6 ways to use social listening to improve your brand

When brands are evaluating their digital teams, the value of social listening and social media managers can be hard to quantify. The ROI – or return on investment – of social media can feel somewhat nebulous when compared to A/B testing or ad spends, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Social media is a powerful way to engage customers and build your brand experience in much the same way that public relations initiatives complement your traditional marketing efforts. On the other end of the social spectrum, social listening complements your data analytics work. Social listening provides a wealth of data and information about your customers and your competition. If you’ve never used social listening to gain insight about your brand, you may be unsure where to start. The following six categories are easy places to find actionable insights.


Before you’ve even received your first follower or decided on your social media handle, you can use social listening to discover prospective customers. Scour Twitter hashtags, Facebook searches, and trending Instagram posts that are aligned to your brand (or other brands like yours from sources such as trade journals, competitors, or aligned products) to discover users and influencers who may be interested in your brand. Follow them, share their content, and engage with them to encourage adoption with your brand, shares and referrals, and even sales. As these prospective customers begin following your social media accounts and opting in to your emails and blog content, you’ll find new opportunities to engage with and convert them from leads to customers. The beauty is that social listening is a self-renewing cycle as new hashtags and trends emerge, so you will never run out of prospects to draw from.


If you’ve ever seen an AT&T or Sprint advertisement, you’re probably familiar with the idea of competitive switching. The telecommunications industry is famous for generating new customers by preying on the competition’s unhappy users. Any brand with a direct competitive set, or operating in a saturated market, can benefit from using social listening to discover potential converts within their competitive customer base. Listen in to learn where your competition is failing, then do it better, and tell the world. Certain airline brands take it one step farther by using social listening to discover unhappy customers and then reaching out to them directly with promotions and special offers that make those customers’ threats to “never fly their competition’s airline again” possible. As an added benefit, this allows brands in hyper-competitive markets to compete without resorting to downstream price wars that hurt the industry at large. By leveraging service as a reason to switch, your brand can provide deep value and skip the constant promotions.


You know the phrase: “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” And social media is full of squeakers. Many times this isn’t a bad thing. Discover vocal social media power users via social listening and then interact with them to promote your brand and encourage their endorsement. To attract influencers with a lot of clout, consider a “surprise and delight” campaign that captures customers’ attention with a promotion, product sample, or special experience. A great example of this type of outreach is Mastercard’s “Priceless” Twitter campaign, in which the brand used social listening to mine for high-influencers, and then sent them complimentary concert tickets, massages, and restaurant certificates as part of a “Priceless Mastercard experience.” These vocal recipients were loud and proud in sharing Mastercard’s generosity and service. Even if those recipients weren’t actual customers, the appearance was that Mastercard valued and cared deeply for their customer base. Really, the brand endorsements were as priceless as the experiences they gave.


On the flip side, your social listening may uncover unhappy customers who are frustrated with your service experience or products. In these instances, consider social listening as the gift of raw, unfiltered, totally honest feedback. Often times, customers who flock to social media are simply looking for a place to feel heard when the customer service process breaks down. This can serve as a great coaching tool for the individuals who normally address service issues, while giving a voice to your customers that they so desperately need. Address customer concerns as you uncover them, even if it’s just to acknowledge their experience and offer your sympathy. Your company may consider a more robust escalation path for serious issues or completely overhaul your service process as a result.


Social listening is also a great way to discover general sentiments regarding your brand, a certain product, or the customer service experience. Sure, you can pay for market research, but social listening provides similar data and insights into trends, reach, and forecast for a lot less money. That said, it isn’t the only data tool you should be using. Social listening provides exceptional qualitative insight into your actual customers, rather than the general and quantitatively more powerful insights found in big data market research. For scrappy startups and on the fly research projects, social listening is the perfect answer to your data needs.


Because at the end of the day, it’s all about the data. Social media lets you talk to and interact with your customers, while social listening let’s you, well … listen. And listening is the single best way to get data about your customers, make informed decisions based on facts rather than opinions, and help you – once and for all – answer the age old question of how much social media is worth. The stronger your social base, the more data points your listening will uncover. It’s a proprietary pool of information that helps you keep your finger on the pulse of your customers’ needs, track your brand engagement, reach and brand sentiment over time, as well as your company’s growth.

Click here for examples of how our team has helped other companies build their social listening skills into a quantifiable and actionable plan. So the next time someone asks you what your social ROI is, we know you’ll be able to tell them.

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