Social media is the world’s largest and most transparent focus group. Social listening lets you tap into that focus group, their conversations and the trends happening not just around your brand, but around your industry as a whole. What power! It helps you understand why, where and how these conversations are happening, and what people think—even when you’re not tagged. But given the volume of conversations on social, it’s important to have the right social listening tools in place so that your entire business can get the insights they need.

Social listening isn’t just for marketers and social media managers—it’s a valuable source of business intelligence that your whole organization can leverage. Once you start collaborating and finding out the goals and challenges of other departments, you can create a listening strategy that yields long term ROI. It’s time to start getting other departments jazzed about the power of social listening tools. 

If you’re already sold on the value of listening, download this cheatsheet to build an org-wide listening strategy. 

Want more information first? Read on to learn what aspects of your business can benefit most from social listening tools.

Social listening tools contribute to sales and customer success

For sales teams, it pays to be on social media—literally. According to industry data by Bambucustomers acquired via social selling are seven times more likely to convert. But before you get to that conversion stage, you’ve got to find out where and how your prospects and leads are spending their time on social. Enter social listening. 

Listening helps businesses highlight relevant conversations as they happen. No more jumping from platform to platform, no more searching “by hand.” Tools like Sprout Social save time by crawling listening data for you. And with that data all in one place, you can easily learn more about your prospects’ interests, personalities, challenges and more. 

Once you’re ready to start using the tool itself, surface answers to your most burning sales questions and desires with a combination of help-specific, transactional and industry terms in your queries. Once you’ve listened and learned from the data, you can tailor your approach and make sales conversations more personal. 

Sales teams can use social media listening tools to conduct research on prospects’ industry, brand and competitors. According to Aberdeen Group, personalizing email messages can lead to an average 14% improvement on click-through rates as well as an average 10% increase in conversions. That’s probably the reason 47% of B2B marketers say they will use personalization strategies in 2020. Surfacing listening insights that speak to a prospect’s unique pain points, address their interests or reveal a trend they weren’t aware is a standout way to start a conversation.

If your company wants to go the extra mile, consider training individual sales representatives on listening. The additional listeners will help your sales team push past being reactive to become more strategic with real-time data and conversations at their fingertips. 

There’s so much to say about how to use social listening for sales, but we’re just skimming the surface here. Dig deeper and become a master of it with this guide. 

Power innovation for product and R&D teams

For product teams, customer feedback is invaluable and social listening is one of the best ways to collect it before, during and after launches. Before you launch the real deal, consider marketing beta releases, pilot or market tests and sneak peaks to spark interest and get early feedback. As you implement these initiatives, social listening tools will surface immediate insights your product or R&D team can use to optimize what you’re offering.

Are users running into bugs? Are there common issues cropping up? Is sentiment trending up or down? Gleaning these kinds of listening insights during a trial run gives your product developers a chance to troubleshoot and iron out issues, which will set your company up for a more seamless go-to-market launch. 

Content that highlights new products and services is one post type that receives the most engagement via social, according to Sprout Social Index, Edition XIV. So when Sprout unveiled a refreshed design, it was a no brainer to set up listening efforts around the milestone and capture mentions of Sprout and “design refresh,” “new design,” etc. As users switched from the old to new experience, we tracked spikes in keyword usage, conversation volume, sentiment trends and more. Our product team then uses these insights to understand customer feedback, continuously innovate and improve the Sprout user experience. 

It’s not just software companies that need product feedback. One food brand found that their protein cookies weren’t selling quite the way they hoped, but with listening, they found a recipe for success. Using related keywords and the negative sentiment filters, they were able to surface and categorize complaints that were coming up most often related to flavor and taste. Once they uncovered those conversations, the brand calculated the share of voice (SOV) to understand the impact of that complaint and adjust their recipe to overcome those flavor flaws. 

Often, marketing team members, and in particular social media managers, will drive the listening efforts and reporting for your product team. As the listening lead, creating effective queries to get macro insights and trends is important, but don’t neglect social media monitoring. Tools like Sprout’s Smart Inbox can help sort and keep track of every conversation with and about your brand. In instances where you receive a message that should be directed to your product team, you can create tags for these messages like “Product Team,” “The Product/Feature Mentioned,” “Customer Feedback,” or whatever works for you. Then head to the Tag Report to see all of those messages in one place and share aggregate feedback regularly. 

