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Social listening strategies

Have a question about your product, customers or competition? Chances are, social listening can help you find your answer. To spark some ideas, we’ve shared some of the top strategies we see customers using to find value with social listening.

Social listening for brand intelligence

Before you peer over the hedges at your competitors’ social strategy, think first about getting your own house in order.

By running social listening for your own organization, you can identify common customer questions, comments, complaints, demographics and general sentiment around your brand, and easily share those insights with the rest of your team.

Once you start absorbing your own social listening data, you can do these tactical things right away.

  • Find your most frequently asked questions. And create a FAQ document or chatbot to help answer questions at scale.
  • Find your customers’ most common issues. And figure out how to solve those issues or create talk tracks to respond quickly.
  • Figure out what your customers love about you. And leverage that information to build campaigns or content you know will resonate.
  • Identify your key social media customers. And figure out how you can utilize their traits to target new social audiences.
  • Get a sense of whether or not followers are positively or negatively mentioning your brand. If it turns out they skew more negative, figure out if those are issues with your social media presence or something you can surface to other parts of your organization, like your product or events teams.

You can also zoom out and look at your customers’ general sentiment.

From a thousand feet up, are your customers happy? If not, you may need to pivot your strategy.

It’s clear to see which days this organization fell out of favor with customers. Drill into those specific days to see what went wrong and learn how to avoid that happening again.

If you find that negativity stems from issues outside of your control, then it is critical to share this data internally. Create entire reports for your team that show why your audience is unhappy and how unhappy that makes the social teams.

Show them anything that may help them identify and remedy a bad situation, like the main themes, keywords, audiences and even locations. While it may seem trivial to you, it could lead your product team to a major “aha” moment.

Social listening for competitive intelligence

Social media is a competitive channel for brands, and some of Sprout’s most popular social media reports are those that customers use to track their competition.

Now imagine you can monitor everything individuals are saying about your competition online. With social listening you can:

  • Get a sense of your share of the social media audience. And understand the volume of your messages vs. theirs.
  • Understand why their customers may not be satisfied with their product. And how you could create a better experience.
  • Find the content they share that outperforms your own. And analyze why it resonates with your shared audience.
  • Quickly identify the new products or solutions they are offering. Find out what the general market sentiment is towards those products and solutions, and set a goal to outperform them.

Let’s say you’re working at a new luxury hotel chain set to disrupt the current leaders. In such a well-established industry you need insights into what the audience is saying about the big players so you can take advantage of any shortcomings.

Dig deeper into the top competitors to find out the most frequently discussed topics to help inform your competitive content strategy.

Slice and dice this data to look at keywords, hashtags, emoticons and more. Then dig into each specific leading phrase to figure out why it’s so popular and how you can leverage those insights to influence your own campaigns.

Social listening for industry intelligence

Social listening helps you pick up on industry trends before they even become trends. By getting a sense of where your market is headed you can create products, content and general messaging that will become a key talking point as trends develop.

Dynamically adapting to your industry sets you leaps and bounds ahead of competitors.

  • Keep an eye on anything disrupting the space that may impact your organization.
  • Track key political and social issues to weigh in on if they’re relevant to your brand.
  • Find gaps in the industry that a new product, solution or workflow could solve.
  • Look for frequently asked questions to create content your audience needs.

A great example of this comes from the quickly rising eSports industry. ESports teams and websites are consistently looking for the next big streamer or game to add to their arsenal.

With social listening, they can find those up-and-comers before anyone else.

Here you see the leading games, but with some tweaks to the listening queries, you can find the top gamers. You can also tweak the sorting to see who is rising through the eSports ranks.

Social listening for campaign insights

Brands spend a good deal of their time coming up with new campaigns to launch, but without insight into whether or not that campaign succeeded, they have no information about how to improve or build upon those efforts.

Listening tactics boost your campaign success dramatically. Think through the following capabilities for your next campaign.

  • Track the impressions and engagements around your campaign posts.
  • Quickly gather general sentiment around specific campaigns.
  • Identify the top influencers discussing your campaigns.
  • Understand which of your audience demographic the campaign resonates with.
  • Figure out the key themes within the campaign that are being used and whether those are positive or negative.
  • Track collaborative campaigns from a single source of truth.

