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Why marketing shouldn’t rule your social listening strategy

By Jason Kelso / June 8, 2018

Imagine you have a superpower.

No, you can’t fly or turn invisible, but you can read consumers’ minds.

With the snap of your finger, you know how people truly feel about your brand.

You’re privy to their candid thoughts and opinions regarding your products and services. You know what they like, what they wish you did differently, and what would make them hand over their hard-earned money.

While you may not have the strength to lift a city bus, you have the power to transform your business from the ground up.

Would you only use this power for marketing?

Not a chance. You’d use it to shape every aspect of your organization, from product development to customer experience.

Well, guess what? You don’t have to imagine anymore. This power’s already at your fingertips.

It’s called social listening.

And yes, it should be used for more than just marketing.

The power of listening

Too many organizations think social listening only applies to campaign management.

I’ve encountered scenario after scenario where companies could easily implement listening for other initiatives — say, competitor research — yet failed to follow through because they had marketing tunnel vision. All that mattered was how their latest content resonated with social users.

Part of the problem may be confusion over what data can be gathered through social listening.

Put simply, you can collect and analyze all public data across social networks and beyond. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are only a piece of the puzzle. From web page comments to forum posts—if it’s publicly available online, it’s yours for the taking. All you need is a keyword, phrase, hashtag or other identifying marker to search for.

Heck, you don’t even need words. Emoticons are pure sentiment. Don’t you want to know who’s using a smiley face or skull to describe your brand?

Marketing isn’t everything

Don’t get me wrong—marketing is essential to business success.

It’s just not the only thing.

Traditionally, marketing’s main focus is the buyer journey—increasing brand awareness and convincing consumers to make a purchase. But that only covers one part of a traditional business organization.

Failure to fully leverage social listening means missing the opportunity to better understand everything from white space in the market to customer pain points to what draws buyers to your competitors.

That’s because social listening allows you to gather unvarnished opinions about your category, your brand, its products and services, and the general sentiment each inspires in real people.

In short: If traditional social data gives you the what, social listening provides the why.

Transformation at scale

The possibilities are as plentiful as the targeting options.

For instance, Brooks Running doesn’t just use social listening to measure campaign performance, it leverages social for quality control. Brooks wants to know right away if its shoes or other products aren’t meeting quality standards so it can apply what it finds, letting social sentiment inform the company’s product development strategy.

Or maybe you want to take a deep dive into customer experience. With the click of a button your team can launch a listening query that spotlights common customer service issues, providing key insights for customer retention.

Even better, you can identify customer service problems that might otherwise fall through the cracks. Ninety-six percent of untagged brand mentions go ignored. That’s a whole lot of missed opportunities to turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one.

Your organization can even use social listening for recruitment. After all, 60% of employers are concerned with how much unfilled positions are costing them, and 48% of CEOs say inefficient recruiting has hurt them financially.

Let’s say you’re looking for more R&D personnel. Your HR team can create a query that searches for engineers or program managers. Relevant data on the web — including info from personal social profiles — will be crawled and collated to help target fresh talent. Your team can go even further and listen to what people are saying about your advertised positions to improve future recruitment efforts.

Triumph from top to bottom

Allow me to quote Voltaire (or Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, if you want to stick with the superpowers theme): “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Social listening is that power. It’s your responsibility to ensure your organization uses that power to its full advantage.

Marketing is integral, yes, but letting it rule your social listening strategy means missing out on a world of opportunities in other areas.

The only people who benefit from that are your competitors.

Jason Kelso

Jason Kelso

Jason Kelso is a Professional Service Specialist at Sprout Social. He previously worked as a Product Support Specialist at Simply Measured fielding customer questions on the platform. Outside of work you'll find Jason in the kitchen perfecting his latest recipe, or at the newest bar critiquing Old Fashioned cocktails.
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