Social Listening: What, Why & How
Kimberly Surico |
 09/01/22 |

Social Listening: What, Why & How

What is social listening exactly, and what can you do with it to capture your brand’s piece of the global marketplace? If your brand is ready to capture social insight to inform strategic decision-making, you’ve found a great place to start!

2022 state of social report

What is Social Listening?

Social listening is the process of monitoring, segmenting, and analyzing conversations across social media to measure brand sentiment and the effectiveness of social campaigns––and to fuel content creation for target audiences.

Why is social listening important, and what are the differences between it and social monitoring? We’ll share that distinction, along with tools and tricks for better brand strategy. More specifically we’ll cover:

  1. Social Listening vs Social Monitoring
  2. 7 Social Listening Tools to Consider
  3. Why is Social Listening Important?
  4. Understanding Sentiment to Track Brand Health
  5. Identifying and Optimize Content to Meet Your Engagement Goals
    • Humanizing Your Brand
  6. Designing Successful Campaigns
    • Crafting a Winning Recipe with Social Listening
  7. Creating Authentic Personalized Experiences
    • Giving Consumers What They Want
    • Exploring Consumer Desire and Boost Product Reception
  8. Conceiving and Launching New Products
  9. Social Listening as Your Road Map

Social listening uncovers and aggregates all the information you’re missing if you’re only counting likes and mentions – and many businesses are. Social listening takes a broader look at the overall social landscape – taking in the typical shapes and sounds, so anomalies become easier to spot.

Social listening gives you the immediate lay of the land around topics that are important to your brand and its customers. From there, you can dig into various aspects of these conversations to uncover areas of concern or interest. And it alerts brands to things they may not even have in mind, like tracking regional differences to build into targeted messaging:

Discovering Regional Food Marketing Differences with Social Listening

Regional differences uncovered by social listening.

Social Listening vs Social Monitoring

You know the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees?” Well social listening is the forest, while social monitoring reveals the trees. And you need to master both.

Sometimes you want to stand back and see what the over-arching conversation is––that’s social listening. It offers a general sense of what is happening in your category.

And at other times you need to address the individual concerns or conversations – that’s social monitoring. Let’s start there.

Social monitoring identifies and tracks brand mentions, relevant hashtags, competitor mentions and industry trends on social media, blogs, review sites, forums, and websites. It’s monitoring what people are saying about your brand, products, and even about your competitors online.

It addresses consumers on a micro scale and is reactive – meaning that it allows brands to respond to brand mentions.

Social listening, on the other hand, has a macro lens, and is proactive in that it takes all these mentions from monitoring, pulling insights and pooling them into a more comprehensive view.

It builds these insights over time so brands can make better long-term strategies. Social listening discerns the why behind these brand mentions so you can make proactive changes to better meet your consumers’ needs.

Seven Social Listening Tools

And to make the most of your social listening efforts, you of course require top social listening tools! Here are seven that you should consider exploring:

  1. NetBase Quid® offers a holistic approach to building, growing and protecting your brand. Whether your end goal is improving brand health, super targeted campaign strategy or next-level product innovation, this consumer and market intelligence platform’s social listening tool capabilities have you covered. It takes brands well beyond basic metrics like reach and brand mentions to uncover what lies beneath. Brands discover why they’re being mentioned, and what is or isn’t resonating. And social listening tools powered by advanced AI are indispensable, particularly when partnered with complementary options like our next tool on this list – Rival IQ.
  2. Rival IQ keeps an eye on your competition with complete competitive analysis capabilities, including competitive benchmarking, comprehensive analytics, and automated insight generation. And its intuitive software simplifies the analysis and acquisition of billions of social posts, placing social performance in context, and providing answers to the most important business questions
  3. Notifier – This site focuses specifically on Reddit and alerts you to comments within 30 seconds of them being made. This way you can respond quickly and increase engagement on this channel. And it also tracks keywords for you as well allowing you to stay on top of what’s happening across Reddit – and there’s always a lot happening on Reddit!
  4. Loomly – It tracks and measure your posts’ performance in real-time, identifying which campaigns are gaining the most attention and reveals the topics and content which is closest to your consumer’s hearts. You can then use this information to plan accordingly for future posts and campaigns.
  5. OktopostThis tool measures several social media accounts and track mentions. You can follow relevant keywords, competitors, or just the industry in general.
  6. lyCaptures casual mentions, helping you identify consumers actively looking for your brand online. And there are for keywords, hashtags and even competitors.
  7. Syften This is an option for brands just starting out with social listening and seeking to enhance their online presence. It manages alerts for brand mentions or keywords to captures relevant discussions happening online.

