emerging trends and market shifts
  • Understanding what your competition is doing and how consumers are reacting
  • Seeing consumer response to your own brand and campaigns
  • Insights into consumer pain points and sentiment
  • Uncovering new markets or groups to target

How do I get started?

If you are working with an agency for your social media marketing, they will likely have the technology already in place for social listening and can provide you with regular reporting. This is the easiest route to take but might be a little more expensive. That being said, if the agency is also managing your social media posts etc., there is excellent value in having them do your social media analysis as well.

If you decide to keep your social listening in-house, there are also many (many!) software programs available for both social monitoring and listening.

Finding the right one for your business can be challenging and will take some serious research. Look for one that is designed for small business, is cost-effective and will cover the channels that you need. For instance, one software might offer coverage for Reddit but another does not. If that is a channel that is important to your strategy, the first software program might be your better choice.

What am I listening for?

Hootsuite suggests this watchlist as a good starting point when setting up social listening on your chosen platform:

  • Your brand name and social handles
  • Names of key people in your industry and company
  • Your product names (including common misspellings, and possible variations: auto insurance, car insurance, automobile insurance, etc.)
  • Your branded hashtags
  • All the above for your biggest competitors
  • Industry news, keywords, and hashtags
  • Specific campaign name and keywords (remember to keep this current)

Social listening can be a powerful strategic tool for business owners. You can gain valuable insights and marketing opportunities. Social media will continue to grow in the future so building ways to get the most value from this channel is critically important.


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