Social listening is the practice of collecting data from social media platforms on your chosen topic. This data is then analysed to find trends and insights into consumer behaviour and preferences. Not unlike conducting market research through focus groups and surveys – this simply means that the consumer insights and opinions are already available, you just have to find them.
This technique can be hugely valuable to your brand, as it enables you to find out what the public is really thinking away from hashtags or mentions. As the conversation is ongoing, it is important to measure the insights against current events and seasonal trends to understand what influenced these topics and conversations, and from these insights you can gain a deeper understanding of consumer opinion to use in your marketing strategy.
The most significant advantages of social listening are the opportunity it provides to understand your audience, getting ahead of potential PR issues and curating a more tailored and appropriate marketing strategy.
The opportunity provided by social listening to gain a deeper understanding of your audience cannot be overstated, as it produces both demographic data to understand the nature of your audience, as well as understand their values and opinions on trending topics. Is your audience particularly concerned by sustainability and environmental issues, or does affordability take greater precedence? This data can help you to understand their preferences and place more emphasis on the brand values that matter most to your customers in your content. Social listening also means that you can more effectively manage your brand reputation online and get ahead of negative comments that can rapidly affect your image. The more immediate nature of the data gathered through social listening can also help you to understand how such situations unfold, and how this can be avoided in the future.
When can social listening be used?
Social listening can be helpful in a variety of situations. It can be used as part of an ongoing strategy, but it can also help you achieve more specific aims such as crisis management and understanding the reception of a particular marketing campaign.
If you choose to use an ongoing approach, make sure you are continually re-evaluating your datasets and how you collect this data, to ensure you are not accidentally picking up unrelated conversations that can affect the usefulness of your insights.
Social listening does not necessarily need to revolve around your brand and can be used to trend-watch so you can understand what topics are driving high customer engagement across different platforms. This also means that you can optimise the effectiveness of taking part in popular trends on platforms such as TikTok, making the engagement feel more authentic and less clumsy.
Ultimately, social listening is a highly effective market research tool, especially as it makes use of authentic engagement with your brand, producing insights which may not be provided through traditional market research tools. Importantly, it also means you can collect the perspectives of people who may be harder to reach through market research recruitment. Narrowing down your specific market research goal may be beneficial to your overall insights, but an ongoing commitment to social listening can lead to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of your audience.