Social listening can finally prove to you the value of your marketing campaigns. Crafting listening topics to capture all of the conversations around your campaign hashtags or handles provides insights into countless metrics.

You can then break down all of these insights by:

  • Network
  • Content type
  • Message type
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Sentiment

Social listening for content strategy

Your audience is much more apt to appreciate and share your content if it resonates with them. But you don’t always know what will resonate with your audience.

While many marketers look to keyword research to figure out what will get the most traffic in Google, figuring out conversations happening on social shows you topics before they even become popular, giving you a leg up on competitors.

  • Identify the top types of content your audience engages with and use that to build your content strategy.
  • Look through common themes within your industry to create content that will resonate.

It’s clear that content around preferred training methods, what kind of gear to use and general nutrition would be appreciated by the audience.

Social listening for customer service

While social media monitoring allows you to easily respond to customer questions, social media listening uncovers trends in those issues.

By finding the root issues that customers have, you create a better overall customer service experience and reduce the number of inbound complaints.

  • If you experience a spike in messages, dig through the trends in those conversations to see what happened.
  • Work to fix what happened. If the issue is out of your control, develop a communication strategy.
  • Find the most frequently used keywords and hashtags receiving complaints. Closely follow the developing narrative.
  • Share information internally on the top locations and demographics. Send messages to help pinpoint issues.

One example is the NFL. Given the high-intensity nature of professional sports, any sort of bad call, missed catch or poor throw can explode on social media. Not to mention the deeper and more concerning conversations around player health and social issues.

The NFL’s customers are, in essence, every single person who currently or may watch a game somewhere down the line. If the leagues and individual teams aren’t quickly identifying and engaging with those important messages, they may lose out on that audience.

Listening can also expose opportunities to surprise and delight your fans for increased exposure and brand loyalty.

And, of course, we have to throw one out there for our home team.

The Bears took advantage of a local polar vortex to sport a new name and share social posts to raise awareness about the dangerous cold front.

By listening to their target audience, the team was able to make content that resonated with their fans.

Social listening for product research

Say you’re tasked with developing new menu items for a chain of fast-casual restaurants. How can you infuse data with your own personal creativity?

Social listening provides a jumping-off point for finding products or services that your customers are hungry for.

While many companies monitor Twitter conversations to identify a problem (like an airline responding to customer complaints about a delayed flight), innovative companies are identifying trends and insights that drive new product development. A packaged goods company, for example, can use Twitter data to reveal changing consumer tastes for new flavors, informing the development and marketing of new beverage offerings.

Diana Helander

Head of Marketing, Data and Enterprise Solutions at Twitter

  • Track user sentiment across your major product lines. Think about expanding those that are most well received and contracting those that aren’t.
  • Track conversations around your major competitors. Identify products their customers clamor for that they won’t create.
  • Track conversations across your entire industry. Find out the latest products and features your customers want.

A craft beer company could follow the industry to see what recipes and styles are in favor and showcase their products in that category—or get to work on a new recipe.

Even finding one single nugget of information on how to move your product forward offsets the time and cost spent on social listening.

Social listening for influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is the process of promoting and selling products or services through individuals capable of driving action from your target audience. Though influencer marketing isn’t a new concept, it has been growing in popularity with the rise of social celebrities.

While you may not know all of the major influencers in your industry, you likely know how much it can cost to get your message out. It’s the most prominent example, but Kylie Jenner makes an estimated $1 million per paid Instagram post.

For organizations that don’t have that much to spend on their entire marketing budget, the idea of micro-influencers has become increasingly popular. This is the concept of finding smaller influencers who are more niche to your industry.

  • Find your current top influencers and figure out how to empower them to continue to advocate for you.
  • Find all of the influencers in your industry and create a list of those you may want to work with.
  • Find your competitor’s top influencers and attempt to win them over.
  • Figure out the best social networks for your influencer marketing and create more content for those channels.

Let’s say that you’re a craft beer organization and want to find all of the top YouTube influencers to partner with on your next product launch. Listen to the industry and find out who is the most engaged beer influencer and partner with them to increase your reach.


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