What is Social Listening and What Brands Do It Well?

Monitoring Online

Since its earliest evolution, the heart of social media has been focused on creating two-way conversations. The goal was to increase connections, create new friendships, celebrate old friendships, introduce and assist with business opportunities, so on and so on.
As social media evolved and became more popular, there was a push for businesses and organizations to be on every single social media platform so they could try and reach their key audiences. With demographics shifting and social media continuing to change and adapt to consumer tastes, it’s more important that businesses be on the RIGHT social media channels that will actually reach their key audiences.
Are you a B2B business that deals directly with the C-Suite? It’s likely that Snapchat is not an efficient place for you to push content, but LinkedIn can be a great use of time. Are you a consumer-direct business? Get on Instagram and Facebook and meet your customer where they are spending most of their time.
Knowing where your customer is and tailoring your social media strategy to those platforms is key. But what do you do when you are there? Do you just push content? Are you interacting with customers? Do you know if they are talking about you to their friends and family?
Social listening–the process of monitoring digital conversations to understand what customers are saying about a brand and industry online, according to marketing insights company TrackMaven–is critical to understanding your customer base and their needs, how they use your product and to cut off negative perception or deal with problems that might not come in through your traditional customer service channels.
Most often, social listening is done by tracking specific keywords using tools like TweetDeck or Sprout Social. Anytime someone uses those keywords, you will see them in your tracking or get an alert. This allows you to see conversations that are relevant to your brand, but don’t have you tagged. When an alert is raised, it offers the brand the opportunity to join the conversation and address a question, solve a problem or address a complaint.
Some of the best brands using social listening to their advantage are ones that have a high volume of contact direct with their customers.

Alaska Airlines
If you’ve ever interacted with Alaska Airlines on social media, you will likely know the power of their social media team. Alaska’s social care team can do it all. They are able to help you with many customer service functions, answer questions about delays or just help you pass the time on the flight!

They are also very adept at social listening and tracking conversations about the airline, even if they are not tagged. This allows their team to track issues and step in, or forecast a problem and pass it along to colleagues in different departments. In a business that is all about getting individuals from point A to point B on time and with great service, keeping ahead of problems is key.
But social listening also gives the airline another touchpoint to build relationships with their customers when they are not flying. They can interact with them in their daily life and make them a brand ambassador all the time, not just when they are onboard.
Mod Pizza
The rapidly growing Mod Pizza is another example of a brand using social listening to their advantage. Sure, they do the same as Alaska and help customers with problems or address complaints. But, the thing that Mod does better than others is they infuse their company culture and attitude into their social listening to gain visibility, and possibly viral moments for its handles.
No matter if it’s cheering on the music played in stores:

To playing nice with other brands:

The key for Mod, as a brand that has a following among younger generations, is they are meeting them where they are on social media. They use memes and interact like a friend would and ask their customers to get involved in the process.
But social listening is not just for brands with high-consumer touchpoints. Setting up a proper social listening program can be done for any business; just think of the keywords that your customers are likely to use. Then start monitoring for those keywords. When they are used, reach out to that individual and engage with them. Remember, social media is a two-way street.
As you are rolling out your social listening program, make sure it maps back to your overall customer engagement, marketing and business goals. Treat the customer as you would if they walked into your store, called into your call center or reached out to learn more about your services. Creating a strong social listening program provides your business with the opportunity to strengthen your affinity with current customers, open the door to finding new customers that might not ever find YOU and provide another touchpoint to deliver excellent customer service. A win/win for all involved!