Understanding issues before they become “issues” is a super power – a sixth sense, of sorts. Social listening helps regular marketing mortals develop this ability. And monitoring niche audiences provides an exceptional access point for fine-tuning and implementing these skills.
Social Listening in a Nut Shell
Tracking issues that businesses care about is always the top priority, but what if a business is unsure of what those issues are?
That is, although these brands know their verticals inside and out, they’re also keenly aware of all they do not know. And that’s smart of them. They can’t possibly be 100% certain of their potential clients’ experiences in the space, in general, and the perception of their brand with various niche audiences, specifically. These brands are also sensitive to the existence of unmet needs that they – or a competitor – may be missing.
In a nutshell, they know that they do not know everything. And this is where social listening comes in.
Social listening is the process of monitoring the web for what is being said about a company, product, or brand across all social channels. And it isn’t restricted to social media. It includes data from forums, blogs, news and review sites. It captures and aggregates structured and unstructured data, even imagery, emojis and slang—from everywhere you find consumers participating.
It’s a window into niche audience consumer conversation that informs businesses around crisis response, campaign measurement, content ideation, product innovation, and more.
Niche Audience & Competitor Differentiation
For example, imagine that a business wanted its messaging to be around innovation in the manufacturing space, as a way to differentiate and capture niche audiences interested in that focus. Smart move, as identifying and marketing to a niche audience is entirely necessary, especially in the B2B space.
Some steps we could take to accomplish this include:
- Analyzing the topic of manufacturing, and more specifically, innovation in manufacturing, to see which competitors may already own that topic.
- Searching for ways the business/brand can differentiate and capture their own little space within that conversation, along with its own targeted audiences. Perhaps an unlikely connection that competitors are missing, or even an unmet need that social listening reveals.
- Sorting out the best benchmarking data to capture the brand’s existing standing in the space and measure efforts against later.
- Creating messaging around those areas and tracking conversations about innovation in manufacturing as we go (we’ll get to course corrections in a bit).
- Identifying potential influencers who are talking about this and other topics the brand cares about. Track the other topics for potential campaign inclusion or for future campaigns/potential product or service ideas.
- Discovering which channels people are having these conversations on and if there are reasons Twitter (or any given social channel) is outperforming the others when it comes to engagement around this topic.
- Deciding whether or not to create partnerships with these influencers to help generate even more awareness.
All of this listening makes for a big list to monitor. It can feel unwieldy. Thank goodness for alerts and wise researchers skilled in the art of social listening. And for being able to separate genuine issues from noise.
So Many Issues, So Little Time
The number of ways a brand’s day can go wrong are legion, but to summarize some brand health challenges monitored and analyzed by researchers with social listening skills, we see:
- Emerging issues with the potential to erupt into a crisis
- Mentions of known issues and unexpected conversation shifts
- Industry events that impact your brand or category
- Social conversations gaining momentum in specific niche areas, so you know where and how to engage
- Regional and cultural differences in how your brand is perceived
- Current events and geographical trends that affect a brand
- Customer care, customer retention, and new and upsell revenue opportunities
- Service improvements that need to happen
Tracking many specific topics at once, with help from alerts, makes crises and issues monitoring manageable.
Researchers act as brand specialists, understanding as much about a brand’s mission and goals as its own internal folks do. Because the responsibilities also cover comprehensive listening for clients, we’re listening not only to mentions around their corporate brand, but also for specific business units. It’s an important differentiator for us as an agency.
We have some significantly large B2B clients, operating a lot of different business units. Correspondingly, they have a lot of different competitors. We care about monitoring those competitors and providing insight above and beyond expectations. Social listening allows us to do that too.
We help brands learn from competitors’ mistakes and show category leadership, while strengthening the brand. And integrating social listening insight with other customer experience analytics supports real-time decision making, which is crucial in today’s global 24/7 online environment.
Listening to very distinct audience segments can be a brand’s saving grace, of course. It provides indicators around correcting a brand’s course – very clear indicators.
Changing Course Based on Niche Audience Issues
The volume of conversation can actually be pretty low in some of the niche audiences that B2B businesses care about, but it sure is meaningful.
These audiences are not necessarily having big conversations about topics on Facebook, but they do have reactive conversations on forums. And this is also captured by social analytics tools.
Forums are amazingly instructive. They offer unfiltered (as they’re often anonymously shared) reviews, accolades and/or complaints about every bit of your brand that affects an audience. Keeping an eye on these changing niche audience perceptions (after you’ve found them via your handy social listening tool) is very important.
Trusting the accuracy of your insight (and the analysis of your researcher) is equally important, as course corrections these days are inevitable regardless of audience.
As brand marketing gets granular, we look closely at specific intelligence, including:
- Understanding what matters to this small, and often vocal, audience – and why
- Narrowing customer conversations down to city, venue, or even the street corner for the ultimate layer of granularity and insight
- Monitoring unforeseen events that impact brands, like product defects, service concerns, or new product entrants
- Immediately seeing how customers and the media are reacting to things
- Commonalities that seemingly distinct segments share, and how to speak to that
- Identifying new micro-audiences, as well as micro-influencers
- And so much more.
Using niche audience insight to course correct looks similar to other marketing activities, but it’s informed decision-making that’s much more likely to resonate very specifically with this group. And it can pay dividends that are inversely proportional to its relative size.
It supports confident and bold changes to messaging – and it’s not for the faint of heart! We have tons of experience helping brands master their many niche domains – reach out and I can tell you more about it.
Emily Bunce is Director of Insights at G&S Business Communications, an independent communications agency serving B2B and B2C clients. She specializes in finding the hidden nuggets, connections and trends that inspire creative, on-target strategy. In her role advising account teams and clients, Emily conducts and analyzes primary, secondary and social research to help clients align communications strategies with business strategies.