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40 Unique Ways To Use Social Listening To Make An Impact On Your Business

In life, being a good listener is invaluable. You can learn more about people and in turn have more productive, impactful conversations and build stronger relationships. The same is true of marketers who are good listeners on social media.

Social listening is one of the most powerful tools at the social media marketer’s disposal. Listening insights can influence your entire organization from product design and competitive analysis to customer engagement and crisis management.

Of the nearly infinite ways to use social listening for your business, here are 40 examples to keep in mind.

Section 1

Gain a competitive edge

1. Learn what drives conversation for your competitors

In order to beat the competition, you have to understand what drives their success and how consumers engage with them. The new and improved, Competitive Analysis template in Sprout Social Listening identifies major keywords, content themes and hashtags in competitor-related conversations. Leverage those insights to craft your own content, join relevant conversations and make your presence known.

2 Benchmark your share of voice

Traditionally, share of voice (SOV) is usually affiliated with paid advertising, but social listening provides marketers another way to measure their SOV against the entire market. For new or up-and-coming brands, use listening to report on your initial SOV. Then, continue to analyze how SOV fluctuates as your brand matures and gains more exposure.

3. Compare your products and services

Want to know which of your competitors is the go-to for a specific product or service? Look no further than listening.

One of Sprout’s major retail customers wanted to determine which of their competitors was their audience’s top choice for jeans. Using advanced filters, the retailer discovered who dominated denim discussions and why people loved their product.

4. Capitalize on pain points

A competitor’s weakness is your opportunity. Adding keyword filters like “problem,” “bad,” “broken,” “issue” and more, or using the negative sentiment filter within your competitive analysis topic can surface pain points your competitors are facing. This is an opportunity to engage with customers that are dissatisfied with your competitor and provide an alternative.

5. Learn what people love about your competitors

Listening data also reveals what consumers adore about your competitors. Use positive sentiment analysis to learn what their fans like about their brand, products or content and apply those insights to your own brand

Section 2

Elevate your campaigns

6. Get inspiration for new content

Take the guesswork out of what content will resonate. Find frequently asked questions, demographic data and emerging trends among your audiences and industry to create new, compelling content.

A franchise restaurant used Sprout Listening to identify which food items their customers love and which flew under the radar.

When they dug through themes, the franchise noticed something interesting. Nachos weren’t discussed as frequently as other food items, but they had the highest percentage of positive mentions and the lowest percentage of negative mentions. The franchise prioritized content for nachos because data showed customers were searching for nachos.

7. Name your campaign

Sprout’s listening word cloud automatically determines the top keywords, phrases or hashtags used by the audience in your listening query. The largest words in the cloud are the ones used most frequently. Then, you can click into each keyword to get a better sense of what the messages mean, and use that information to name your campaign.

8. Identify relevant keywords and hashtags

Listening can also help you determine which hashtags to use in your campaign and ongoing content. In Sprout, the Conversation tab report lets you know which hashtags are already used most frequently with your brand. Consider using those as a jumping-off point for your campaign hashtag.

9. Monitor the use of your campaign hashtag

If you want to get your audience more involved, use action-based hashtags, like Coca Cola’s long-successful #ShareACoke, to encourage user-generated content (UGC) to support your campaign. Then, use listening to keep an eye on how that hashtag is (or isn’t) being used.

10. Analyze campaign performance

When it comes time to report on your campaign, supplement your traditional social media analytics reports with listening data. Listening can provide the nuanced audience information that other reports can’t. For instance, Spotify recently rolled out a campaign for its RapCaviar playlist that identifies which artists users have been listening to since “Day 1.”  In many cases, fans shared their results without tagging the music streaming giant. A listening tool will pick up those consumer reactions which can then be used to gauge the campaign’s success and inspire a brand’s next move.

Section 3

Learn how customers influence products and vice versa

11. Introduce a new product or service that your fans have been waiting for

Want to know what products, features and services your customers want you to create? Just listen.

Consumers are constantly making new product recommendations for both B2C and B2B brands online. Set up a listening topic based on product categories to capture their recommendations or opinions. If you notice recurring, high volume trends around specific products, bring those insights to leadership or your product development team.

12. Switch up your product’s packaging

Your product may be perfect, but how about your packaging?

Native, a direct-to-consumer personal care brand, found that requests for sustainable packaging increased by more than 900% between 2018 and 2019. With that demand in mind, they introduced a limited-release version of their deodorant in a paper-based tube. They used social listening to gather consumer feedback and further refine the new product ahead of the official roll-out.

