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The Ultimate Social Listening Guide

Everyone has a voice on social media, and you want to make sure your business hears the right ones—the people talking about your brand. Native apps do their best to feed you relevant posts, but it’s not always enough to help your business grow. You need to know exactly when your own brand voice needs to be heard.

That’s what social listening is all about. Done properly, it lets you know when and where people are discussing your business, so you can become part of the conversation at exactly the right time.

This guide will show you exactly how to make social listening work for your business.

What is social listening?

Social listening is the ability to find online conversations around a particular topic or keyword. It goes beyond just detecting @mentions and notifications; it also calls your attention to relevant conversations around your brand. 

Monitoring for @mentions won't pick up on a conversation about your product unless your account handle is being tagged. That means you could be missing out on a lot of valuable audience interactions. Social listening tools let you find the conversations happening even when your handle isn’t being tagged.

This helps you satisfy your customers, watch the competition, and track industry trends—all from the comfort of your office. You don’t have to actively seek out this information; social listening tools bring it all to you.

When executed properly, social listening can:

  • Track your brand’s reputation across multiple social media platforms
  • Find industry or customer trends
  • Create content audiences want
  • Proactively improve the customer experience

Sounds pretty good, right? Let’s take a deeper dive into the subject and see how you can take full advantage of social listening.

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What is social listening actually doing?

Social listening unlocks valuable customer and marketing insights by looking for very specific things:

Brand Mentions

One of the most basic, yet effective, ways of using social listening is Brand Mentions. Most (if not all) social listening tools detect when someone mentions your brand online or reviews one of your products. The person can either mention you specifically using your “@” handle or your company name.

Either way, the social listening tool will bring it to your attention so you can act on it. Good, bad, ugly… this is the stuff you want to know, so you can reply accordingly to keep your customers happy or address any issues that may have come up.

At Chime, we use tools like the ones listed below to provide brand monitoring services, and take the additional step of engaging users right away to help shape the conversation and keep it fresh. We do the same for reviews of your company or product, scouring popular review sites to keep a finger on the pulse of your customers.

User Sentiment

Sentiment analysis is a key part of an effective social listening process. It analyzes the emotional context of a digital conversation and helps you understand the reasons driving the interaction.

Let’s take the example of new promotional video. It gets hundreds of mentions and shares which, on the surface, is amazing. But sentiment analysis discovers that people are actually laughing at a mistake in the video. Alerted, you immediately pull the video offline.

Without sentiment analysis, your video could’ve stayed online gathering ridicule, and your brand would’ve had egg on its face for months.

You can use this same process to judge market attitudes prior to launching a new product or measure your brand’s health.

Trending Topics

A trending topic is a subject that is being talked about by a large number of people on social media. Trending topics pop up without warning and can disappear just as quickly. Savvy marketers can increase their social media engagement by posting relevant messages while the topic is still hot.

Most social media platforms use hashtags to filter messages by topic. Twitter, for example, presents users with a sidebar showing the list of trending hashtags in your region. While this is okay for personal use, it’s a lot less useful for businesses who need to find trending topics related to their industry.

You can configure a social listening tool to find trending topics related to your business across multiple social media platforms. This allows you to focus on areas where you can provide the most value and reach more receptive audiences.

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How to use social listening tools

Let’s get to the good stuff! Now that you know why social listening is important, we’ll share some of our favorite ways to apply social listening. Here are three of the most popular social listening tools to try, and some of their best uses:

Google Trends

Google Trends is a free website tool that analyzes the popularity of a chosen search query over time. It’s very useful for assembling a list of SEO keywords, but it can also be a very effective social listening tool.

The Google Trends homepage currently displays a categorized list of trending stories, which is perfect for discovering what’s foremost on people’s minds. The tool also allows you to dig beyond the surface level to unearth what people are actually saying. For example, Trends would show that people are talking about the latest iPhone; but upon closer inspection, it turns out that they’re complaining about a product defect. That’s a pretty important distinction!

