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You Should Be Listening to Your Customers Like You Listen to Your Friends

Listening to your friends comes naturally. You want to hear what they have to say, and it’s easy: they’re sitting across the table from you at brunch, or you’re texting up a storm, back and forth. Because you are involved in this seamless interchange of information, and listening intently, you know as much about many of your friends as you do about yourself. The same is not true of your relationship with your social audience.

2017 Social Marketing Planning Guide

With our social audiences, we tend to push out information (owned content) and measure the effect of that content. Sometimes we forget to begin by listening to our audiences and building content around what they actually care about. We end up pushing out content that just isn’t quite right. It’s like your friend telling you about a Golden Retriever puppy she wants to adopt and asking for your advice, and you responding by listing out your favorite qualities of Labradoodles. Tangentially related, but not quite right. We marketers fall into this trap an awful lot. Here’s how you can begin to shift your thinking.

Build Your Empathy

Building empathy happens when you pay attention and listen deeply. This tends to come naturally in friendships: if your friend is hurting, you’re hurting. You wouldn’t scroll through your Instagram feed while your friend shared the painful news of his divorce, would you? The same concept can be applied to your relationship with your customers and/or social audience. Don’t busy yourself so much with your owned content (what your brand has to say) that you miss out on what your audience is saying and feeling on social, forums, and blogs.

This chart comes from Simply Measured’s very own Listening solution.

By building a solid foundation of empathy for your audience’s wants and needs–and how those wants and needs evolve throughout the customer journey–you’re also building better content, responses, and, ultimately, sentiment around your brand.

Know the History

One reason you’re able to so easily understand your closest friends is that you have a shared history. You’ve heard the story about Johnny chipping his tooth on a parmesan rind back in college a million times. You were there when Linda got to party with Snoop Dogg on her bachelorette trip. The same level of historical knowledge is important when it comes to your customers.

This screenshot comes from Simply Measured’s very own Listening solution.

When has your brand experienced the greatest spikes in reach, engagement, and volume? Which tactics and channels have historically worked for you (or your competition), and which have been misses? This is another common mistake for marketers: we commit to a campaign, regard it as a success or failure, and then move on too quickly to learn and document valuable lessons that can help us do better in the future. Don’t fall into this trap! Continue adding to your (separate) lists of customer knowledge and self-knowledge regularly as time passes and the data keeps rolling in.

Share a Common Language

You and your best friend have an endless assortment of inside jokes and maybe even made-up words and phrases that only you two understand. It’s kind of annoying, TBH. But shared experience = shared language. The same equation is true for listening to your customers on social.

Word Cloud
This word cloud comes from Simply Measured’s very own Listening solution.

If you understand the slang and solutions that your audience throws at one another without you hovering in the room, you’ll eventually be able to learn their language and use it to better reach them.

This chart comes from Simply Measured’s very own Listening solution.


As you grow up, you stop making time for friends who don’t give you the same level of attention as you give them. This can also be applied to your social media program. Understand how your audience prioritizes you, and you’ll be able to adjust your brand’s behavior accordingly.

Share of Voice
This chart comes from Simply Measured’s very own Listening solution.

This doesn’t mean that you’re going to stop targeting customers or potential customers who like another brand over your brand. But it does mean that you might go more aggressively after one customer segment and veer away from another, or that you might spend more time doing competitive campaigning against one particular brand on social. The only way you’ll be able to prioritize correctly is by understanding where you sit in relationship to competitors in your (target) audience’s eyes.

Go Deep

The best conversations with your friends happen after a glass of wine or two, when you go deep into your fears and hopes and vulnerabilities. Don’t miss out on the most important, in-depth information about your customers by staying on the surface.


Take the time to look at the most buzz-generating comments around your brand and/or industry on social at least once a day. This will give you the level of depth you need to move forward and make better choices.

Want to forge a stronger relationship with your customers today? Try Simply Measured’s Listening solution for yourself by requesting 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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