What Is Social Listening and How Can It Protect Your Brand Image?

Social listening is a process that enables companies to observe customer conversations on social media in order to get valuable feedback on their products and services.

Through social listening, companies can monitor online conversations for specific keywords and phrases related to their brand(s) for direct, unbiased consumer feedback.

Stories Matter Just as Much as Keywords and Phrases

It's not just "listening in" on certain keywords and phrases that are important — listening to customer stories, both positive and negative, can be just as helpful to brands.

Positive stories can be leveraged by brands as a way to foster engagement and relationship-building with satisfied customers via social media. In addition, the discovery of such stories can also help companies identify potential "influencers" who can boost brand awareness and perception through word-of-mouth marketing.

Negative stories shared by customers on social media can also be discovered — providing companies with the opportunity to minimize potential damage to their brands. This can be done by directly engaging dissatisfied customers on social media to resolve their complaints by finding the right solutions.

Remember — social listening isn't about finding and paying people to “get the word out” about a particular brand, nor is it simply about “joining the online conversation." It’s about discovering a brand's perceived and actual value according to real-life consumer dialogue and stories found on social media.

It's about finding actionable insights that can be used to inform better business decisions that improve the customer experience.

How Social Listening Helps Protect Your Brand Image

Social listening tools and data processing technologies enable companies to access a vast source of data for evaluating brand sentiment — including data from search engines, social platforms, and blogs.

Through social listening, companies can protect their brand image in the following ways:

  • Receive early warning of trending negative sentiment: Some social listening tools provide an "early warning function" that notifies companies whenever negative sentiment reaches a certain threshold (e.g. a negative customer story goes viral). This gives companies better lead time in addressing negative customer stories and minimizing brand damage.

  • Monitor topics and keywords related to your brand: Social listening tools are capable of collecting a massive amount of public opinion from the Internet. And through machine learning, many tools can identify, mine, cluster, and conduct "heat" analysis on events and incidents, enabling comprehensive analysis of public opinion.

  • Evaluate historical trends in sentiment: Social listening tools enable companies to analyze the volume of sentiment, the ratio of positive-to-negative sentiment, sentiment trending by time period, and overall sentiment "health." This gives companies the ability to extract sentiment patterns and identify voice/tone patterns that lead to positive and negative sentiment.

  • Identify the key online influencers: Social listening can help companies identify influencers, both negative and positive, for online engagement.This can help companies strengthen their online communication and marketing strategies, as well as serving as a "recruitment" support tool for online community building.

  • Learn more about your customers' profiles: Social listening can help companies key information about their customers on social media such as the languages they use, age, gender, location, contact information, interests, and more. This information is crucial for key marketing strategy tasks such as persona development.

  • Refine your strategy and tactics for handling negative sentiment: Social listening enables companies to analyze the impact of social media engagement efforts to reduce negative online sentiment. Such insights can help companies prioritize social engagement, uncover optimal timeframes for engaging negative comments, and plan data-backed strategies for handling negative online sentiment.

Is Your Brand Listening In on Consumer Conversations?

Understanding what consumers are saying about your brand online is a necessity in today's rapidly evolving digital world.

After all, it only takes a matter of hours for a bad customer experience shared on social media to reach hundreds of other prospective customers online — or more if the experience goes viral. Thankfully, there are plenty of high-quality social listening tools available on the market today.

But if you're unsure about which tool is suitable for your company's needs, or how to go about applying social listening to your business — hiring a social listening analyst or partnering with a digital agency is an option worth pursuing.

How has social listening impacted the way your brand engages customers? Share your thoughts with us by commenting below!

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