13. Unearth product flaws

A beer manufacturer created a general brand awareness topic in Sprout, and noticed the word “glass” coming up in their word cloud. Using Advanced Search Filters to take a closer look, the brand found out that customers were finding shards in some of their beer bottles. They reacted quickly, addressed the issue with the affected consumers and brought it to the attention leaders at their factory.

14. Inform creative decisions

Social listening can help brands in all industries refine their creative decisions—and identify when a design needs fixing.

Back in early 2019, the live-action trailer for “Sonic the Hedgehog” drew immediate, harsh critiques. The character’s creepy, human-like teeth were the talk of Twitter, and its designers were listening. A few months later, a new trailer with a less toothy Sonic surfaced to the delight of the internet.

15. Develop more accurate customer personas

Social listening can tell us a lot about what products consumers want and how they use them.

One of the biggest athletic retailers in the world used listening to get to know consumers and athletes who purchased a specific type of clothing After breaking down social conversations into more than a dozen themes, this retailer had a more complete picture of who those people are, how they described themselves and why they wore that particular garment.

Their customers are resilient and bold, based on mentions of “harsh conditions” during play and their need for temperature regulating clothing during hot and cold months. They are intentional about their purchases and research products for “upcoming seasons.” And they are passionate, quick to express satisfaction and love for their purchases and continually recommend the brand’s products to other consumers.

With a better understanding of their audience and an established social media persona, the retail brand can provide the personalization consumers crave.

Section 4

Stay equipped and ready for a crisis

16. Don’t be caught off guard by a scandal

Social listening can help you catch a growing problem before it blows up. Continually run a listening topic on brand health, regularly check sentiment analysis and take control of the narrative, if possible.

17. Understand the impact of global crises

If we’ve learned anything during 2020, it’s that some crises are completely beyond our control. As the pandemic evolved and stores, states and entire countries shut down, real-time listening insights became critical for brands to develop an effective response strategy and crisis plan.

18. Retroactively report on the aftermath

Social listening isn’t limited to live, in-the-moment analysis. In the aftermath of a crisis, use listening data to determine how your brand health and consumer sentiment were impacted and analyze your recovery over time.

19. Inform your public relation’s response plan

Social listening data shouldn’t just stay with your social team. In a crisis, public relations teams can use listening insights and analysis to form your brand’s public response. Additionally, PR teams can use listening to monitor mentions of your brand in new press releases and articles, and monitor brand perception as stories, events and announcements gain traction.

20. Put out fires before they burn you

It’s important to be swift and proactive in mitigating the fallout when your brand faces a crisis. Indiana University (IU) uses social listening to do just that.

When a Twitter account with a massive following surfaced problematic Tweets from a tenured IU professor, it put the university between a rock and hard place. IU’s social team immediately set up a Listening Topic to understand the volume and reach of conversations happening around the issue and monitor how the narrative progressed.

Almost 24 hours after the issue peaked, IU’s provost, armed with the listening data, made a statement condemning the Tweets, heading off the growing conversation on Twitter.

There are a lot of instances where brands won’t get tagged if people aren’t talking nicely about them. Social listening helps marketers stay on top of those messages, even if there’s not a large crisis at play.

With Sprout’s listening tools, we’ve really been able to solidify our place at the table when it comes to strategy, marketing, content development and how the university acts and responds in the face of challenging situations.
Clayton Norman
Social Media and Digital Marketing Leader

Section 5

Connect with your audience and build brand love

21. Engage with new people and build brand awareness

With listening, marketers can find conversations relevant to their brand or industry and chime in when appropriate.

While Zoomph wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the thread above, the brand found the right conversation to join at the right time, connected with a new consumer and brought further awareness to their brand.

22. Know when to take a stand

The social and political upheaval of 2020 has some brands wondering how to best show their support for various causes. Should we stay silent in order to amplify others’ voices? When is the right time to make our voice heard? Social listening can help you determine how, when and when not to make a statement around timely events.

23. Surprise and delight your audience

Engaging with guests and potential visitors is a major piece of Loews Hotels & Co. social strategy. Using Advance Listening, Lowes found a Tweet from a woman asking her friend for recommendations for her trip to an Orlando theme park.

“We sent her a tweet with a number of links to our blog specifically about the travel needs she had mentioned,” said Director of Social Media & Content Strategy, Simon Kopec. “Included were articles about restaurants that are available within the park, an article about new attractions, some tips and tricks on how to get through the lines quicker, and which attractions to visit at which times.”