Why is Social Listening Important?

Nothing beats a consistent, proactive approach. Just like a healthy immune system is important to prevent the body from being easily susceptible to illness, social listening keeps your brand aware of the bigger picture. Instead of focusing on individual tweets and issues, you get an aggregated view that highlights trends and themes you can use to direct brand strategy.

Perhaps you have the same issue popping up regularly on the same day, or in a certain geographical area. Instead of offering a quick fix to satisfy a single customer, you can solve the problem at the root and eliminate it going forward. And it’s not just about solving problems. Social listening offers information you can apply to any aspect of brand operations.

Let’s look at each in turn.

Understanding Sentiment to Track Brand Health

Social sentiment is actually the core of all social analytics – but tracking brand health in general is its broadest application. When NetBase Quid® measures sentiment we use two combined metrics to calculate overall Brand Passion:

  • Net Sentiment – whether consumer emotions are positive or negative from -100 to -+100
  • Passion Intensity – the strength of consumer emotions from -100 to +100

Why does Passion Intensity matter? Because a small contingent of consumers that love or hate your brand are more vocal – thus more socially powerful – than a large number of consumers who are ambivalent. Just ask any brand who has gone viral – in a good or bad way. So, it’s crucial to know where your brand stands typically, but also to look at spikes in sentiment to understand what’s happening during specific events.

Whether it’s a new campaign or product, or a crisis about to erupt, look at sentiment values before, during and after to assess whether the impact is ongoing, or isolated to a specific event, etc. If you haven’t solved the problem, sentiment will tell you.

Major-CPG-brand-on-the-back-end-of-a-months-long-PR-crisis

Major CPG brand on the back end of a months-long PR crisis showing sentiment stabilizing at -25%. 12/16/21-1/16/22

SUMMARY:

  • Establish a baseline using sentiment analysis
  • Look at any spikes in sentiment and find out what’s driving them
  • Continue following sentiment to create an appropriate response and ensure brand health

2022 state of social report

Using Social Listening to Identify and Optimize Content to Meet Your Engagement Goals

Social content isn’t simply about “being on social.” Content is crucial to engagement and conversion – so you want to get it right. This is where social listening tools like NetBase Quid® come in super handy – because they eliminate a lot of trial and error.

Searching on your brand shows you which content is resonating – and on which channels. That helps you plan the type of content you need.

Let’s imagine you’ve realized most of your engagement is on Instagram, so you know visual content is most important. Or, if blogs are getting you the most traction, you know text is clearly your audience’s preference.

But what about the focus of your content? That’s where sentiment comes back in. You can look at hashtags, topics, and keywords to see what people talk about most passionately, and how that relates to the content they interact with and share. This also helps you optimize for search.

Instagram is very hashtag oriented, so knowing which hashtags are popular and relevant to your topic area is key. On other channels, you’ll shift focus to the proper keywords/terms. The terms people use when searching for whatever your brand offers are important, so AI-powered, automated discovery is a real game changer.

The last thing you want is one of your competitors discovering this hashtag and making it their own before you do! Coming up first in hashtag search results can be a huge brand awareness boost.

But what do you do once you know where to find your audience? How do you connect meaningfully with them? That’s where the true power of social listening comes in, as it helps you humanize your brand.

Humanizing Your Brand

According to Chris Malone in the book he co-authored, The HUMAN Brand: How We Relate to People, Products & Companiesthe social psychology behind why consumers choose companies and brands is the same as the psychology around who we like, as people. These choices depend on things we unconsciously perceive, judge, and the ways we behave toward one another. So, brands must tap into these unconscious – and sometimes conscious – estimations to understand, and potentially reframe, consumer perception.

Brands need to create a warm, engaging relationship with target audiences – and that leads to brand loyalty:

create-a-warm,-engaging-relationship-with-target-audiences

Recently, Brian Solis, 8x Best-Selling Author, Digital Futurist, and Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, expanded on this concept after his Keynote presentation at NetBase Quid® LIVE 2021 in Los Angeles and New York City.

Brian explained the significance of social listening and media analytics play in connecting businesses to consumers with a human-centered approach. Watch:

Listening to what consumers have to say about your brand and its overarching category on the social web is mission critical. With it, brands can pinpoint indicators that are most important to/for them and create products and promotions that resonate with them on a personal level.

Summary:

  • Identify the content and channels meeting your brand’s engagement goals
  • Look at sentiment in correlation with content
  • Create meaningful connections with consumers by understanding what they value most

Using Social Listening to Design Successful Campaigns 

The beauty of social listening is that information you glean from one area – like content – spills into others. After all, content is the backbone of promotional campaigns – but that’s not the only consideration.

