A brand can only improve its marketing strategy once it’s able to gauge its audience’s reaction. This goes beyond measuring likes, shares, comments, retweets, likes, and hearts. Acquiring an honest and broad reaction means discovering what people are saying much further than your comments section.

 

Social listening is defined by Sprout Social as the “process of tracking conversations around specific phrases, words or brands, and then leveraging them to discover opportunities or create content for those audiences.”

 

In other words, on a broad level you’re gauging the overall feeling of your brand. On an individual level you’re engaging with users to improve your customer service and their satisfaction in dealing with your business. From this information, you can develop a successful strategy “built around reaching the right people at the best time with the most insightful content.”

 

Some agencies and community managers might say they already listen, but they’re likely mistaking listening with monitoring:

 

“Monitoring collects every social mention and action, while listening requires analysis and reflection. With the latter, you can watch for patterns, track sentiment and draw conclusions based on where and when conversations happen.”

 

There’s a difference between waiting for the comments to come to you and going after the comments themselves. Addressing a comment left on your social media is fine, but you know what’s better? Having a social listening platform where you implement keywords that alert you when mentioned. That’s how you go above and beyond to scope out engagement.

 

Most users aren’t going to directly call you out if they have a comment or concern. In fact, on Twitter, “30% of tweets mentioning your company don’t include your Twitter handle” and “only 9% of tweets are actually directed at your brand.”

 

Here are a few suggestions from HootSuite on what type of keywords you can follow:

 

  1. Brand name and handles
  2. Your product names
  3. Competitors’ brand names, product names, and handles
  4. Industry buzzwords
  5. Your slogan and those of your competitors
  6. Names of key people in your company and your competitors’
  7. Campaign names or keywords
  8. Your branded hashtags and those of your competitors
  9. Unbranded hashtags related to your industry

 

So while you could be waiting for that notification bell to ring, there could be hundreds of mentions going unnoticed simply because the users didn’t ‘@’ you. The real tragedy in this realization is the untapped potential and opportunities missed because of these often overlooked social media variables.

 

Nearly every piece of engagement can be looked at as an opportunity to establish brand loyalty and superior customer service. Concerns could be addressed, compliments can be thanked, and influencers can be identified. Even for something mundane, a response could be made just to show you’re there and listening.

 

Here’s a perfect example:

 

 

Notice how the brand wasn’t ‘@’ed or hashtagged. Virgin Mobile USA had to search for the complaint. They were likely using a social listening tool, such as Sprinklr or Hootsuite, implemented ‘Virgin Mobile’ as a keyword, and found Brad Ruddock’s comment among the thousands of mentions they likely get on a daily basis.

 

Even if Brad’s matter doesn’t get resolved, he can still walk away with a far more positive experience than before. He can still say Virgin Mobile actually reached out to help. If there’s one thing he can’t complain about, it’s their customer service’s attentiveness.

 

Social media presents significant opportunities like these for customer service, yet it’s often taken for granted by companies of all sizes. This, despite an Oracle study discovering that “43% of users interact with brands on social media for a direct response to a problem or question”, with an “additional 31% interacting with brands to gain direct access to customer service representatives or product experts.”

 

Let’s utilize a fun little thing I like to call perspective. Put yourself in the shoes of a frustrated customer, which shouldn’t be difficult because we have all been in that position. You have a problem and want it resolved, but what’s the route you have to go? Most of the time, it’s calling a customer service rep.

 

But it’s never that simple is it? It’s hitting buttons. It’s navigating to the right department. It’s talking to several (hopefully human) reps before finally reaching the right one. It’s spending time on hold. It’s just one thing after another and before you know it, you’ve used up an hour of your free time trying to resolve what you thought would be a simple issue.

 

In today’s age, people are more than happy to choose the internet or texting over having to call someone to communicate what they need. It’s just more convenient to log on to a website or social media account and talk to someone there, as opposed to calling someone and getting the runaround.

 

If Brad had an issue with Virgin Mobile and decided to call them, he likely would have been on the phone for an hour. Instead, all he had to do was mention their name and he got an almost immediate response.

 

Both Virgin Mobile and Brad are better because of it. Good for them. But especially for Virgin Mobile because “70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they’re treated”. While Brad may not be a return customer because of the product itself, he may return simply because their customer service was attentive and immediate.

 

Providing a high-quality experience, in fact, is far more effective than any advertisement. Did you know that “90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, while only 33% trust ads?” It shouldn’t be a surprise, but people are more likely to trust their friends than a brand they’ve never done business with.

 

Sometimes the disgruntled customers you can engage with aren’t even mad at you. Instead, they’re frustrated with a competitor. Now’s your chance to be their rebound:

 

 

Would this opportunity ever have been noticed if Jakub was simply social listening? Most likely not. His brand, Brand24, is likely a competitor of Radian6, and he was able to identify this opportunity because he had ‘Brand24’ as a keyword. When he finally saw an opening, through a customer frustrated with their current service, he leapt at the opportunity.

 

As a result of social listening, they now have one more customer they never would have had without it.

 

Get creative in your social listening strategy. It’s easy to find keywords focused on you, but it’s not enough if you’re really looking to engage and interact with every potential customer. Go further by engaging with people interested in your industry and, even further, those that are already associated with a competitor.

 

Social media has afforded brands the ability to interact with current and potential customers on a level they never had before. Letting it go to waste is performing a disservice to your brand by taking yourself out of the running for your next sale.

 

So next time you log on, just listen. You’d be surprised what you’re audience has to say.