We use social listening to look for a lot of different things. The happiest of them all, obviously, is identifying opportunities to surprise and delight our guests.
Simon Kopec
Director of Social Media & Content Strategy, Loews Hotels & Co

Section 6

Find and follow important people

24. Locate your audience in the world

For international companies, casting a wide net is not the most effective way to connect with your audiences. Use listening demographic data to determine which parts of the world your most engaged audience is and tailor your strategy accordingly.

25. Find brand ambassadors and influencers

Influencers and brand ambassadors are effective communicators for brands because they tap into shared affinities and common experiences shared by your audience. You just have to find the right ones to make the biggest impact. Use the Profile Overview in your Sprout listening topic and sort by engagements or followers to which profiles could make waves among your audience.

26. Cater to your superfans

Our favorite sports teams can make us feel all the feels, whether it’s happy, sad, angry, overjoyed or proud. According to the Chicago Bulls, “That connection is the driving force behind our fans. It’s not about throwing content at them and expecting them to engage with it the way you want them to. It’s about finding their wants and needs.”

27. Gauge sentiment around your leaders and celebrities

Set up queries around prominent people connected to your brand. Learn how people feel about your CEO. Sports teams can track public perception around their star players. Government and public sector brands can gauge sentiment around public officials for upcoming elections and use that to influence campaigns. If you notice public sentiment dropping around these kinds of people, Sprout users can pinpoint and view the messages creating that dip and use that data to course correct.

Section 7

Support your live or digital events

28. Be a part of the buzz in real-time

Back in May, Sprout hosted the first-ever Sprout Sessions Digital. Because it was a digital event, we used listening to capture usage of the #SproutSessions hashtag and supplement our audience engagement, responding to Tweets and resharing UGC and speaker quotes to keep our participants engaged during the whole event. Then, following the event, our social team used listening to retrospectively report on the percentage of impressions driven by attendees and owned content, plus the sentiment analysis.

29. Track award programs or contests

The Sprout Spotlight Awards recognize great people behind great social. Nominations were made using the hashtag #SproutSpotlights, which our social team was able to track with listening to determine the finalists.

30. Determine which speaker, musician or band to book for an event or festival

Listening data can also help event organizers determine who to book for a brand event. For years, Riot Fest fans have begged organizers to bring My Chemical Romance back to the festival. In 2020, they threw fans a bone after they teased that they got “tired of you asking.” The festival ended up selling tons of tickets with no other artists listed in the lineup. It pays to listen to your fans.

Section 8

Additional listening use cases that might surprise you

31. Name a new sports team

To help name the NHL’s newest expansion team in Seattle, the marketing team used listening to draw inspiration from their fans.

32. Fashion designers and clothing brands can determine the sizing and fit flaws or strengths of their clothing

One size does not fit all. With listening, brands can adjust how they size their garments using feedback from actual customers.

33. Identify pain points in fan experiences like waiting times in concessions or parking prices

A great experience can make or break some fans, and with listening data event organizers can uncover where their experiences need further improvement.

34. Predict trends before they happen, as we did for our report on retail trends for back-to-school 2020

Your audience is telling you their expectations of your brand. Turn those listening insights into a reality for your customers.

35. Find leads and close sales deals

With listening data, your sales team is better equipped to approach prospects and leads during key stages of the buyer journey.

36. Understand acquisition markets and track customer satisfaction for individual store locations

Eliminate any guesswork when it comes time for business expansion by using listening to determine which acquisition market makes the most sense for your brand.

37. Build a brand health topic for their potential clients to create stronger requests for proposal (RFP) and improve your chances of winning new agency clients

Listening data makes it possible for agencies to teach their clients something new about their industry, competitors and even their target audiences.

38. Map out podcasts, TV shows, movie plot points based on consumer responses

Ensure your creative content resonates with your intended audience by factoring in feedback gleaned from social listening.  

39. Round out your customer service strategy and ensure all customer needs are met

Don’t let important customer messages slip through the cracks. With listening, brands can surface customer complaints to service teams and ensure their frustrations are taken care of.

 40. Drive ticket sales for event hosts and to deliver more value at your next event

In preparation of an event, brands can use listening to learn what attendees want to see and create an experience that delivers on audience expectations.

Need help setting up your Listening topics? Sprout customers can use resources in our Learning Portal to get up-to-speed quickly. Or, if you’re ready to start building your org-wide listening strategy, download this cheat sheet.