Last month, we introduced you to the power of social listening, the process of tapping into conversations happening around social media as a strategy for improving various aspects of business. Unlike social media management, with its focus on what customers are saying to your brand, social listening expands beyond that to monitor what consumers are saying about you or a related topic.
Social listening provides an array of benefits to businesses of all sizes and across all industries. From proactive customer service and community building, to content curation and trend or campaign monitoring, social listening allows brands to stay aware of and engage around the topics most important to them and their audiences.
Our previous blog made the why of social listening clear, so today we’re getting into the how — the important first steps of establishing an effective social listening strategy.
1. Identify your goals
What is it you’re trying to accomplish through social listening? Defining your goals and how you plan to measure your success is the essential first step in any social listening strategy. Is your goal to extend customer service? Increase brand awareness? Find new content to share with your community? A combination of these, or something else entirely?
Also consider what type of metrics you’ll use to measure your success and what type of data you’re hoping to collect. For a company tracking a hashtag campaign, reach or impressions might be the important data; another may want to see a demographic breakdown of the users who used that hashtag. A brand looking to expand its community might look at the number of new followers acquired through proactive engagement.
When you and your team are clear on what you want to achieve and how you plan to measure it, the process becomes much smoother.
2. Brainstorm the terms you want to listen for
With your social listening goals established, consider the words and phrases you want to monitor. It’s less important here to think about the words you would use, and more important to consider how your customers (or potential customers) talk about your topic of choice. So, keep in mind any common misspellings or colloquial phrases.
For example, a video game company’s social customer support team might want to monitor for patching issues after a new update is released. In their search, they would want to listen for the name of their game (including any common abbreviations), paired with terms like: patch, patching, update, updating, stuck, error.
3. Test and refine your search
To hone your social listening search query, do some preliminary searches for the terms you’ve brainstormed. This is critical to ensuring you aren’t picking up any extra “noise” — that is, tweets or posts that include your specified keywords but are not relevant. Look to identify any trends or recurring words among the resulting irrelevant content that you can use to filter those mentions out of your search results.
For example, a travel agency looking to engage with people interested in visiting Australia might be monitoring a term like “trip to Australia.” If news comes out that a high profile politician or celebrity is planning to visit the country, the agency would want to refine their search to filter out mentions of that individual, which would not be relevant to their social listening goals of engaging potential travelers.
Refining your search should be an ongoing process, something you iterate on as customer conversations and trends evolve.
4. Find the social listening tool that meets your needs
There are a few ways to set up social listening feeds using free tools, though the extent of your listening capabilities will be limited. For instance, Tweetdeck allows you to set up streams to track various search queries. Using Twitter’s Advanced Search, anyone can create a detailed search string that can then be used in a running stream on Tweetdeck, where results are collected for you to review.
You can also set up Google Alerts – either via email or RSS feed – to capture mentions of specific terms across news outlets and blogs (this isn’t specifically social media, but it’s still a useful free tactic).
The catch with social listening is that to do it effectively – with automated, complex queries, metrics, and the ability to listen across multiple platforms – you will need a robust social listening tool. There are a number of options out there, with similar but distinct offerings, features, and cost plans. At ModSquad, we’ve used many of the social listening tools on the market today and often provide recommendations to clients as to which will best suit their social listening needs.
There you have it: the 4-step process to design and execute your social listening strategy. Now, go forth and listen! Questions? Leave them in the comments or drop us a line.