Run around marketing circles long enough and you’re bound to come across the concept of social media listening sooner or later. It’s been on everyone’s lips as it’s an effortless way to capitalize on your social media presence to amplify every aspect of your marketing plan.
It all rests on choosing the right tool for the job.
How to listen on social media?
It’s not enough to open your Facebook page and count how many comments, likes and shares there are on your posts. We’re only on step one where social media listening is concerned!
How does social media listening work?
Social media listening, often confused for social monitoring, is the practice of gathering the social media data generated around your brand and products (though not exclusively) and gaining deeper insights into your brand’s health and performance. Rather than just noting the volume of social interactions on your channels, you are investigating as to why that is.
What’s been said about you matters in redrafting your message and marketing strategy, and where better to learn and adapt than on social media.
How to set up social media listening for your business?
First, you narrow down your buyer persona as in who is the best customer type, who will make a purchase with the least amount of effort. These profiles are based on research and answer questions like age, demographics, income bracket, shopping habits, needs and where they spend their time online. It’s desirable to have more than one buyer persona to reach a wider market.
With buyer persona in mind you arrive at the next step – keyword research. The best practice is to conduct keyword research for your brand and products, but also keep a close eye on your biggest competitors.
Then, of course, you need the right social media listening tool.
How to choose the best social media listening tools for you?
Not all social media listening tools are created equal, and that’s the point. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, the same way a multinational corporation won’t share the same needs as a local small business. You have to find the tools that support your goals at a given moment.
Define your goals and set a budget
What’s the end game? Why have you decided to employ social media listening in the first place? Narrow down to specific goals, and they can be as broad as gaining understanding of your brand’s general health or as precise as the tracking and analysis of a specific campaign. Perhaps you’ve registered a consistent drop in sales and wish to identify sentiments through social media listening. Maybe you’re curious what your competitors are doing. Either way you need a focal point, which determines the functionalities you need most.
With goals in place, a timeline usually emerges with a starting point and an end date. This is where you have to think about the budget. Short timeframes make for the best entry point to social media listening as they require low financial commitment and operate with a restricted set of data points.
Decide on what and when you need to monitor
To start you might be most comfortable with social media platforms you’re already on. The basics are a must – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp (for brick-and-mortar locations especially). You have a sufficient level of familiarity and know what metrics to monitor (likes, tweets, shares and mentions).
Also take into account customers have conversations about your brand indirectly and on platforms you’re not present on. Consider forums (Reddit and Quora), YouTube or specialized blogs. Other than channels, data can be filtered by region, language and customer profile, if you want to further narrow your analysis.
Timing is also important unless you’ve decided on on-going monitoring, which is indefinite by its nature. If you’re going to track the success of a campaign, for example, your starting point has to be several days before the campaign to establish a baseline. Extend monitoring beyond the campaign end to measure its after-effects on engagement levels.
Look for ease in usability
Usability needs to lead the list of your criteria. There’s no use to invest in a social media listening tool you can’t operate and understand. What we mean when we talk about usability is two-fold: 1) intuitive design, and 2) early guidance during the set-up.
Let’s examine a simple tool we recommend for tracking industry news and trends pertaining to the line of work you’re in – the RSS reader. RSS has been a solution to consumption of copious amounts of content since the advent of the Internet, and there are a lot of RSS readers available. The tool is intuitive on its own and there are ways to subscribe to specific topics, news sources and keywords. Netvibes, Feedly and Inoreader are top of the line and have a short learning curve, and have fairly intuitive UI and functionality.
Your experience with RSS should inform your expectations for more sophisticated listening tools like Brandwatch or Mention. Because they’re much more complicated in terms of functionality, you should also research how well supported they are. What do these tools offer to overcome any learning challenges through training and guidance?
Compare your social listening options
Glowing reviews and an enticing sales copy might tempt you into purchasing the first social media tool you encounter. Resist and think clearly about whether this tool is the right tool for your current goals. Compile a list of tools and do your due diligence:
· Run a checklist of what functionalities you need against the tools’ USP;
· Read the terms and conditions of each tool’s plans and contracts;
· Give free trials a spin to weigh your options;
· Do a price comparison for what you’re getting and run that against your budget to see whether paying more is justified;
Only then are you able to make an educated purchase.
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