Social listening is something you want to apply to your entire category – not just your brand. When you do, you will spot trends you can leverage in a number of ways – like ad campaigns.

What does your audience want and how can you use those insights? Should you run a contest? Offer a special? Ask for user generated content? Your social listening will tell you. And this is where real-time capabilities really helps as well. You want to know what your audience is into NOW.

You also want to identify influencers – but be sure they’re helping keep the conversation positive. And that they’re telling a story that will help you, in turn, share winning insight with key stakeholders and brand sponsors (assuming you have those as well, as many do!).

Social listening uncovers your brand’s best bets going forward so you know where to focus your energy. And once you hit paydirt, continual social listening will help you polish those efforts while adjusting for tomorrow’s wants and needs. Let’s take a look.

Stoking a Winning Recipe with Social Listening

iHeartMedia has been using social listening to inform their campaigns for years – particularly their iHeartRadio Awards shows and music festivals. When you uncover what your audience wants from your products and services, you drive innovation in that direction

iHeartMedia has garnered so much fan traction with their awards shows and festivals over the years through its social component that it was a no-brainer to do the same with podcasts. Podcasts were already pretty popular before the pandemic but have now broken through the stratosphere in terms of widespread adoption.

iHeartRadio’s Podcast Awards are taking their winning social listening recipe into the world of podcasting. Fans can vote on their favorite podcasts and categories which creates a frenzy of social media buzz complete with hashtags and UGC. It’s been remarkably successful for iHeartMedia in driving engagement around the brand. This year’s event is sure to provide iHeartMedia with a whirlwind of consumer interest, traction, and positive sentiment using their tried-and-true voting component.

iHeartRadio Podcast Awards 2020 Highlights from iHeartMedia on Vimeo.

Success is never guaranteed with any campaign. But stacking the deck in your favor as much as you can, speaking to audiences on social sites, blogs and forums where they’re participating, beyond the top spots, is always wise. And it helps drive engagement. As is creating promotions that cater to your up-and-coming audiences, not only those already solidly established.

iHeartMedia expertly applies user generated content (UGC) tactics with its iHeartRadio’s awards shows. But any brand can create their own UGC campaign and then follow along in real-time to make any course corrections – or product launches – as dictated by your social listening. And iHeartMedia is the proof in the pudding as the conglomerate’s net sentiment now sits at a jaw-dropping 97% positive as their consumer behavior mentions attest.

iheart-net-sentiment

SUMMARY:

  • Identify topics/trends consumers care most about for the meat of your campaign
  • Share your campaign via the medium and channels your audience loves most
  • Get your audience engaged in the process, by creating a UGC campaign, contest or promotion
  • Follow progress in real-time and adjust as needed

2022 state of social report

Create Authentic, Personalized Experiences with Social Listening

Social isn’t just about communicating about your brand – it’s about learning what consumers want, hence the “listening” part of social listening. It’s also a key part of your customer experience. Sometimes it’s where the experience starts, i.e., brand awareness, or where it ends, i.e., social customer care.

And in between it informs what that experience should be.

Consumers constantly share information on social – and that information is what brands must use to create and hone their customer experience.

Everything from your marketing campaigns, to product quality, to in-store service, to how your social care team interacts with customers shapes the customer experience. Use social insights to learn what your customers love, and to find ways to improve on what they don’t love. We can see this in action with an agency’s work with a video game developer . . .

Giving Gamers What They Want

Recently, Jocelyn Harjes, VP of Insights and Analytics at Ayzenberg Group, shared how social listening helped her identify gamers’ pain points and share them with her client, a video game developer. Specifically, she found that, “the exclusion of a specific game mode was actually the key driver in sentiment. We were concerned that that sentiment was going to have a negative impact on sales.”

Harjes was able to take this consumer insight to her client and show them how this aspect of their brand conversation was steering the narrative. In turn, the developer responded by fast-forwarding the development and roll-out of the game mode, shaving weeks off their initial timeline

And that’s the power of social listening – as Harjes puts it, to trim the fat and get to the root of the issue. These days brands shouldn’t be spending resources in areas that aren’t top priority. Social listening allows you to spot consumer needs and isolate those conversations, so you know exactly where you need to focus.

Explore Consumer Desires and Boost Product Reception with Social Listening

There comes a time in a product’s lifespan that it might not be performing as well as it used to. This can be due to shifting consumer perceptions, needs, or it has simply fell off consumers’ radar.

