Whether you’re a small business or a global brand, there are insights waiting to be uncovered on social media—if you know how and where to look. Having a tool like social listening to find these insights is essential and it’s not just for PR professionals. Anyone who wants to know what their audience, customers, and prospective customers are saying about them, their industry, and their competitors will have use of a social listening tool and thus need a social listening strategy.
What is social listening
It’s a means to find the conversations happening on social media about your industry, competitors, brand, product, spokespeople, and services, and—importantly—analyze these conversations using engagement and sentiment metrics.
Why use social listening
Ignore social at your peril… We know that sounds a bit dramatic, but we’re serious. Without actively monitoring your social media landscape—which extends beyond your profiles—you will be missing a big piece of the puzzle regarding your prominence and perception. As beneficial as traditional media monitoring is (and it is), it can’t provide the same insights social can.
Social listening allows you to gain insight from the ground, from “regular” people, whereas traditional monitoring focuses on what the media—reporters, broadcasters, producers, podcasters, etc.—say about you. But what happens when there’s disparity between what’s printed/broadcasted and what people actually think of you?
How to build your social listening strategy
Start with a goal
What do you hope to achieve by using social listening? Knowing how and why you want to use social listening will inform everything about your strategy, from what keywords you use to what metrics you find valuable.
Here are a few reasons clients come to us for social listening:
- To better understand their brand or their clients’ brands
- To keep track of their industry and competitors
- To evaluate their online prominence
- To engage with their audience
- To conduct market research
- To provide a better customer experience
- To audit the disparity between what the press says about them and what their audience says about them
Once you know why you want use social listening, you’ll be ready to move on to the next tasks in setting up your social listening strategy.
Choose your keywords
Start by getting organized and doing your research. Make sure to review the name(s), stakeholders, brand and products names, social handles, hashtags, and other relevant information about your brand or clients. Pay attention to keywords and hashtags used by your competitors and industry in general.
If you already have media monitoring in place, it may be a good first step to see what types of keywords you’re using over there. But remember: the keywords that you use in monitoring could potentially be amplified a hundred times on social media with so many more voices in the space!
Hashtags can be a great keyword to get straight to the point and eliminate noise, especially if your subject or brand of interest uses a unique one. Hashtags can also help you narrow your listening regionally since only data from public accounts is pulled in, and geographical data is only provided if that person/brand has identified their location. Otherwise, consider your search international.
Get comfortable with Boolean search
If you’re already familiar with media monitoring, you know how Boolean logic works. If not, it’s time to get comfortable with how AND, OR, and NOT interact to narrow/specify your searches. Here’s a quick guide to getting started with Boolean.
Choose what matters
You can set your social listening specifications to exclude certain types of accounts or posts. Maybe you’re only interested in seeing posts from people who have a certain follower count or maybe you want to see content from anyone, no matter how big their following.
Choose your metrics for success
Again, everything goes back to your goal, because measurement for the sake of measurement is probably going to make you feel good (especially if you’re focusing on vanity metrics) but it isn’t valuable.
Here’s how the data breaks down (at least with Agility Social Listening):
Sentiment falls into three categories: negative, neutral, and positive. Sentiment contextualizes conversations and engagement. High engagement may seem fantastic until you realize that most comments are negative.
These are the metrics you’re familiar with—likes, shares, comments, etc. Alone, they may appear to be just vanity metrics, but when used to illuminate the conversations that are resonating with audiences, they act as signposts, signaling for greater exploration. They can also show you if people are passively engaging (likes, retweets) or actively engaging (leaving comments, quote tweets).
When you group these engagement metrics together (as we’ve done), you can focus on different areas:
Applause: Depending on the social platform this is the likes, hugs, thumbs up, etc.
Amplification: When someone has found the content meaningful enough that they want to share it with a friend or their own audience it falls under amplification. Amplification includes retweets, sends, and shares.
Conversation: When someone shares or engages with the content and provides their own perspective or opinion, you have conversation. Conversation includes quote tweets, comments, and reposts with comment. This is active engagement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s positive engagement.
Trends allow you to step back and see the big picture before diving into the nitty gritty. Discover how engagement and sentiment compare to previous periods. Explore the causes of any outliers. Compare platform results.
Sentiment, engagement, and trends analysis are all overarching concepts, but you can get more in depth in your analysis by looking at things like:
- Sentiment by social network
- Sentiment by social topic
- Engagement by social network
- Engagement type by social network
- Top Positive/Negative posts by engagement type
- Top Positive/Negative hashtags
- Top posts by engagement type
- Most prominent hashtags
To learn more about creating measurement practices that connect your PR activities to business goals, check out our free guide: Measuring Impact.
Your social listening tool should allow you to organize your searches (or social topics as we call them) into larger themes. For instance, you might have themes associated with product lines, initiatives, campaigns, departments, competitors, influencers, and owned social media handles.
- Under a campaign theme, you may have topics for related hashtags, spokespeople, events, and product names.
- Under a department theme, you may have topics for specific products, spokespeople, industry terms, and competitors.
Set reminders for review
Social listening is not a set-it-and-forget-it service. Review all keywords at regular intervals to make sure you’re not pulling in too many irrelevant results or missing out on the conversations that matter. If there are certain themes that need tweaking, adjust the social topics, or retire themes that no longer serve your needs.
Time to get started
There are a couple of ways you can learn more about social listening:
- Download our free guide: Social Listening: How to Turn Social Media Conversations into Business Benefits.
- Sign up for a free demo of Agility Social Listening to learn how this tool can meet your needs.
Thank you to James Green and Connor McLaren from the Agility Client Success team for providing their expertise on the matter of setting up a social listening strategy.