Build trust and satisfaction with customer service and support

If you’ve ever used social media to air out your grievances with a company, you’re not alone. According to Zendesk, one in every three customers turns to social media to seek advice or communicate with a business. But while customer service teams handle one-to-one customer issues and requests every day, the best social listening tools can surface insights about the biggest complaints or issues customers consistently experience with your brand. These types of insights enable businesses to make changes that improve the customer experience on a larger scale, ideally decreasing the number of issues customers face regarding major pain points. 

Your brand can be affected by issues outside of your control, but there’s frequently a customer service solution that can mitigate the fallout. For instance, a beverage manufacturer leveraged listening to uncover a serious product flaw. After creating a topic on brand awareness, the company noticed “glass” coming up in their conversation word cloud. It turned out that customers were finding glass in their drink bottles. When the brand made this discovery, they were then able to narrow the timeframe of these conversations and find specifically which shipments were affected. The brand was then able to address the issue head on and make things right with the customers.

As you work your way through messages, you might come across a question or piece of feedback that is more suited for the customer service team. If your social listening tool or social media suite has tasks and workflow tools integrated, delegate those messages directly in-app. For example, in Sprout’s Smart Inbox, users have the option to set a “Support Issue” task which routes the message to the right people. 

Excellent customer care doesn’t just affect customer satisfaction and retention. It helps you stand out from your competition. By the end of 2020, customer experience is projected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. So adding customer service to your listening strategy could be a major contribution to your company’s bottom line. 

Manage brand health during a public relations crisis

Social media is now a major part of the average person’s news diet. With social listening, your PR team can easily monitor mentions of your brand in new press releases and articles, and monitor brand perception as stories, events and announcements gain traction. 

During a brand crisis, social listening reveals real-time reactions and information that gives crisis management teams an opportunity to be proactive in their response. While sentiment analysis is nuanced and only one piece of the story, it’s a great way to dig into conversations and understand how your brand is impacted by the crisis on a deeper level. Additionally, social media listening can identify and rank influencers and journalists, helping PR teams identify new reporters to pitch and how to personalize their outreach.

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Listening can even expose an emerging crisis before it makes the news. One standardized test company began listening to understand how students talked about the test before and after taking it. Ultimately they hoped it would help improve their course offering. A spike in conversation volume and negative sentiment tipped them off that something was brewing on social media. After further investigation, they were able to uncover a racist comment that was part of the curriculum. Using that insight they swiftly made adjustments to the test. 

For PR teams who aren’t ready to fully commit to a social listening tool, or want to test the waters on their own, try free tools like Social Searcher, BuzzSumo (free trial) or even Google Alerts. They’re a great place to gut-check, see what’s happening around your brand and identify influential contributors if you aren’t ready to implement a more robust solution.

Find fresh talent for recruiting & HR teams

Your organization can even use listening for recruitment. On LinkedIn alone, 35.5 million people have been hired by a person they connected with on the platform. While LinkedIn is wildly popular, 55% of recruiters use Facebook and 47% use Twitter to vet talent, so it’s important to cast a wide net. Specialized professionals tend to have their own niche social networks and forums like GitHub for developers and Dribbble for designers. With the right queries in place, social listening tools can collect relevant data on the web that will help your team understand and target fresh talent. 

Frankly, there are some things people just won’t say to an employer’s face. On social, companies can get more honest evaluations of what employees and prospective candidates want out of their work experiences. Perhaps paternity leave in your industry is restrictive, maybe the candidates you’re targeting want more volunteer opportunities through work, or there’s a trend in employees leaving your company for a competitor. Those kinds of unfiltered insights present tangible ways in which an organization can build a better workplace. 

Your move

Before you can start using listening tools and connecting your strategy to business-wide goals, you have to get people on board. Get the chatter around the water cooler going and start identifying your greater “listening team.”  Use this cheat sheet to help you start identifying departments to focus on, key stakeholders and insights to look for.