Brands can use social listening to identify emerging trends to see how tastes are changing and tweak their messaging, packaging, or product placement to renew interest and generate growth. For example, StarKist used social listening to revamp an underperforming segment of their Tuna Creations pouches by identifying how consumers were resonating with diverse flavor profiles and wording such as wild-caught, calories, protein, and bold.

With this intel in hand, they revamped their packaging to highlight the product attributes that consumers were looking for without altering the contents. The result was a resounding success. For example, their jalapeño flavored tuna pouches alone achieved a growth in sales of 138%!

Note the wording on the packaging – that’s the power of social listening at work.

Achieving results such as these isn’t difficult to do with the right social listening tools – but it’s somewhere between a shot in the dark to nigh impossible without them. Sticking with the food direction, we ran an analysis using the search term #foodie and filtered it for audiences interested in food and beverage. Here’s a data visualization of the top conversational clusters in Quid Social over the past three months:

Top-‘Foodie’-discussions-on-social-media

Top ‘Foodie’ discussions on social media. 10/16/21-1/16/22

As you can see, this outlook offers a wealth of starting points for brands even remotely connected to this category. Have a line of recipe books? You’ll want to dive into the bookclubs, gifts, and blog/vlog clusters. You’ll also want to use the others as inspiration for upcoming books so you’re giving foodies exactly what they want to see.

Whether your brand is moving kitchen knives, kettlebells, or vlogging equipment, there’s a way to insert your products into this conversation. Social listening gives you a ringside seat to what’s top of mind with consumers, so you don’t waste time doing what was popular yesterday.

SUMMARY:

  • Analyze for terms and sentiment about your customer experience
  • Look for needs that aren’t being met, as well as those that are
  • Create a sense of community when possible, as building brand love requires many hands.

Conceive and Launch New Products with Social Listening

With overcrowded markets, ecommerce saturation, supply chain disruptions, inflation woes, and other pandemic-related brand challenges, most brands literally cannot afford to fail when they launch new products and services. Social listening is an always-on survey that lets you find out what features and products your audience wants – and which they absolutely don’t.

For example, Sara Fogel, Director of Customer Engagement at Gopuff partnered with Reagan DeLattre, Director of Business Growth & Strategy at 113 Industries, a consumer research agency, to get to the bottom of consumer pain points in the essential needs delivery category.

Social listening helped Gopuff identify how consumers were feeling about delivery services this far into the pandemic by listening to what consumers were saying on social media. As Fogel explains, the NetBase Quid® platform gave them a deeper look into social analytics, and revealed a continual drop off in sentiment in the delivery services industry from all-time highs at the onset of the pandemic.

Digging further into these conversations revealed consumers gave a lot of grace to brands early on, but as time went by the accuracy of the order and the timeliness in which it was delivered was driving the dive in consumer sentiment.

With this information in hand, Gopuff leaned into order accuracy and an average delivery time of thirty minutes – a stark contrast from a category that leans heavily on influencer marketing (which they found customers don’t care about when the order is wrong – or late). So, whether you’re building innovation in your products or services, social listening will tell you which direction you need to go to please your customer base so you’re generating more posts like this:

post-from-happy-gopuff-consumer

Consumer post found using social listening.

But you don’t have to take our word for it – check out their video presentation, Harnessing the Power of Collaboration in Driving Innovative Research, from our most recent NetBase Quid® Live event for the full scoop.

Online indicators of consumer behaviors are being shared about every product and service in every vertical. Using a tool able to harness and analyze structured and unstructured data at scale is the key differentiator between tomorrow’s winners and losers. With the right social listening tools at your disposal, you can ensure you always have a leg up on the competition!

SUMMARY:

  • Identify consumer pain points on social, and use sentiment to assess value
  • Look for opportunities to partner with other successful brands or agencies
  • If the status quo in your category is the issue, use social listening to identify a new direction and set sail. You’ll win consumer love and set yourself apart from the crowd in the process.

Social Listening is Your Roadmap

As you can see, social listening is not limited to marketing endeavors. The data you collect can be applied to any area of operations – and it should be.

Though social monitoring is important for alerting you to potential problems, you need social listening to avoid being caught off guard.

You don’t want to wait until there’s a problem to take your audience’s temperature. You want to know how they feel every step of the way, and be able to anticipate and avoid problems as a result.

Additionally, the better you know your audience, the better you’re able to serve them – and that’s what keeps them coming back.

So, invest in social listening tools now, if you haven’t already. Every second you wait just gives your competitors the advantage.

Be sure to check out the other parts of this comprehensive series, starting with What Is Social Media Monitoring?

And when you’re ready to see our social listening tools in action reach out for a custom demo!

2022 state of social report

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