Is your brand keeping an ear to the ground through Instagram listening?

Because there’s arguably no busier place than Instagram right now when it comes to customers sounding off.

Listen: Instagram isn’t just a place to post snapshots anymore. From shout-outs and questions to customer complaints and concerns, having a strong pulse on what your followers want is always a plus.

And Instagram’s recent, rapid growth signals the importance of social listening to make smarter business decisions.

What do your customers want and expect from your business? What are your prospects’ first opinions of your brand? How about your competition?

The answers are out there.

That is if you’re listening for them.

It’s time for a crash course in Instagram listening. Whether you’re prioritizing brand awareness, social selling or customer service, this quick guide to social listening on Instagram can help you reach your goals.

What is Instagram listening?

Instagram listening is the process of following conversations regarding topics, keywords, brands and hashtags related to your industry and using those insights from those conversations to inform your social media strategy. Beyond social media, insights from Instagram listening can be used to…

  • Determine your overall brand health and sentiment
  • Monitor the activity of your competitors
  • Identify potential customers, partnerships and influencers
  • Influence marketing and product decisions
  • Uncover industry trends and happenings

Brands can’t afford to live in a bubble when it comes to their Instagram presence. Through social listening, brands can better understand everything from big-picture industry insights to how to better serve individual customers. Instagram listening helps put interactions such as mentions, comments in shares into a context that helps brands grow.

Why Instagram listening matters so much

Instagram is a strange beast as far as customer interactions go. Not only do you have traditional customer service concerns to respond to, but also user-generated content and industry hashtags to keep an eye on.

Let’s look at a shining example of how social listening on Instagram can help you connect with customers. Brands such as TOMS manage to illustrate both the challenges and need for Instagram listening.

How so? TOMS’ current #endgunviolencetogether campaign is a prime example of brands getting real. Some brands might rightfully second-guess such a bold approach to activism, but TOMS tackles the issue head-on. Doing so has resulted in an overwhelmingly positive response from customers, but you better believe the brand carefully listened to their base before rolling the campaign out.

Meanwhile, TOMS continues to use their Instagram to respond to customer questions and concerns. As Instagram continues to boom, its status as a customer service hub will grow against the likes of Twitter and Facebook. TOMS takes stock of what customers want to see from their products in addition to individual concerns.

TOMS also has hundreds of thousands of users creating user-generated content on Instagram. In addition to activism and customer service, they’re likely keeping a close eye on which of their products are most popular among their base.

Remember: Instagram listening is about more than @mentions, comments and #hashtags

Just as it’s important to understanding what Instagram listening is, it’s arguably just as important to break down what Instagram listening isn’t.

Specifically, don’t mistake Instagram listening with Instagram monitoring.

What’s the difference? Simply put, social media monitoring is the act of tracking @mentions, comments and hashtags. This is obviously something that brands should do and monitoring is a crucial aspect of listening.

But while these interactions matter, they aren’t the be-all, end-all of the conversations happening on social media surrounding your brand.

For example, consider that not every mention of your business on Instagram involves a tag. More robust monitoring through tools such as Sprout can help you pick up on such conversations to understand what customers are saying beyond your mentions.

Similarly, think of all the other conversations and hashtags in your industry that might miss if you’re just looking for mentions of your brand name or campaign key terms. With in-depth hashtag analytics, brands can see which tags get people talking and which tags can likewise help them expand their reach.

Through Instagram social listening, brands actually take the feedback from the aforementioned conversations and data points on Instagram and translate them into action.

How does Instagram listening work, though?

Good question!

Instagram listening involves creating queries based on your business, location, hashtags and keywords relevant to your business. Sprout’s social media listening features help do the legwork by aggregating those specific conversations.

Looking for love? Complaints? Want to know what your competitors are up to? Sprout can clue you in.

In addition, brands can create their own listening queries for Instagram using boolean syntax and rules logic.

Non-technical translation? You can dig deeper into customer conversations without having to search by hand again and again.

Social listening likewise goes hand in hand with sentiment analysis. In other words, how are folks reacting to your brand on Instagram? Whether it’s “yay,” “nay” or “meh,” sentiment analysis can directly inform what you need to do to better serve customers and score more love from your Instagram followers.

Coming up with an Instagram listening strategy

Of course, understanding Instagram listening and how it works is only half the battle.

How the heck do you turn all of these metrics and observations into action?

Your social listening strategy ultimately boils down to your goals. Below is a snapshot of how brands of all shapes and sizes can use Instagram listening to influence their marketing campaigns.

Conducting competitive analysis

Perhaps one of the best uses of social listening is competitive analysis.

Consider ultra-competitive markets such as the beauty industry where new products are constantly popping up from brand to brand. Listening to tags and popular posts from other businesses in your space can help you better position yourself in the face of stiff competition.

Improving your products

If you want to know how to improve your own products and services, who better to ask than your own customers?

However, not all feedback from your followers is going to be direct. Although some might see likes, comments and shares as mere vanity metrics, they can be a valuable currency for determining what your customers want to see.

Identifying potential customers

Social listening isn’t just about the customers you have: it’s about discovering new ones, too.

Industry and community-specific hashtags are a goldmine for finding folks who might be interested in your product. This rings true for people who don’t know about you yet or might be looking for a new spot in your space.

Let’s say you’re a local restaurant in search of potential patrons and foodies in your area. Instagram is a treasure trove of potential exposure and insight regarding what prospective customers want.

Discover industry trends

Social listening is invaluable for tracking industry trends. In addition to knowing the tags your audience follows, it’s smart to understand how they’re responding to such trends to influence your own marketing campaigns.

Inform your content strategy

On a related note, Instagram listening can keep you from copycatting your competition.

For example, brands need to differentiate their tone, content calendar and captions if they want to realistically stand out on Instagram. Effective listening can help you uncover tags and trends that your competitors might be missing out on and how you can fill the void.

Monitor your customer sentiment

Let’s say you’ve launched a new product or campaign.

You obviously want to know how your audience feels about it, right? Is it building buzz?

Again, you may not always get those answers from direct mentions, but chances are there are users out there who can provide a concrete answer. Here’s a great example from the #beersnob tag:

What Instagram listening tools are available?

Let’s say you want to go all-in on Instagram listening.

While basic brand listening is possible through native searches on Instagram, to say that doing so manually would be tedious is a major understatement.

After all, brands need to be able to track multiple tags and competitors in addition to their own mentions. Given the sheer amount of content posted to Instagram daily, sifting through it all is no small feat.

With the help of an actual Instagram listening tool, however, digging into industry conversations on Instagram is a cinch.

Again, Sprout’s robust suite of social listening features is a game-changer for brands looking to step up their Instagram presence. Businesses can track dozens of queries beyond simple hashtags with the help of our query builder. Doing so ensures that you have a holistic understanding of your brand and industry.

Additionally, reporting and analytics provide a comprehensive view of your listening so you can make data-driven decisions. Second-guessing a campaign or your next move on Instagram? Look no further than your numbers for peace of mind.

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

Is your brand on board with Instagram social listening?

Social listening is undoubtedly one of the most important trends for social-savvy brands to watch in 2019.

And given the current rocket strapped to Instagram, the platform should be a top priority as far as listening goes.

Rather than let those critical conversations and moments with your audience fall by the wayside, smarter Instagram listening can inform everything from individual campaigns to your overall marketing strategy.

We want to hear from you, though. How are you handling social listening on Instagram? Do you feel like you have a strong pulse on the platform? Let us know in the comments below!