Listen Up: The benefits of social listening for brands.

Image of the post author Jodie Shaw

Social listening in market research refers to the process of monitoring and analyzing conversations and mentions of a brand or product on social media platforms. It allows companies to understand consumer sentiment, identify trends and opportunities, and track the performance of their marketing campaigns. 

Social listening is also known as social media monitoring or online reputation management. The responsibility for social listening typically falls under the purview of the marketing or customer service department within an organisation. 

Many types of brands use social listening, including consumer goods, retail, technology, and healthcare. 

The history of social listening can be traced back to the early days of social media, with the term’s first use dating back to the mid-2000s. 

Why should brands care what people are saying about them online?

Brands should care about their online reputations because what is said about them online can significantly impact their business. 

A positive online reputation can lead to increased brand awareness and customer loyalty, ultimately driving sales. On the other hand, a negative online reputation can lead to a loss of customers and harm the brand image and the bottom line.

Social listening can be a powerful tool for protecting and managing a brand’s online reputation. By monitoring what is being said about the brand on social media and other online platforms, brands can identify potential issues early on and take steps to address them before they escalate.

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One example of how brand damage could have been avoided through better social listening is the case of United Airlines. In 2017, a video of a passenger being forcibly removed from one of United’s flights went viral on social media. The incident caused a significant backlash against the airline, and the company’s stock price dropped as a result. Had United been monitoring social media more closely, they could have identified the issue and responded more quickly, potentially mitigating some of the damage to the company’s reputation.

Another example is Nestle. In 2010, Nestle was hit by a consumer boycott and negative media coverage after Greenpeace accused the company of using palm oil linked to the destruction of rainforests. Nestle’s social listening process was not robust enough to detect the issue, it took Nestle almost two weeks to respond to the crisis, which already had a considerable impact on the brand’s reputation. Had Nestle been more proactive in monitoring social media, it could have quickly identified the issue and taken steps to mitigate the damage.

What steps should be followed in social listening, and what information can be uncovered?

The steps in social listening typically include the following:

  1. Setting clear goals and objectives for the research
  2. Identifying the social media platforms and channels to be monitored
  3. Collecting and analyzing data from these platforms and channels
  4. Interpreting the data and identifying patterns and trends
  5. Taking appropriate action based on the insights gained

Social listening can uncover a wide range of information, including:

  1. Brand mentions: Social listening can help brands identify how often their brand is mentioned online and where it occurs. Brands can listen for various mentions, including their brand name, product names, or key phrases associated with their brand. This can help them understand how their brand is being talked about online and identify potential issues or opportunities.
  2. Consumer sentiment: Social listening can help brands understand consumer opinions and perceptions of their brand by identifying patterns and trends in consumer sentiment, positive, negative, or neutral. This can help them understand consumer opinions and perceptions of their brand.
  3. Competitor mentions: Brands also listen for mentions of their competitors’ names, products, and key phrases. This can help them understand the strategies and tactics that are working well for their competitors and identify areas where they can improve.
  4. Industry trends: Social listening can help brands understand the conversations and trends within their industry and identify potential opportunities. This can help them understand trends and discussions in the industry and identify potential opportunities.
  5. Campaign and promotion performance: Social listening can help brands understand how well their campaigns and promotions resonate with consumers and identify areas where they can improve.
  6. Reputation management: Social listening can help brands identify potential crisis situations and take appropriate action to address them. Brands can listen for any negative comments or complaints about their brand. This can help them identify potential crisis situations and take appropriate action to address them.
  7. Influencer and brand advocate: Social listening can help brands identify potential brand ambassadors and understand how key groups of consumers perceive their brand. This can help them identify potential brand ambassadors and understand how key groups of consumers perceive their brand.
  8. Customer feedback and complaints: Social listening can also identify customer feedback and complaints, providing valuable insights into what customers like and dislike about a brand’s products or services.
  9. Demographics: Social listening can also help brands understand who is talking about their brand, as well as their age, location, gender, and interests.
  10. Product feedback: Social listening can also give brands feedback on their products, what customers like and dislike about them, and suggestions for improvement.

What tools are available for social listening?

There are a variety of technology tools available for social listening. These include:

  1. Social media monitoring tools: These tools allow brands to track mentions of their brand and specific keywords across social media platforms. Some popular examples include Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Buzzsumo.
  2. Sentiment analysis tools: These tools use natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to automatically classify and categorize mentions of a brand as positive, negative, or neutral. Examples include Brand24, Digimind, and Synthesio.
  3. Listening platforms: These platforms offer a comprehensive social listening solution that covers many data sources, including social media, news, and blogs. Examples include Mention, Brandwatch, and NetBase Quid.
  4. AI-based tools: These are the latest tools that use Artificial Intelligence to provide more in-depth insights, such as sentiment, emotion, and intent. Examples include Cognovi Labs, Receptiviti, and Persado.
  5. Data visualisation tools: These tools help to make sense of the large amounts of data collected by social listening tools by presenting it in a clear and easily understandable format. Examples include Tableau, QlikView, and Looker.

These tools vary in terms of features, capabilities, and pricing, and brands must choose the right one that fits their specific needs and budget. Additionally, some more advanced tools offer features such as real-time monitoring, alerts and notifications, and integration with other business systems.

Should brands use social listening on their competitors?

Brands can use social listening to monitor their competitors. By monitoring their competitors’ social media channels, they can gain insights into the strategies and tactics that work well for their competitors and identify areas where they can improve. They can also track their competitors’ product launches, promotions, and advertising campaigns and monitor for any potential crisis situations. This can help brands stay competitive and make informed decisions about their own products and marketing strategies. 

Additionally, by monitoring competitors’ social media profiles, brands can monitor their competitors’ key performance indicators and see how their performance compares to theirs.

What happens if a brand hears something negative through social listening?

If a brand hears something negative based on social listening research, it should investigate the claims to verify their accuracy. If the negative sentiment is valid, the brand should take appropriate action to address the issue. This could include issuing a public apology or statement, addressing the specific concerns raised or making changes to the product or service. They should also take steps to prevent similar issues from arising in the future.

What are the negatives of social listening?

There are several challenges that brands may face when conducting social listening, including:

  1. Data overload: With so much data available, it can be challenging to sift through and make sense of it all. This can make it difficult to identify meaningful insights and trends.
  2. Manual data interpretation: Many social listening tools require manual data interpretation, which can be time-consuming and prone to errors.
  3. Bias in data collection: Social listening tools rely on keywords and phrases to collect data, which can lead to bias in the data if not chosen carefully.
  4. Privacy concerns: Social listening can raise privacy concerns by collecting and analyzing personal information. It’s essential to comply with data privacy regulations and have a clear privacy policy.
  5. Lack of context: Social listening tools can provide a lot of data, but they may lack context. For example, a negative comment about a brand may not necessarily mean a negative sentiment towards the brand but a personal experience.
  6. Limited reach: Some social listening tools have limited reach and may only be able to capture some of the conversations about a brand or topic.
  7. Integration with other systems: Integrating social listening data with other business systems, such as CRM and marketing automation, can be challenging and require additional investment.

To overcome these challenges, brands should set clear goals and objectives, choose the right tools and platforms, and take appropriate action based on the insights gained. 

Additionally, brands should consider partnering with a professional market research agency with experience in social listening, like Kadence International, to help ensure their social listening efforts are successful. If you want Kadence International to help you understand your online reputation through social listening, please reach out, as we are more than happy to help.