Trends is also great at showing you real-time trending topics so that you can ride the wave of popular discussions and share timely and relevant messages. One example of this is watching for any search terms that spike during major events.  

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo finds you the most popular content in a given topic. This simple yet powerful function has made it an essential toolbox in any content marketing strategy, and allows it to function as an effective social listening tool. The basic BuzzSumo search can help you:

  • Evaluate if your chosen topic is popular
  • Uncover the content people are talking about the most
  • Use these results to create great content of your own

If you’re serious about adopting social listening, you should give the “Search Content Shared” function a try. Enter your keyword in the “Search Content Shared” field, and you’ll get a list of people who have recently shared something on your topic, and what they shared.

Sendible

Sendible.com is a popular choice for social media managers who need a way to manage multiple client accounts through a single interface. It’s ideal for publishing content and engaging with audience members, and it also offers a powerful suite of listening tools.

Here’s a taste of what you can do with Sendible:

  • Monitor for mentions of your brand or other keywords on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms
  • Set up alerts via email or Slack whenever mentions are found
  • Monitor hashtags, keywords, and competitors so you can find new leads
  • Receive alerts for reviews on Yelp, CitySearch, Glassdoor, and others

This is pretty much everything you could want from a social listening platform. The fact that it’s just one component of the full-service social media tools offered by Sendible makes them 100% worth looking into.

Mention.com

Mention.com offers real-time social media monitoring, analytics, influencer searches, and more. It’s a key part of any serious social media manager’s toolkit. Unlike the other tools listed here, Mention.com is 100% specific to social listening, making it an excellent solution for those who are already happy with the rest of their social management suite.

With Mention.com, you can set up keyword monitoring on about a billion sources, including social streams, websites, blogs, and other parts of the web. A powerful set of filters makes it easy to get rid of the noise and only see what matters to you. You can then analyze your results, reach out to your audience, and make more informed business decisions.

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How does my business benefit from social listening?

We mentioned a lot of positive aspects about social listening already, but here are even more tangible benefits you can take to your next executive meeting.

Create a more realistic business strategy

Don’t rely on assumptions and stock knowledge. Use social listening to collect quantifiable data about user sentiment, and use that to shape your business strategy. Discover what users truly like about your brand (i.e. customer service) and highlight that in your next marketing campaign.

Also use social listening to see how users respond to any new products or messages that you publish. Look for any strong reactions (be they positive or negative) and use that feedback to improve the next campaign.

Drive user conversations

Remember how you can be made aware of any time someone @mentions you or your product? Well, now you have a golden opportunity to steer the conversation the way you want. If one of your users has a complaint, one of your support people (or an agency like Chime) can jump on the conversation and help them out right away. If the users say something positive, your social media people can amplify them or encourage them to tell their friends.

You can also participate in conversations around a thorny industry issue and offer your own two cents. Share the right way of doing things and point them towards valuable resources (i.e. your own) that can solve their need. All of the above tips taken together can boost your Net Promoter Score (an overall measurement of customer sentiment towards your brand).

Creating viral content

Build upon what you know is already popular and create something even better! Use BuzzSumo and other tools to find the most shared articles in a particular field (i.e. best Social Listening apps for 2017) and create an article that’s even more in-depth.

Promote this new mega-post to the same people who shared the original, and you’ve got a higher-than-average chance of this post getting shared as well.

Time to Listen

If these social listening tools aren’t in your toolbox yet… now’s the time to get started! Take advantage of the ability to monitor user sentiment and trends to create business strategies that are more likely to connect with customers. Monitor mentions and reviews and stay on top of any potential brand crises. Create high-value content that will get eyes on your brand.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the time or resources to search for a tool or build a process. Agencies like ours are always available to help you reap the benefits of social listening, even if it’s just to offer a few suggestions, or share some best practices and strategic advice. After all, it’s what we do!

Now perk your ears up and get listening!

To get even more out of your social and content strategy, why not call in the experts? See what Chime can do for you!

Kelso Kennedy

Kelso Kennedy

CoFounder @RedStampAgency - Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the year. He likes Business, Technology, Hockey and Life.

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