The importance of listening in social media, and how to get it right

Social media listening, also known as social monitoring is not only an everyday task these days, it's a 24/7 job. The process of identifying and analyzing what is being said about your brand, your product, your service (or you, for that matter) on the internet is crucial for any social media effort. There are hundreds of tools out there for this – some simple, free, and some complicated and detailed. Either way, you need to monitor what's being said out there. So, why is it important? And how do you get it right?

Why listening is important

With the right listening strategy you can achieve a lot to help your social media efforts. Right way, you'll get to know where and when your target audience (your community) is – which platforms they prefer so you can then have conversations with them. You can identify influencers and advocates. You cannot ignore the part social listening plays in improving customer care. It's a great source for feedback. You can target and attract new customers. It helps you generate leads. Overall, listening is the most important component in your social media strategy. It helps and build every other thing you do on social.

Decide what you are listening for

What is your listening strategy based on? This is the first step, and it's important to have a framework that guides you when you monitor what's out there. Are you monitoring consumer behavior? Sentiment about your brands and products – negative or positive – or the absence of it? Are you listening to generate leads and drive sales? Are you monitoring trends and news? All of this will help you decide how you will turn social voices into consumer insights for your brand. These insights drive your content.

Create a list of keywords and terms and develop queries based on those. Be as accurate as possible. This isn't a shotgun approach, its sniper. The more-accurate your social listening is, the better you will be at finding sentiments, comments, actions, trends and opportunities to engage with fans.

Define how you are going to use what you listen to

Once you know what's being said out there, you'll need a clear plan on how you'll be using the insights that you get out of what's being said out there. Being said about you, your brand, product, service, customer care, your competition, the industry you're in.

Insights help you create content, and it helps you define your content forward plan. You can go to your client (if you're an agency), your management, your stakeholders and defend your content, the platforms you socialize on, if it's based on listening. Listening gives you data, and data is insight. It helps you ride trending topics, and build future content. It's being aware, and that's what should help you define what you'll say. I have said this earlier – God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

And remember, social listening is not only applicable to social media that your brand is on, but to all of online – where information about your brand, product, competition or industry may appear. These includes any website, blogs, forums, other social networks and search engines.

Listen all the time

You cannot turn off your ears. That makes you deaf. And dumb. Use tools to listen round the clock. Automate if necessary. Actually, automation is a great idea. There are several tools that not only help you automate listening, but improve your whole social effort. You cannot go in once a week and dig through your Facebook insights. It's a 24/7 job. Social media fans love when you are listening to and responding, building conversations around what's hot and happening. This also helps you expand your base – folks in social who don't fan or follow you but discover you based on the immediacy and context of your content. Real time helps, real good.

Listen better

Pay attention. Find out who is talking about you, in what capacity, and where. And why. Do they have a beef? A compliment? How important is it for your business? Look at most brand's listening strategy – and you'll notice that they often are listening almost entirely for mentions of their brand name. That’s listening with noise cancelling headphones on. In their social conversations, customers do not necessarily mention your brand or product in precise and perfectly phrased ways. Make sure your listening caters to those whims. It just asks for better listening.

Better listening better requires people who know how to listen

You may have the right listening strategies and tools in place, but do have people who know the art of listening. There's a difference between listening and hearing. Listening requires focus, understanding, and interpretation. You need the right people, the right teams who are able to convert the "chatter" into useful data and insights. Your efforts will only be as good as the people running them. So make sure you have structured your social team with people who know how to listen, what to listen for, and what to do with what they discover.

Respond to what you listen to

Your response strategy is really an extension of your listening strategy. To make your social listening work, you have to be able to and be willing to respond very quickly in response to what's being said. This may mean giving the social media team authority to respond in real-time, or developing a social newsroom specially-equipped to produce content rapidly for social sharing. You should have a clear tiered response strategy – perhaps with bands like 'critical-immediate', 'urgent-within 4 hours', 'critical-but needs input from team', 'customer care-urgent' 'ok to respond next day' etc.

By the way here are some free listening tools:

Listen. Analyse. Respond. Build on what you hear. And generate interesting engagement driven content around that. That's how you can improve your social media engagement, and get better ROI on your efforts. And, it's not rocketsurgery.


Listening and monitoring what is being said about your brand or your products is not just relevant for social media. It is important for every aspect of marketing. Social media has now opened up the channel of communications back to the brand, whereas, earlier, it was just one way communication via advertising. Today, markets need to come across as social by engaging with their audience and responding to concerns. Social listening is the way to go about it. There are some compelling reasons why brands should make listening a top priority.


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