Social media recommendations influence a good 23% of consumers. Moreover, 30% of online shoppers now prefer purchasing products using social media networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Thus, top-performing businesses are keen on their social media listening strategy. They want to gather mentions and sentiments to generate actionable insights from them. And all of this has something to do with social media analytics. But, what is social media analytics? And how can you leverage social media listening?
In this article, we’ll discuss these complementary social media techniques. We’ll be focusing on social listening and its role in social media analytics. Through this, you can understand its definition, importance, and use cases, as well as what tools you can use to reinforce it. Of course, if you’d like more information on the topic, you can also check out our basic guide on social media analytics.
Social media analytics and social media listening are two peas in a pod. The latter helps companies identify and respond to brand mentions in online conversations. On the other hand, the former helps businesses understand what is working well in relation to past and current campaigns. Also, this is in the context of total online and offline marketing efforts. Furthermore, social media analytics has a predictive aspect to it. Businesses use it to generate predictive models on how future campaigns will go given past performances and novel interventions. Its primary directive is to optimize ROI from campaigns.
However, you have to be good at both to reap their benefits. The reason is you can’t do one well without the other. The analytics inform you of whom to engage and what interventions you could do. You just can’t do this without social media listening. Also, you can’t know whom to listen to when you don’t know what’s up for grabs or how listening and engaging with a segment can help your ROI. Thus, your listening needs to be informed by analytics.
Source: Social Media Examiner, 2019
Today, the importance of these social media monitoring software for marketing is undeniable. Researchers found that, in 2019, social media marketing benefits brands by increasing exposure (93%), increasing traffic (87%), generating leads (74%), and enhanced sales (72%). This is pretty intuitive as social media is a fertile ground to spread brand messages with around 45% penetration worldwide as of 2019. That’s about 3.4 billion active social media users around the world.
To help you understand how top brands listen to all of these, we will be discussing the basics.
So, what is social media listening? A simple social media listening definition would be the process of tracking and monitoring of online conversations to understand your brand’s popularity and the sentiments of stakeholders and customers.
Also, this is done through many different social channels. This includes social networking sites like Instagram, Facebook, and micro-blogging sites like Twitter. Moreover, this is also applied with blogs, forums, video sharing sites, and the likes. Additionally, the term is synonymous with social media monitoring and we are going to use them interchangeably in this article.
Moreover, it is the backbone of social media analytics. It is the phase where you collect, categorize, and analyze the given social media data. Analysis of your ROI, your planned interventions, and other benchmarks are measured against it.
On a historical note, social media listening might be a novel way to monitor popularity and sentiments. However, media monitoring has been a staple since the 1800s as press clipping services. Now, it’s not only the press and the broadcast media whose stories make popular rounds. Consumers are now co-creators of media too. It doesn’t take much to go viral. Thus, the whole monitoring industry properly evolved to cater to social media as well.
Today, without social media listening and analytics, a company would rob itself of its best guess of what’s out there. They can’t approximate popularity and sentiments. Furthermore, they couldn’t respond to reputation issues in real-time whenever they feel it is appropriate.
One of the fastest ways to get to know the latest social media analytics tools today is to try one. For example, the visual analytics capabilities of YouScan level up social listening, giving you the “eyes” to see the big picture of your social landscape. You can sign up for its free demo and, in fact, use it to benchmark other solutions.
Now, let’s answer the question “What are the benefits of social listening?” Again, social media is a relatively new platform. However, social networks are being used as a source for news by about 55% of Americans. In a great sense, it is rivaling (or even replacing in some demographics) traditional news outlets for news consumption. Thus, it has been a go-to source for “factual” information.
Moreover, facts are not the only thing people want to gain from or share on social media. We also tend to rely on opinions and the sentiments of the people we come to interact with. In fact, 49% of consumers globally trust influencer recommendations regarding buying decisions.
Thus, for businesses, social media is a fertile ground to plant and harvest information expressed as facts and/or opinions. It is arguably the best way to catch pain points and opportunities relevant to their brands, products, and/or services. This is because this information, via traditional and social platforms, can give them a representation of how popular they are and what people think about them. In this way, they can generate actionable insights to make public opinion more favorable in the future.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to translate these into the increase in ROI, sales, market share, and profit.
As you may have already inferred from the list above, social media listening is usually used for closely-related things like marketing, research, sales, customer support, and reputation management. Together with analytics, it pervades and informs many critical business processes.
However, to reap these benefits, you must have the right framework and tools. There are technical requirements to have your social listening processes to be successful. They come in the form of social media listening tools.
First-generation social media listening software tools allow you to aggregate brand and keyword mentions across different social channels. These are presented in a traditional screen clipping style for easy reading. Moreover, the better ones of this first wave of programs even compute the overall popularity, likes, shares, and the sentiments of various segments about your brand name and associated keywords.
In this way, you’d have an overview of what’s happening in and around social networks and the place of your brand in it. Furthermore, they also let you listen in on your competitor’s activities. This allows you to plan counter messages or even build a competitive campaign.
