What Is Social Listening?

March 20th, 2015 by

In this age of social media dominance, tapping into the online conversation is just basic business sense.

The ways in which we interact with each other and with our favourite (or our least favourite) brands has evolved beyond recognition over the past decade. Gone are the days when complaints were ignored – businesses have come to realise that customers are just a hashtag away from publicly shaming them for their substandard customer service skills. Keeping on top of the conversation about your brand across social channels will help you identify where you’re going wrong, right, or missing the mark entirely.

This is where social listening comes in.

If you’re going to ask the public to ‘like’ you, ‘follow’ you and #jointheconversation, you will need to know just how well you’re doing. How many people saw your #FunFriday photo of the office? Are people responding positively to the flash sale you threw yesterday? Is your business blog boosting website visits? These are all questions you should be asking, and a little listening in on the conversation out there should allow you to shape your posts to please your specific audience.

So what is social listening?

As defined by TechTarget, social listening is “the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product or brand on the Internet”. Originally referred to as ‘social media monitoring’, social listening is a way of gauging how the world is talking about your brand.

Before you are daunted by the sheer volume of online conversation being produced every day, there are several ways in which social listening could work for your brand. The way you choose to use it depends entirely on the information you’re hoping to harvest from your Tweavesdropping (Twitter-eavesdropping: I literally just coined this term and am incredibly impressed with myself).

Just getting started with social listening? There’s a couple of easy (and free!) options for you:

1. Talkwalker Alerts

Although Talkwalker Alerts isn’t so helpful with finding out who’s talking about you in the depths of Twitter, it’s a useful tool to have on board (for free) to find out when other websites, forums or blogs are talking about you. Although much social listening focuses on the social media channels, it’s important to keep a close eye on online mentions outside of the Twittersphere. Remember, there’s a lot of conversation out there in this digital age. Just use “yourcompany” and you will get only the mentions about it. Unless you have a really common name, in which case you will have to wade through random mentions.

Sign up for Talkwalker Alerts here.

2. Social Mention

Social Mention is a simple, easy-to-use and free tool for tracking your brand’s impressions on social media. Simply type your search (your brand name, your competitor’s brand name etc), and Social Mention will provide a list of hyperlinked mentions along with numerical values for the strength, sentiment, passion and reach of your search term.

A breakdown of how to use Social Mention can be found here.

3. Icerocket

Specialising in blog searches, Icerocket is yet another free and simple tool to help you monitor your online mentions. Their ‘big buzz’ option also monitors mentions and activity on Facebook and Twitter!

There’s no signup so you can get straight down to your search here.

When your company starts to grow keeping track of your social reach will hopefully become too much to do manually! There are plenty of subscription services that are worth investing in to filter the conversation surrounding your brand.

Services such as HootSuite allow you to condense all of your social activity, be it listening to or leading conversation, into one simple dashboard. Not only will HootSuite save your tab space (I bet you’ve got Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ open as you read, am I right?), HootSuite will allow you to listen in on the ‘who’s saying what’ of your brand, whilst its smart scheduling tool is optimised to send your posts out at the times they will pack the most punch. It allows you to time-schedule posts, so if you want something to go out on a certain day or time then you input what you want posted, and HootSuite does the rest. Some of its plans also give you an analysis of who has seen your posts and geographical breakdown, and it also converts it into graphs.

A beginner’s guide to HootSuite can be found here.

So when it comes to people talking about your brand, learn from Ernest Hemingway: “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”.


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