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Social listening is the key to fostering brand-consumer relationships

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(Image credit: Image Credit: iStock)

2020 has proven itself a trying year for brands. With a global shutdown of physical stores and the need to quickly utilize digital platforms and cater to shifting consumer behavior, businesses have had to quickly adapt in order to navigate this new landscape. However, with this changing marketplace comes new opportunities.

Social media is hugely beneficial for businesses and forms a vital part of a digital marketing strategy. Social media channels not only allow you to share content and interact with your audience, they also provide the ability to generate leads.

According to research conducted by customer engagement platform Braze, 1 in 4 consumers engaged with a new brand during the pandemic. What's more, a study titled 'The Future of Retail: Opportunities for Brands in the New Normal', found that brand familiarity was no longer a critical factor in consumer purchasing decisions. Instead, the report found that your brand values and corporate empathy now play a more significant role. This presents you with an excellent opportunity to reach new audiences. Yet, what we have seen during the last few months is how quickly things can change and how easily brands can misstep. That's why keeping track of consumer sentiment is crucial during these uncertain times – enter social listening.

Understanding the different channels

Before you begin engaging with social listening, it’s essential that you understand the multitude of social platforms, how they differ and what opportunities or challenges they might present. To start with, you should consider which platform is most valuable to you and your customers.

Over the years, social media channels have evolved and are managed in different ways. Typically, Twitter is a relatively open platform that allows you to view a lot of content. On the other hand, Facebook can be a lot more private, with the ability for users to hide certain content and make pages private. Due to this, it can be challenging for third parties to explore these pages to see what people are saying about a particular brand or business. This is something to be mindful of before undertaking social listening efforts.

Monitoring online conversations

In times like these, you need to ensure that you’re tracking consumer sentiments and keeping your ears to the ground to see what’s being said about your brand online. This is where social listening comes into play – enabling you to identify and track relevant conversations that are happening online. Not only can you use social listening tools to monitor what is being said about your brand, but you can also use them to track broader social conversations around industry-specific current affairs. If a brand promotes an inappropriate message during a time of anxiety, anger or confusion, the result could be catastrophic for that brand’s reputation.

Businesses and brands will have different wants and needs when it comes to deciding what to monitor on social media; therefore, social listening can be tailored to these objectives. It is essential to think about precisely what you want to find out, whether it's as simple as 'what do people think of our brand?', or whether it’s more along the lines of 'what does our social audience look like and what are their interests?'

Analyzing the data

Although it is good to look at how many times your brand has been tagged, shared or replied to, you also need to make sure you are capturing instances where your brand has been mentioned without a direct tag. With visibility of the whole conversation and by taking a holistic view, you empower your business to make better decisions.

Once the relevant data has been gathered, it's time to analyze the findings. This can either be done at scale, looking at numbers, statistics or trends over time, or it can be done at a granular level, looking at specific posts or accounts.

One thing to look at when analyzing are the peaks and troughs in terms of volume of conversation around your brand. Keeping an eye on the topics your brand is coming up with will help you gain a deeper understanding of why these are happening.

Finally, it is important to study the sentiment of conversation around your brand. It is crucial to understand whether the conversation around your brand is positive, negative or neutral. By doing this, you can gain an understanding of whether your social and marketing strategies are having a positive impact. If you are finding significant negativity around your brand, then perhaps it’s time to make a change. It’s crucial to listen to your consumers and engage in broader conversations without running the risk of seeming opportunistic. By identifying trigger points, you can see where the negative peaks are and, as a result, be better equipped to respond appropriately. In addition, you’ll be more likely to see a potential crisis coming and make an informed and effective decision about how to handle it or even prevent it entirely.

Audience

Social listening lets you go one step further than the more common demographic analytics you might be used to. Social listening allows you to look at the specific interests of the wider audience who have engaged with your content on social media, even if they haven't converted a sale or clicked on an advert. By combining audience insight and key topics data, you can find out exactly what drives conversations and what interests your audience.

Reporting

There are numerous ways in which you can pull together a social listening report, but there are two in particular which work well and can be combined. Regular 'BAU' reporting consists of set metrics, such as the volume of conversation, the trend of sentiment, key posts and competitor comparison. Whereas ‘flashpoint’ reporting involves faster response. This type of reporting allows you to quickly understand how your brand is being perceived in relation to an individual situation, such as a product launch.

The average person spends around 1 hour and 50 minutes on social media every day. This could range from merely speaking to friends, to commenting on a brands image and expressing something they feel about the brand. That’s why investing in tools that allow brands to keep track of online trends should be a priority for any business that values its online presence. Social listening should play a key role in shaping your marketing strategy. By analyzing audience insights, you can realign your social presence to better reach your goals. During such chaotic times, brands that implement an effective social listening strategy as part of their more comprehensive social plan gives them greater agility in responding to relevant discussion across multiple social channels.

David Wharram, CEO, Coast Digital

David is CEO at Coast Digital and has spent his career working with global clients across a diverse range of sectors.