Also, because you can see all of these in real-time, you can deal with them instantly. For instance, you can set the record straight when competitors or malicious entities spread misinformation about you.
What’s more, social media listening tools can come as dedicated social media monitoring platforms or as modules within CRM software packages. However, the best ones are the dedicated platforms that specialize in advanced social listening that even include visual analysis. We’ll get to this later.
These are but the basic requirements for a social media listening program today. However, there are advanced platforms that offer more. In some sense, they offer future-proof capabilities that do not only recognize and collect text posts but also images.
If you want high-tech and high-reward social media listening capabilities, you need to go beyond sentiment detection, mention clippings, and trend detection. You want products that don’t just analyze texts but also images.
Consider that just some years ago, people uploaded about 1.8 billion images per day. Today, the number is bigger. Most, it’s apt to assume, are personal photos. Some are brand-related ones as well. But many are personal photos that are also brand-relevant. Think of outfit of the day (OOTD) posts and influencer marketing posts, shares, and likes. This is but the product of our highly consumeristic culture. Also, like it or not, it will not go away anytime soon. So, if you are opportunistic, you should leverage these images using visual analytics.
Advance social media listening software platforms provide you with visual analytics tools to check your brand on uploaded social media images to give you a better context of how your products are used. In the age of memes, these tools help you analyze user sentiments and opinions about your brand without it being mentioned in the text part of the posts. This is thanks to image recognition, AI, and machine learning technologies that are being democratized by top-flight social media listening programs.
One example of a leading social media listening program with a superior visual analytics feature is YouScan. Just like other top brands, it has a mention clipping module called a Mention Wall, a powerful search engine, automation tools, and data visualizations. However, it excels in visual analytics. This is thanks to its Visual Insights feature.
With Visual Insights, you can gather images on social media that display your brand or logo itself. This is pretty useful when many brand-related posts nowadays don’t even include text or captions. Thus, you can identify more influencers and brand advocates this way. Also, this extends the scope of your research, marketing, customer support, and reputation management.
With its powerful AI and machine learning modules, you will be able to analyze where your products are being used. All you have to do is perform a search of your logo online and you’ll see within a few minutes or so the contexts that it appears. For instance, you sell a beverage. Once you search for your brand, the program returns you tons of images that have your logo in them.
Moreover, it automatically identifies which activities it is being used (e.g. birthdays, beach parties, sports events, etc.). Plus, you can tag visual cues and surrounding images to help you identify pain points and opportunities easier.
Lastly, this feature makes it a leader in visual analytics in Martech Challenges. It tops all social listening software providers in this advanced category. So, when you think you are missing much social media analytics because of the lack of visual insights, you can’t go wrong with YouScan.
Detailed YouScan Review
Now that we know the benefits of social media monitoring, we can start discussing how you can go about your social media listening strategy. In a nutshell, this depends on your needs, the type of business you have, and the organizational culture you have. However, there are social media listening best practices available.
Just like any other venture, from learning to shoot the basketball or rolling out successful products, social listening and analytics is an ongoing iterative process. Put succinctly, it is an optimization game. It is a cycle where you want every turn to be better than the last.
To wit, it can even be argued that this is something you have to get better at first to optimize other online-related processes. This includes social media advertising campaigns, customer support, and even SEO. The proper application of social listening cuts through many business areas. This also includes HR and product development. Let’s get into concrete examples.
In this section, we’ll give you a couple of examples of good social listening in practice. We’ll cover two brands and how they use their tools to keep up with market dynamics. One is McDonald’s. The other is Adidas. Also, both use the advanced social media listening tool, YouScan, among other business systems. Here are how they used these successfully in the past:
McDonald’s is one of the most talked-about brands on social media. So, it is hard for their team to successfully monitor every mention across different platforms. Thus, they make use of social media listening tools integrated with other systems to manage reputation, product development, and rollouts.
The iconic Golden Arches uses social listening to gauge sentiments and interests across channels. One successful instance of this was when they reintroduced their Szechuan Sauce in 2017. The sauce was offered originally in 1998 as a limited edition to promote Disney’s Mulan. However, in 2017, it gained a lot of chatter thanks to the popular Rick and Morty show on Adult Swim. Having listened to the chatter and requests for the sauce, McDonald’s created a one-day promo to have the sauce available at select locations.
This generated buzz and generated sales enough to have sold the whole supply out quickly. This seemed to be positive at first but it took a bad turn. The company received the ire of many fans who didn’t get to taste the sauce. So, once again, social media listening was used to identify them and quell further repercussions by targeted messages.
The iconic brand also used social media listening to inform them of their decision to have their breakfast menu available at any hour. They trained their tools to zone in on specific conversations and monitor them to get more insights and engagement. Ultimately, this translated into more sales and profit.
Also, McDonald’s integrates social listening with multiple teams. Communication staff handles brand conversations and questions while customer service representatives handle service issues. This is a good takeaway from Mickey D’s: use social listening for different processes.
