What Is Social Listening and How Can It Help Your Business?Rieva Lesonsky
Is your small business taking advantage of the benefits of social listening? Social listening means paying attention to what people are saying online — about your business, your brand, your industry and more. Most of all, social listening helps give you a direct line into what your customers and prospective customers are thinking and feeling.
A recent survey took a closer look at why businesses use social listening and how it benefits them. Here's what you need to know.
Why do businesses use social listening? The biggest reason is to improve customer relationships; this is a key goal of social listening for 42 percent of businesses surveyed. Social listening works: 21 percent of survey respondents say it helps them improve customer service, 21 percent say it helps them reach new customers, 15 percent say it helps them keep ahead of the competition and 14 percent say it helps them manage their reputation online.
What do businesses monitor with social listening? Since customers are the highest priority, it's not surprising that 86 percent monitor customer requests, questions and concerns. In addition, 77 percent monitor their competition; 75 percent monitor their brands and products; 61 percent monitor industry terms and trends; 60 percent monitor industry or brand influencers; 55 percent monitor the company's name; and 44 percent monitor their companies' executives.
Where do businesses listen? Although social media is the primary place companies use social listening, it's not the only place companies listen in. In addition to Facebook (monitored by 93 percent of companies), Twitter (79 percent), Instagram (71 percent), YouTube (65 percent) and Google+ (61 percent), 43 percent of respondents monitor blogs and 38 percent monitor news sites.
Now that you know how valuable social listening can be, how can you maximize results from it? Try these tips to get the most from social listening.
- Go beyond social media sites. The survey reports that monitoring news sites and blogs is especially useful in spotting industry trends and connecting with industry influencers. It also helps you catch every mention of your company so you can get better insights into what your customers and prospects are thinking.
- Track your competition. The most obvious use of social media monitoring for competitive purposes is to see what your competition is doing. More important, however, try to look for things they aren't doing that provide opportunities for your business — in other words, gaps that you could fill. For example, suppose you notice that lots of customers are reaching out to your direct competitor on social media asking if they have such and such product or service, but no one is answering them. Either the company doesn't provide this product or service, or they aren't responsive to customers. Either way, there's opportunity for you. Step into the breach by answering the prospects' questions and getting involved in the conversation. You could mention that you have a product or service to fill their need. By listening and responding, you show that your business is more proactive than your competitors'.
- Respond to both positive and negative comments. The report recommends engaging with users when they comment about your business. Of course, it's easy to say thank you for nice comments, but what if the comments are negative? Most of our first reaction to criticism is to get defensive, but for a business, the best approach is to acknowledge the problem and make an honest effort to resolve it. Try taking the conversation off-line to avoid getting into a lengthy discussion in a public forum. Responding to both good and bad comments shows that your business is listening to customers and acting on their input.
- Provide helpful information. Suppose you own a travel accessories and luggage website and you see some social media users having a discussion about the best way to pack all your items in a carry-on for a two week trip. Get involved in the conversation by offering useful information. For instance, you could post a link to an article on your website about carry-on packing tips, as well as mention some space-saving packing accessories (that you happen to sell). The key is to provide valuable tips — not just a hard sell.
- Simplify your social listening. Keeping tabs on all the social media sites where your prospective customers spend time probably sounds like an overwhelming task. However, there are solutions to help. One way to get started is to set up a Google Alert on keywords such as your business name, your biggest competitors, or the product lines you carry. You can simplify social listening even more by using an all-in-one social listening tool. For example, Web.com’s ReputationAlert monitors what's being said about your business online so you can respond quickly and maintain a strong brand reputation.