Imagine the inspiring business ideas you could gain from an active form of market research where the principal group consists of individuals who already engage with your product or brand. Sounds pretty good, right?

You can access such business intelligence exactly by social listening strategy that tracks online conversations around specific topics, keywords, brands or industries, and utilizes your insights to uncover business opportunities to influence consumers.

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Think you are already underway because you are monitoring online comments, engagements, and other social media metrics? Well, you have made a good start, but you are still not there yet.

Let’s get started with a clear social listening definition and how it is distinct from social monitoring practices.

  • What is Social Listening and How it Differs from Social Monitoring

Social listening is the process of monitoring various channels for digital mentions and conversations on your product, brand, competitors, and any other themes pertain to your business, in order to develop a deep understanding of customers’ perceptions of your business. Further uses of social listening involve analyzing the data for actionable insights and providing appealing offerings (both in the form of product and services as well as content and advertisements) for target audience.

The actionable element of social listening is what differentiates it from social monitoring, which is more about collecting data on what has already happened instead of analyzing data to determine further actions.

Dan Neely, CEO of Networked Insights, described the difference perfectly, “Monitoring sees trees; listening sees the forest.” Or put it another way, “Monitoring finds symptoms; listening finds causes.” While social monitoring focuses more on statistics, such as number of comments, engagement rate, and so on, social listening takes a further look at the underlying intention behind those posts – why customers are saying that and how you can respond/resolve it – and incorporates the analysis into social strategies.

  • Why It’s Important

Without social listening, you are making business decisions with blinders on since you have no clue what your customers desire and you may well miss out on mountains of valuable insights from those who are really familiar with your brand or industry. Here are some benefits social listening can bring to your business.

  1. Discover pain points in your sector and be the first to take actions

By observing the online chatter and listening to customers’ feedback, critiques, complaints, praise, etc., you can learn what products, services, or features they are not satisfied with, organize this sort of information, and pass it on to sales team or product development team, as well as C-Suite if business strategies need to be adjusted to fit prospects’ needs. It is also possible that meaningful feedback could be the seed for an entirely new business idea. Many B2B companies apply live chat tools on their sites to provide real-time support, and simultaneously, obtain first-hand feedback, even business leads.

You should interact with people who are constructively criticizing your business as well, since many of these people are actually willing to offer valuable advice. Furthermore, if you continue to cultivate such relationships, you may find high-quality leads for prospects, up-selling opportunities, and huge outreach potential.

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  1. Recognize strategic wins or slip-up in real time

What kind of post brings about highest degree of participation and the best social sentiment? Write down the tips that arouse favorable feedback and carry them forward, applying to future efforts. If social sentiment suddenly changes in the opposite way, dig into problematic posts or ads to get a sense of what went wrong, pull them off the website, and learn lessons that could avoid a similar slip-up.

Additionally, focused listening with reflection will define directions for social media strategy, allowing companies to allocate limited time and resources to social networks customers use most.

  1. Learn about your direct competition and industry

Social listening can be used to monitor competitors and find out what they are writing about, how attractive their content is to their prospects, and how frequent. Meanwhile, it is worth paying attention to general discussion about your industry as a whole, otherwise it would be easy to miss new product features, changes, or business pivots. Equipping sales team with such information would also help drive future conversations, use cases, and make sales more relevant.

  • Summary

It is not too late to start building your social listening strategy. The more knowledge you have about your brand, industry, competition, etc., the better you can serve and influence your audience.

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