Everywhere on the internet data is produced: people share, like and comment on different posts, videos, and images, write blog posts, or discuss in forums – but what if they share their opinion on your brand, your company, or even your industry? Would you not like to know and be able to respond? One major upward trend theses days is social listening – but what is this actually?
Social listening refers to “the tracking of conversations using specific brands, words, or phrases” anywhere that your company, brand, or industry may appear – which means just keeping an eye on social media interactions is not enough. Being able to find people who use these keywords can create a completely new opportunity to interact with and respond to potential customer needs and interests, and even analyze competitors or new trends. This can be achieved by using social listening tools such as Google Alerts, Hootsuite, or Icerocket. However, probably the most common questions related to this topic are: For what can my company use social listening? And is this kind of tracking legal?
Social listening can be used across different departments in your company such as Marketing, Sales, and Research & Development. First of all, you can improve your consumer behavior understanding. By listening to your consumers and potential customers, you will recognize their main issues, problems, or concerns with using your products or services, or even your industry. Therefore, you can respond to these needs by engaging in discussions, actively ask for feedback, or offering specific services. This will lead to an in-depth customer knowledge which again results in improving your overall customer relationship management and brand reputation. This communication and interaction with your customers and at the same time receiving feedback can lead to creating new products based on what people are saying they would like to have in a product or service. In addition, social listening helps to understand the competition. By using different social listening tools, you can analyze your competitors and achieve an overview of their current activities. Another advantage is that important news can be detected and used much faster.
However, companies must understand how to use these techniques for gathering relevant information. Aside from searching for the usual keywords such as your brand name, you should also add different variations of your brand or company name in the tools. Users might spell your name wrong or use abbreviations while talking about it. In addition, think of keywords that are relevant to your industry. It is also possible that people talk about your motto, values, or key massages. These aspects also have to be considered when setting up your social listening tool. And most importantly use the consumer’s language. People will not post that they are “satisfied” with your product, they will rather use the word “happy”.
To come back to one of the questions from above: Yes, social listening is legal. Published content on social media channels or on webpages is open to the public because these sites own this content. People often accept the website’s terms of conditions without even reading, understanding and realizing that this means that they do not own their own words anymore. However, companies have to take a careful approach when engaging in a discussion with a user based on his/her comment as it may leave the impression that “big brother is watching you”. Users do not feel pleased about being tracked and may change their behavior or will not express their opinion open and honestly. Therefore, companies must be able to keep the balance between social listening and retaining customers.