Adidas has been using social media listening to create products and engage markets. One main activity they use it for is to identify influencers and brand advocates. When identified, the brand collaborates with them to create their custom products or promotions. Also, influencers with lesser lights get to participate in brand promotions to engage their audiences as well.
This collaborative effort range from stars like Kanye West with the Yeezys to smaller influencers in sports culture like street soccer players.
One recent example would be the Tango Squad FC. This is a show where the brand featured the top street soccer players from its own network of micro-influencers. It showcases their journey of being the first social media soccer team. It has a strong niche audience built around the audiences of its micro-influencers.
This promotional success would not have come to fruition without listening to social media users. So, the takeaway here for your company is, just like Adidas, you should scout and listen for brand advocates and influencers for product development as well as web marketing.
There is a growing concern that more and more companies on social media listening to you and gathering data. Social media monitoring privacy concerns aren’t only in the realm of politics (which is arguably more important) but also in the realm of consumerism.
And, this is not limited to social media in general. It expands through other newer technologies. This is especially with smart voice devices and, more popularly, specific to Amazon’s Alexa that was found gathering information and making arrangements automatically.
Many fear that we are nearing a dystopian reality that’s not far off science fiction. Hence the public outcry. Hence, social media platforms have been making changes to how they handle and share data.
For instance, Instagram shut down its public API in 2018 to restrict third parties from accessing it without permission. Thus, apps, especially brand-owned apps, would have a hard time gathering consumer information.
Also, Facebook famously got some flak for various data gathering practices deemed intrusive by many parties. There was even an instance where millions of passwords were being stored as plain text. This and many other cases pushed Mark Zuckerburg to disclose a plan for rebuilding Facebook around privacy and encryption.
How does this affect social media listening? Well, from the looks of where it is going, it will be harder. However, it is still doable and arguably better for all parties involved.
Firstly, for the consumer, private data will less likely be able to be collected by companies. The upside to this is that finally, users get to have some sense of ownership of their personal information on such platforms. The downside is that people who don’t mind algorithms to recommend content will not get highly-personalized content anymore that easily.
The best part though is that users will not get readily targeted by black hat brand propagandists, political machinery, ideologues, and even malicious entities. Thus, the downside is outweighed by the benefits.
Secondly, for businesses, they will have a hard time getting the usual amount of actionable data from social platforms. This is because private information, which is a high-value asset, will have stricter privacy rules. However, they still will get access to public data which, business ethics-wise, are conscience-free. The users themselves specify that their posts can be viewed publically.
However, the downside is that social media listening will be harder. There will be more restrictions and maybe even red tape. On the other hand, the upside is that businesses will get to do right by the majority of consumers’ books. Overall, it is a fairer relationship for most parties involved. Also, according to this trajectory, it is likely to become fairer in the future. Many hope that customers will finally get to have full ownership of their data. Some even say that authorities should bill companies for using customer data. But this is a whole other issue.
Above, we discussed what does social listening mean and how does social media listening work. The article also touched on the future of social listening and how it may affect businesses in the future. There are a few takeaways from this that we wish to highlight. These are takeaways that every company looking into social listening should heavily consider.
As you may know, there are privacy issues that plague all facets of connected technologies. Moreover, this is from password hacking to private information scraping. All of these are being dealt with not just by companies and governments, consumers are also creating their own security protocols. This includes adopting VPN software among others.
Now, social listening is harder to do than it once was. And, in the future, we expect it to become more restricted. However, it is likely to become more ethical. And brands need to embrace this. For one, you don’t want fines and a government crackdown. Also, you don’t want the public backlash. Use security and privacy as unique selling propositions (USPs). Flaunt this highly ethical business policy. Make your social listening friendly and more personal. Not invasive.
As the technology for social listening regulations improves, many basic features will lose a bit of their bite. For example, sentiment determination will likely take a hit from Instagram taking off the likes feature. It is now being tested in some regions.
The same goes for pure social text posts analytics. Also, this is not enough anymore to give you an idea of how your brand is doing. Many post highly-relatable pictures but with obscure texts and captions. Many even don’t mention brands.
Thus, as mentioned, visual analytics is now a requisite for high-performance social listening. It is time to invest in such technology. You can sign up for a YouScan free demo to get up to speed with some of the advanced tools available to you today.
As social listening is pertinent to different business processes from product development to reputation management, it is best to have a platform that integrates with other business systems. Thus, it can be a part of your workflow. Another good reason among many others is that there is not much use for a real-time social listening software if you can’t make use of its real-time data. The best way to maximize this is to have ways to process it further and act on it.
Lastly, it is best to keep up with other social media trends like social selling. Also, there are current challenges social media professionals face. For example, 58% of marketers are concerned about Facebook algorithm’s volatility. That’s a huge chunk of the profession. If we don’t know the sentiments of others that are also in the know, then we may get left behind. In fact, you should include them in your social media listening and monitoring targets.
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