When most people think (or talk) about listening, they go directly to the actual act of listening in conversations between individuals — and they’re right we all need to be better relational listeners. In fact, I’d argue it’s the most underdeveloped skill we possess, and I could write multiple columns and do several podcast episodes about it — and still not convince people they needed to work on enhancing their listening skills.
But today, I’d like to direct your attention to a different form of listening. Today’s column is all about social listening. Over the past several months, I’ve heard this term used in a variety of places in different contexts, but I didn’t fully understanding the meaning — so, I started a quest to learn more about “social listening,” what it is, and how I can use it in my business and everyday life.
So, let’s dive into the most intriguing things I’ve learned about “social listening” so far…
What is Social Listening?
At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering, what exactly is social listening? Hootsuite defines it as “tracking social media platforms for mentions and conversations related to your brand, then analyzing them for insights to discover opportunities to act.” Others define it as the intentional act of listening to your customers, prospects, influencers, and your competitors, to understand what they are saying about you, your company, your brand, your products, and your industry.
What are the benefits of Social Listening?
The benefits of social listening are endless. Why? Because the more you know about your business, your industry and your customers, the better you can create content that supports their needs and how your products and services address and solve their most intricate business problems.
Some of the more specific benefits of social listening include: understanding and engaging with your audience, industry and competitor intelligence, product intelligence, crisis avoidance, help attracting new prospects to fill your funnel, and support you in finding collaboration opportunities.
The bottom line is, if you’re not engaged in social listening — you're doing business blind!
What should you listen for?
Good social listening is about choosing the keywords that are important to you and your business. These can, and should change over time, as your business changes and grows. Some of the important keywords and topics to monitor should include: your name, your brand name, competitors names, product names, industry buzzwords, key employees (like CEO), and relevant hashtags.
Make sure you are listening in the right places, focusing on where your audience or customers hang out naturally. For example, if your audience is not on Pinterest, then listening there has no value to you. You need to make sure you know where your target audience lives naturally, so you can listen effectively across the most important platforms related to your business.
Social listening gives you a good sense of what’s happening in your industry, including data that you can use to make adjustments and changes to your content strategy or respond actively (and meaningfully) to your audience.
Overall, listening to your audience does not have to be as complicated as it may sound. You just need to get started and as with other things, I recommend you start small… but start.
Social Listening Tools
There are software and applications available for you to use to get started or even level up your social listening. What’s important is simply that you start listening to what others are saying. It's one of the things you can do to ensure you are not only knowledgeable, but also controlling the narrative about what is being said about you and your brand. Because if you don’t control it, your competition will.
Based on my research, here are 5 tools you should explore to see what one works best for you. These are listed in random order and not by any form of ranking.
Social listening is not only about attaining information and tracking metrics — it’s about understanding the insights your clients and prospects share and how you can create better content to support them and their needs. Just like all other aspects of your digital sales process, this takes time to develop and master, so don’t expect immediate results. The important part is that you have a digital strategy that is effective, reaching new clients regularly, and growing your business. If you don’t… well, we’ll save that for another column.