Social Media – What is social listening?

What is social listening?

When I first read this headline in a recent Chartered Institute of Marketing newsletter I was attracted by the title with an expectation that brands had infiltrated our homes and businesses and were listening to our every day conversations to shape their marketing communications they send to us.

Now whilst this still might be the case with obvious examples being Siri from Apple, Amazon with their Ring doorbell systems and of course Alexa, social listening in this context is having a strategy which monitors the feedback provided by customers and other stakeholders on posts on social media platforms.

These posts could be your own posts or they could be those on your competitors and other industry groups.

Why should you monitor social media feedback?

There are a number of reasons such as:

  • To gain insight into customer views and opinions
  • To build relationships, improve engagement and trust in your brand
  • To head off possible negativity and bad publicity
  • To understand if there are gaps in the market for customer needs you can solve
  • To track your competition and their plans

Customer insight

Very often customers will post comments related to their experience of your company and its products so it is important to monitor these and ensure they are responded to professionally. These insights can help you improve products and services and also spot gaps in the market that are not being met.

Think here the savvy or not so savvy dialogue recently on Dulux’s social platforms when they announced their new sponsorship with Tottenham Hotspur FC. Whether you think this was astute marketing or the actions of a so called ‘rogue’ social media exec, if you are going to use social media to promote your business you need to ensure time is available to monitor comments and the people doing so have clear guidelines as to how to respond.

This debacle undoubtedly increased the column inches of coverage this sponsorship received and most sports fans found it highly amusing and enjoyed the banter, but it is a very dangerous tactic that could also have gone very wrong.

Take another example from when a regional PureGym branch controversially created the ‘12 Years a Slave’ workout, meant to honour Black History Month, that, predictably, lead to a great deal of backlash and negativity about their brand on social media.

Monitoring your competitors and industry sector

As well as monitoring reactions, social listening can also lead to being proactive in business and is a great way to prevent problems happening in the first place. By allocating resources to monitor more general discussion about your industry or sector you might be able to gain valuable insight into future trends and be able to adapt accordingly.

How to implement a social listening strategy

If you have decided that using social media is right for your business, you also need to have adequate resources to ensure your strategy is well managed.

Big brands will have their own in-house professionals who have been highly trained and will usually possess a professional qualification. They will also have been given a comprehensive set of guidelines and protocols to follow to ensure brand values and company reputations are maintained.

Owner managed businesses will usually either appoint a social media agency or literally do it themselves or appoint someone in-house. Although the size of your business, the scale of your social media following and your activity levels may not rival those of the big brands, if you choose either of the above routes we highly recommend that you still act like a big brand. Always ensure you have a clear social media strategy and an approval process which ensures posts and responses will not compromise your brand values and integrity.

We regularly work with the Directors, Managers and employees of family and owner managed businesses to educate them on the power of social media tools and how they can support the business. If you would like advice on how to implement your social media strategy please get in touch.


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