Social Listening: what it is and why it is important in 2021

Social listening can help us better understanding our audience, market trends, the positioning of our brand and implement a more effective marketing strategy that can concretely respond to the needs of our consumers. But what is it exactly? How does it differ from social monitoring? How is it implemented?

When we analyzed the 2021 social media trends, it became clear that social listening is a key element in setting up an effective marketing strategy.

It’s easy to tell why it is so important: in any social relationship, listening is essential to avoid misunderstandings, to understand what our interlocutors are feeling, what their needs are, what they think about that thing. Yet, only 51% of brands use social listening solutions for audience analysis. A percentage that is reduced to 8% when it comes to competitive analysis.

Assuming that digital channels are created to connect people and that, through them, people express their thoughts, it goes without saying that a brand that wants to communicate effectively with its audience cannot fail to understand its real needs.

And if before, many brands entered conversations without a second thought, let’s admit it, the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to widespread intolerance towards the presence of brands in conversations in which people would not want to find them.

Social listening can not only save us from finding ourselves in positions that would end up damaging the reputation of the brand, but also support us in building a more empathic relationship with our audience.

But what exactly is it? How can we implement it correctly? What are the tools we can use? Let’s find out.

First things first: the difference between social listening and social monitoring

They might seem synonymous but in truth, social listening and social monitoring are two very different practices, although both are fundamental for our marketing strategy.

If social monitoring is the practice that helps us collect data and alerts us when particular events take place, allowing us to promptly take action, social listening is the process that allows us to draw conclusions and deepen the data obtained during the social monitoring activities, far beyond the usual performance metrics such as likes, shares, mentions etc.

Through social listening we can go beyond strictly statistical data and obtain useful information that allows us to draw broader conclusions, which will then guide equally broad marketing decisions.

In short, with social monitoring we collect data; with social listening we use these data to understand the mood of our audience and set our strategy accordingly.

What is social listening for?

Listening to the conversations that revolve around our brand and products, and our reference sector is important to understand market trends, track user behavior patterns and consequently set up a more competitive marketing strategy.

Social listening is also particularly useful for managing and improving some aspects of our online communication. Let’s see which ones.

Managing the brand, even with respect to competitors

Knowing what online users say about our brand is important not only to manage its reputation but also to identify any strengths and weaknesses.

Furthermore, listening to what is said about our brand can make us more prepared in crisis management, showing that we are attentive to the needs of our consumers, more empathic and ready to tackle even potentially uncomfortable situations, perhaps to the point of preventing them to happen.

Social listening also helps us understand how our competitors are positioning and adapt our marketing and communication strategy accordingly.

Identifying the needs of the consumers

Raise your hand if, at least once, you have filled in the profile of a buyer persona, identifying the so-called insights, that is the expressed or unexpressed needs of consumers.

Any truly strategic marketing strategy must take into account the needs of its potential customers, which are often implicit. Identifying these needs and the sentiment, listening carefully to what our consumers say, can help us understand how to best position our brand and our products, developing concrete solutions that can actually respond to these needs.

Even without a direct mention, Burger King managed to intercept a (satisfied) comment from a consumer.

Accurate social listening, in harmony with the needs of consumers, can also save us from situations such as the one mentioned at the beginning of the article: entering a conversation in which the input of our brand is neither required nor particularly appreciated.

Improving customer support

Speaking of consumer needs, a recent report by Socialbakers revealed that 85% of consumers expect a response from a brand on Facebook within 6 hours; while on Twitter 60% of users expect a response within 1 day.

The reality is far from expectations: according to Socialbakers, the average response time on Facebook is 1 day, 3 hours, 47 minutes; on Twitter, it is 1 day, 7 hours, 12 minutes.

These data show us two important factors: first, it is clear that many internet users request support through public forums such as social media; secondly, it is clear that customer care is increasingly intertwined with marketing and communication.

Much of the replies from brands like Nike on Twitter are for customer support.

In this case, implementing a social listening strategy will allow us not only to optimize customer service but also to bring to light any pattern in problems reporting , so that we can promptly take action and protect our brand.

Identifying the right influencers

As we already discussed, influencer marketing is undoubtedly one of the most effective forms of communication and promotion.

However, not all influencers are right for us. Nor do we have the certainty that the most followed influencer will ensure a return on the investment.

Social listening can help us to identify those influencers who, by sector, attitude and followers, are most suited to promote our brand and products.

Social listening tools and strategies

The first thing to do to implement an effective social listening strategy is to take into consideration not only quantitative and statistical data (the so-called vanity metrics such as number of likes, shares, etc.), but also qualitative data, which are usually more difficult to gather precisely because they are not tied to metrics. If the quantitative data are devoid of any emotion, the qualitative data are full of them, precisely because they collect the mood and sentiment related to that particular thing.

To get this data, let’s ask ourselves specific questions, based on our goals. Let’s ask ourselves why, how, how much, when. Let’s analyze topics, hashtags, conversations, keywords relevant to our brand or products. Let’s observe how people discuss and interact on that topic. Let’s launch polls, interviews and collect testimonials.

Social listening tools such as Talkwalker, Socialbakers or Hootsuite can help us monitor conversations, hashtags, keywords to understand where, how and which words users use to refer to certain topics.

Let’s also remember not to limit our listening to only some platforms, perhaps choosing those on which we are present. In fact, it may happen that, even if we do not have an account on Twitter, people talk about us and our products on that platform. To really listen to our audience we must therefore cast a wider net.

Finally, let’s also actively look for criticism and let’s not be afraid should we find it: this is where the real improvement process starts.

What do you think of social listening? Do you actively use social listening solutions? Let us know in the comment section below and contact us to know more about our marketing and communication services.

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After graduating in Languages at the Università degli Studi di Milano, my interest and curiosity towards the digital world led me to pursue a career in this field and to get a Specializing Master in Digital Marketing. Today, I am responsible for the definition and application of marketing and communication strategies for both EOS and the ipcm® magazines. In my free time I travel, I read a lot and I binge-watch TV series. A place to visit at least once in your life: Oman. Must read: Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini. What you should binge-watch next: Mr. Robot.

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