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Listening on Social Media: The 5 Biggest Benefits and Risks

Just like when you listen deeply in real life, listening to what social media users are saying about your brand, your campaign, your product, your competitors, and relevant events is a rewarding and risky game.

Listening 101: A Beginner’s Guide

What if you hear something that doesn’t feel good? That reflects poorly on you? That requires you to completely pivot your thinking and actions?

This is a good position to be in, because all these situations require you to evolve and improve. The same is true for social media listening. But first, a definition:

Social media listening is a discovery and measurement mechanism. It helps you discover: 

  • The conversation around your brand, competitors, and category across all social channels
  • The characteristics and demographics of the people involved in the conversation
  • Who’s driving the conversation, and what they’re saying

…so you can get your brand in front of new audiences with more shareable content and strong influencer partnerships. Social media listening helps you measure

  • Brand awareness
  • Brand health
  • Brand sentiment

In this blog post, I’ll walk through the major benefits of listening on social, and address some perceived risks (AKA fears) that you may have, too.

Benefit: Know What People Say About Your Brand and Relevant Topics Across Every Channel

Social media listening can be as broad, or as specific, as you desire. You can begin by listening to the broader conversations related to your industry or sector. Let’s say your brand is Gymboree. In this case, “Children’s Clothing” or “Children’s Clothing Retailers” would be good categories to start with. What is your target audience talking about when it comes to children’s clothes? Where are they having those conversations? What are some related trending topics?

Listening Layers
From here, you can be more specific and listen to what people are saying about your brand in particular. 

The deepest dive includes examining the conversation around specific brand offerings: a back-to-school offer, a general product like “graphic t-shirts,” or a specific product.  

Listening Dashboard
Simply Measured Listening

Risk: Seeing the entire breadth of conversation around your brand and/or category can be overwhelming. To make it less so, I recommend taking it one step a time: focusing only on the general conversation, then on the conversation around your brand, then on the conversation around your specific product, message, or initiative in motion right now. Prioritization is key if you want to avoid news overload.

Benefit: Know Your Demographics

You know there is a conversation around your brand, but do you have quick and easy way to see who is doing the talking? Is the majority male or female? Which age range do they fit into? How do different demographics respond to content and news around your brand differently? And, finally, do you have audience segments you’ve been ignoring or not leveraging to their fullest potential?

Simply Measured Listening

Risk: Once you’re clear on who your demographics are, there may be a tendency to focus so much on speaking to your current audience, which you now know so much about, that you ignore other potential audiences.

You may also find yourself facing a dearth of resources to effectively and personally market to the various audience segments you discover.

Finally, your social demographic data may conflict with the demographic data your organization has gathered from market research, email marketing, etc. In this case, you may have to have some hard discussions about which demographics are the actual buyers, who you should be targeting on social, and how to go about doing that effectively.

Benefit: Know Your Brand Sentiment

Social media listening can tell you the emerging positive and negative things people are saying about your brand, your competitors, and your category, as well as how that sentiment is skewing in general. 

With Simply Measured Listening, you can filter by keyword and hashtag to determine how many people are talking about your latest event or product launch, analyzing what people are saying, and seeing if this chatter is positive or negative.

Simply Measured Listening

Risk: Once you’ve discovered your brand sentiment baseline, you may not be thrilled. It can be a long, tough, multi-channel process to change this sentiment number, and sometimes this change is not totally within a social marketer’s control (for instance, if you were the social media manager for Equifax right now…). Increasing your positive sentiment takes time and a lot of strategic work. Be patient!

Benefit: Identify Influencers and Micro-Influencers Quickly

With social media listening, you can easily find the people and co-marketing partners who can help you access new audiences. No more qualitative guesswork. 

InfluencersRisk: Finding influencers and micro-influencers is just the first step. Now you have to build, manage, grow, and measure those relationships. To learn how to measure the success of your influencer program, head here. 

Benefit: Create More Shareable Content

Discover trending themes—positive and negative—and find inspiration to create more engaging content by analyzing which pieces of earned media people are seeing and engaging with most.

Then create more effective owned content, based on what your audience is telling you they actually care about and pay attention to without you in the room. ListeningRisk: There’s a balance here. You want to deliver in a way that will engage your target demographics, but you also don’t want to seem artificial or like you’re trying too hard. Thoughtfulness and plenty of testing are required.

Want to try Simply Measured Listening yourself? Request a demo below!

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Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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