Article

The art of social listening: Tracking and acting on what your customers say about you on social media

How to gain actionable insights from social media

By Patrick Grieve

Published November 2, 2020
Last updated November 2, 2020

You may think that “Mayochup” is a great topping for fries, an abominable Frankenstein’s condiment, or just a hilarious example of ’90s satire predicting the future.

Regardless of your personal preference, though, there’s no denying that it represents a huge social listening triumph for Kraft Heinz.

The polarizing combination of ketchup and mayonnaise was originally sold only in the Middle East. But when folks in the United Kingdom found out about it, they started debating the sauce’s merits on social media. Once Heinz got wind of the conversation, they recognized that Mayochup might deserve a wider audience.

Mayochup tweet

The company posted a Twitter poll asking American customers whether they wanted the item available in stores. Not only did Mayochup edge out a victory, but the poll itself earned over 300 million impressions across various social platforms.

The campaign confirmed that customers were interested in a new product and helped spread awareness of Heinz’s recently launched mayo.

Diving deep into Twitter interactions won’t always yield such delicious results. But social listening can be a powerful tool for understanding both what’s being said about your brand and how to contribute to the conversation.

What is social listening?

Social listening is the process of tracking and analyzing social media mentions of your brand, products, competitors, and industry.

The goal of social listening is to gain actionable insights into your consumer base and their perceptions of your business.

In practical terms, it’s keeping a pulse on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every other social channel your leads and customers may use. And it’s not just about checking your brand’s own posts and mentions. Social listening means keeping your ears open for every conversation that pertains to your business.

What’s the difference between social listening and social monitoring?

Sometimes the terms “social listening” and “social monitoring” are used interchangeably. But while monitoring tracks conversations about your business, listening digs deeper to diagnose the sentiment behind those conversations.

Social monitoring tells you the “what,” while listening goes a step further to reveal the “why” behind it.

“Instead of analyzing conversations for the specific actions taken within them, you’re analyzing the conversation for meaning,” explains Rachael Samuels, social media manager for the social management platform Sprout Social. “So it’s much more qualitative and much more broad, and it allows you to be a lot more proactive instead of reactive.”

Monitoring shows you the symptoms, but listening provides the insights you need to treat the underlying causes. And it does that in part by casting a wider net and tracking conversations about your competitors and your industry at large.

So instead of just monitoring how 25 of your brand’s own posts are performing, you might look at hundreds of posts on a relevant topic.

“Social listening is not just listening to what’s happening to your brand, but listening to what’s happening in the world around your brand,” Rachael says.

Why is social listening important?

Social listening can be used to uncover perceptions and attitudes critical to a brand’s marketing and sales decisions. It’s also a great way to surface information that can be used to improve your products and customer service.

Listening can tell you what your prospects and leads are talking about on social, revealing the best way to reach them. You can learn how customers search for products, what their pain points are, and why they might prefer your competitors.

“For a while, Samsung was using listening to understand how to feature its target audiences and how to develop battle content to go against the iPhone,” Rachael says. “So they started just listening to see what people were saying about the content that was coming out from Apple and why it was resonating with them.”

Samsung found that customers really liked seeing the phone’s camera capabilities, including its slo-motion video setting. In response, Samsung launched a video series campaign showing the Galaxy phone’s own slow-mo setting in action.

In the past, Samsung also used social listening to find out what iPhone users don’t like about their devices. The company identified specific complaints, such as screen size and battery life, where Samsung phones had the edge on Apple. They then highlighted those advantages in campaigns that heavily promoted the key features.

Social listening also helps customer service teams learn about product issues, which they can quickly address to mitigate the fallout.

One in every three customers has used social media to ask for advice or communicate with a brand. Companies can analyze conversations happening around their products to uncover recurring issues.

When a beverage manufacturer created a topic on brand awareness, they noticed people using the word “glass” in product mentions. Looking closer, they found complaints that pieces of glass were being found in some of their bottles.

“Once they found out that theme was bubbling up, they were able to narrow down the timeframe of those conversations,” Rachael says. “Specifically, they were able to see what shipments were affected, and how many people were reached by the tweets that were sent by other people. So they were able to address that issue head-on and make things right with their customers.”

How to get started with social listening tools

Even if you’re extremely online, you probably don’t have the bandwidth to search every social media channel for every keyword related to your brand.

Fortunately, social listening tools like Sprout Social can automatically track all relevant conversations and surface specific trends and interactions.

To start listening, you’ll want to set your software to track relevant topics and keywords on social media platforms. That includes all mentions of:

  • Your brand names, social media handles, and products
  • Your competitors’ brand names, handles, and products
  • Your slogans, branded hashtags, and campaign names
  • Your competitors’ slogans, branded hashtags, and campaign names
  • Industry-specific terms and hashtags

Be sure to also track common misspellings of all the names, words, and phrases you want to monitor. You don’t want to miss out on any insights just because some of your customers are prone to typos.

Social listening example - Sprout Coffee

Once you’ve set the channels and topics, your social listening tool should be able to report on key metrics for each one, including:

  • Volume: Number of posts about a topic
  • Potential impressions: Number of times a topic was displayed
  • Total engagements: Number of people interacting with a post
  • Sentiment: Percentage of mentions that are positive versus negative
  • Demographics: Profile names, user devices, and geographic location of those participating in the conversation

You may also be able to offer better customer service if you integrate your social listening tool and customer support platform. Once the two are connected, social media managers can identify support issues and share them with the customer service team.

“A lot of social listening tools, ours included, allow you to task things over to someone else in your organization or delegate messages in apps,” explains Rachael. “So we have the option to task something over as a support issue or flag it as an issue we might need to be prepared for.”

Zendesk Support features a Sprout Social integration that makes this kind of collaboration possible. The software enables customer service teams and social media managers to create and share support tickets in social media channels. It also makes it easy to send messages between Sprout Social and Zendesk, track assigned tasks, and serve customers more quickly.

Listening more closely in an ever-changing world

In an increasingly unpredictable landscape, brands are recognizing the need for agility. With social listening, you can see how customer preferences are shifting in real time.

“If you’re forced to pivot and have to be agile, you may think, ‘how can I get quick, easy, simple access to a focus group?’” Rachael says. “And social’s right there for you.”

The more insights you can glean from social media, the better you can serve your customers. To start improving CX today, try a free trial of Zendesk.

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