You’ve probably heard me say that phrase on this blog dozens of times. Why, you ask?
Simply because I believe that listening is probably the most important asset you business can have.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen” –Ernest Hemingway
I believe that most businesses never listen and that’s the ONLY reason why they fail to build products or services people really want. Many brands get caught in the assumption game that they completely forget to take a step back and assess what their customers and prospects really want/need.
If you take a look at the “Lean” concept that most startups live by today, you’ll see that it’s all based on listening and feedback. You just have to release your “Minimum Viable Product” and then listen to what people say about it. This will allow you to create a product or service that people really want instead of creating one that you “Think” people want!
Now that you know how listening is crucial to your business, here are some of the reasons why you should create a listening strategy.
1- Find Gaps In Your Market
There is no way you’re going to stand above your competition without offering something that no other business is offering. You might build a profitable business by offering the exact same thing that your competitors are offering, but you’ll never stand out!
Listening to what your target market is talking about will give you invaluable insights on what people complain about and what it is they exactly want. You might find that people complain about the long response time of your competitors and that would represent a huge opportunity for you to stand out and offer exceptional customer service.
If for example you see that people complain about the long content your competition is posting, this could be an opportunity for you to offer different mediums such as video or podcast to make content consumption easier for your prospects.
2- Improve Your Products And Services
Customer insights are invaluable to building a successful brand. The amount of insights I gathered from my prospects/clients has literally transformed the way I think about my business.
Listening to your customers is probably the only way you’re going to build a successful product. It will help you tweak your offering so it resonates well with your prospects. It will also give you more insights about your ideal customer so you improve your targeting. Long story short, it’ll help you build a successful brand!
3- Protect Your Reputation
If United Airlines “Listened” and didn’t ignore the signals, it would’ve prevented that nightmare back in 2008. They didn’t resolve a customer issue the right way and it resulted in a PR nightmare!
Social listening will quickly help you identify complaints about your brand so you can quickly address them before they turn into a serious PR problem for your business!
4- Identify Opportunities
This is one of the huge benefits of social listening, identifying opportunities!
The first scenario is when you see that a person who mentioned your brand name is an influencer in your market or has access to a huge audience full of your prospects. If you business isn’t listening, then you might never identify those influencers, but if your business is in fact monitoring brand name or industry keywords, then you could follow up right away, thank the person who mentioned you and start building relationships with them!
The second scenario is when you listen to your competitors brand names. I used this strategy along with one of my clients (a tech startup) to get brand awareness as well as more users for their platform. What I did is that I monitored competitor brand name keywords as well as industry keywords. By doing that, I was able to compile a list of recent mentions in major blogs and magazines in addition to reporters/bloggers who were responsible for those articles. We immediately emailed them and the result was mentions all over the web and specifically on Forbes, VentureBeat, Technorati…etc.
Now that you know the main benefits of social listening, here is how you go about creating the perfect listening strategy for your business.
A) Link It to Business Objectives
The first thing you need to do is of course tie your social listening strategy to your business objectives. This will help determine why, what and how you listen.
If your objective is protecting your reputation, then you should monitor your brand name for possible complaints so you can respond to them quickly.
If your objective is building a community of advocates, then you should identify those advocates and reward them accordingly so they continue to spread the word about your brand.
If your objective is facilitating research and development, then you should listen to industry keywords as well as competitors brand keywords in order to be able to improve your offering, products or services.
If your objective is enhancing your PR, then focusing on those influencers will help you build better relationships as well as partnerships with them.
If your objective is to drive brand awareness or get more leads and sales, you should be monitoring negative competitor brand name mentions and exploit that opportunity to introduce your product or service.
Long story short, your social listening strategy will be more effective if it has an objective to be reached.
B) Identify What to Listen to
Here, you should be a little bit creative in order to determine what keyword variations you should be listening to.
The main 3 things are of course: your brand name variations, your competitors brand names in addition to industry keywords.
You can compile 3 separate lists of keywords that you need to monitor in order to stay on top of your industry. These keywords will act as spies that report directly to your team so you can act accordingly.
C) Setup Response Guidelines
Many brands focus on the negative side of monitoring by setting up “Crisis Management Guidelines“. What you should do is setup guidelines for all the possibilities because every situation could be turned into an opportunity even a negative one.
You should be clear on how your team responds to mentions across the web in order to prevent any problems. StarBucks is known to do this very well. They have guidelines that they teach their employees how to follow so they can handle angry customers on their offline shops.
For example: if you find a negative tweet about our brand, here is what you should do…
If you see a mention from a blogger, here is what you should do…
This will simplify the process for your team and make sure that everyone responds in the most beneficial way to your business.
D) Select the Proper Tools
There are many tools in the market both free and paid that you can use for your social listening strategy.
Selecting the tools will depend mostly on your budget in addition to how big your brand is. If you’re looking for free tools then you can use the good old Google Alerts. Social Mention is also a great free tool that you can use to do some basic monitoring.
If you’re looking for some more advanced features, then you can take a look at: Sprout Social, Sysomos or Sales Force Marketing Cloud. A simple Google search will give you tons of tools that might suit your needs and budget.
E) Tracking and Reporting
There is no way you’re going to improve your business without having the proper tracking and reporting in place.
You should track the volume as well as the sentiment of those mentions, especially the ones about your brand. This will tell you exactly whether you’re moving towards the right direction or not. If you see that your complaint rate is decreasing, then you know that you’re on the right track.
Reporting will also help you keep track of what prospects really want in your product or service so you keep always improving. Most of the paid social listening/monitoring tools have tracking and reporting features to make things easier for your team
That being said, which is your brand doing the most: talking OR listening?
Image Credit: StillSearc