Although it might sound a little ridiculous when you read it, the goal of social media for the last couple of years has been to become social again. In the beginning, social platforms were almost strictly social - family and friends connecting online.
Then, the next natural step occurred as businesses joined in and began using social networks as billboards. Suddenly, these networks were a little less social, a little more advertising, and the need for content creators was born.
After generic sales messaging and shameless self-promotion failed, businesses began the quest to find the happy medium and be less intrusive. The question they had to answer was "How can we interact with people who are here to have social interactions with people they know, trust, and share experiences with in a way that will make them want to trust and share experiences with us?".
And while there have been numerous articles, guides, whitepapers, and blogs written to address this very issue, the answer comes down to human nature and advice as old as time itself.
Two ears, one mouth - listen first
Any advice-giver worth their salt has used this analogy at some point to highlight how to best interact with others. Listen first. Then, listen some more, and eventually speak - but only constructively and briefly, just enough to let them know you understand and care about what they're saying. Whenever you speak to someone, make them feel like they're the only person that you care about right then and there.
This is the most basic tenet of persuasion, sales, and making friends. Make them feel important because they are. Especially if you're a business that needs customers.
So how does a business do this in an online forum? The best example I can give is that of the perfect waiter. The perfect waiter always has your glass filled and you never have to wait and look for them after running out of something at the table. Yet, they’re never hanging around, butting into your private conversations. The few who accomplish this feat keep a close eye on your table from a distance - always paying attention, but never intruding. And they always get the big tip.
Good customer experiences are beneficial for businesses
Just like people served by the waiter, customers will give their money to businesses that they perceive as providing great value without getting in their faces to make the sale. What’s more, they'll tell their friends about the experience they had, and they'll come back for more.
Social media is a hub for global communication and networking, and developing a good relationship with the people there is the best way to build a brand, gain new customers, and grow a business.
Want to take your social listening one step further? Download our free and comprehensive guide to handling social media crises on behalf of your clients to win their trust.
Monitoring mentions isn’t social listening
Social listening is more than simply monitoring a brand’s reputation. Monitoring helps you keep track the mentions, replies and comments about you or directed towards you. It’s when you start monitoring words, phrases, influencers and even other brands in order to try and create opportunities that it becomes social listening.
Social listening is actively monitoring the oversaturated social networks for opportunities and grabbing them.
Two good examples of businesses that dove into social listening head first are Gatorade and Mastercard. Gatorade launched their Mission Control Center in 2010, a room right in the middle of their marketing department that listens for any mentions of their brand and business niche. They were able to use the information they gathered to mold their video content and increase engagement by 250% and reduce their exit rate from 25% to 9%.
Mastercard’s Social Command Center has a massive screen that pulls in conversations about their brand in real-time and is always monitored by four employees. The data they gather is used for all manner of reports and decision making. While you don’t have to be as extreme, you can still reap the benefits of monitoring by adding it to your daily task list.
How can agencies use social listening?
The ways you can use social listening to your advantage are almost limitless. To save you time, here are the most common uses that help boost engagement and grow your client’s social media profiles.
- Listening to industry conversations to get a better sense of your client’s niche
- Identifying customer pain points to create better content
- Monitoring brand mentions and using every opportunity to engage
- Efficient responses to good and bad feedback to improve customer service
- Finding influencers and potential brand advocates for your client
- Generating leads or business through engaging in conversations
Enhancing your client’s overall brand image and customer experiences will come a long way for them and for your agency’s revenue. It's great (and necessary) to answer questions when they're directed at you, but to provide an answer just because you "overheard" a conversation is going above and beyond.
Mind that you don't always have to respond to a conversation - sometimes the information you gather through listening is enough to help your clients build their future products or services to stand well above their competitors.
One last tip is to use listening to identify influencers who can help your client's brand and its exposure. When you find opinions that are well-regarded by others referencing your client's brand, you may have just found a new brand advocate that you can capitalize on if you reach out in the right way.