social media listening tips

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Organizations are increasingly employing social media listening for public relations, marketing, competitive intelligence, customer service and product development. A growing number of successful use cases, better monitoring and measurement tools, and better understanding of data analytics continue to encourage more brands to embrace social media listening, also known as social media monitoring.

More than 50% of companies surveyed turned to social media listening platforms to learn about consumers’ changing preferences, habits, and expectations during the Covid-19 epidemic, according to research from Gartner. Other research confirms the rising importance of social media listening to businesses. Social media monitoring is one of the critical factors for determining executives’ satisfaction with their PR firms, a study by ResearchScape reveals. Previous research by USC Annenberg revealed that PR executives believe social media listening is one of the most important public relations trends.

While more organizations listen to customers on social media, many may wonder exactly what to listen for and how to do it. Here’s a primer on what and how to monitor.

Focus on keywords. Organizations start by monitoring the names of their company, brands and products. Monitor variations of brand and product names and common misspellings. Track names of competitors’ brands and products to gain the benefits of competitive intelligence. Also determine keywords to follow industry trends.

Social Media Listening for Customer Service

React quickly. Superior customer service requires actively monitoring company and brand names on social media. Many customers now prefer to communicate with companies on social media rather than through phone calls or email. And they expect prompt answers to questions and complaints. Most research indicates that most people who reach out to a brand on Twitter expect response within the hour. That’s why it’s essential to work with a social media listening tool with automated alerts or to have staff actively monitoring at least during business hours and preferably longer.

Avoid automated responses. Customers desire personalized responses. They disdain automated replies, warns says Firas Kittaneh, CEO and co-founder of One Mall Group, in Entrepreneur. Automated messages send the message that the company doesn’t really care about them or their issue.

Create a social media policy that outlines who is responsible for replying to customers, timeframes, proper etiquette and other parameters.

Separate functions. Establish a separate customer service unit that focus on social media responses, using query terms that identify customer complaints and questions. Create a separate channel for your company’s customer support, including a separate Twitter handle, such as @AcmeSupport. That allows your primary feed to focus on marketing, advises Sendible Insights.

Public Relations & Marketing

Track metrics to prove PR value. By tracking appropriate PR metrics, PR teams can improve their strategies and prove their value to top management. In addition to the number of positive mentions, measurement experts recommend tracking the percentage of conversations with one or more key messages. Share of voice compares the number of mentions to competitors. Sentiment analysis grades overall mentions on a positive to negative scale.

Seek an integrated portal. A monitoring tool that integrates data from traditional earned media, social media, and owned media, including the company’s web analytics, into single dashboard provides a 360-degree view of how all media campaigns impact key business objectives.

Cooperation is key. Marketing and PR can improve results of both their departments if they share information and work together. A coordinated marketing campaign with PR placements can help marketing increase sales. PR can better measure its contribution to corporate goals by working with marketing before, during and after a product announcement or campaign launch.

Break down silos. Most people associate media monitoring and measurement with public relations teams counting brand mentions in print publications, broadcasts, websites, and social media. However, the reality is that enterprise media monitoring benefits most corporate departments and a range of company managers. Feeding media monitoring results across department silos ensures that all areas of the organizations can access the wealth of information. Centralized repositories of social media monitoring data allow HR, finance, sales, product management, security, IT departments and country managers to access the data.

Competitive Intelligence

Spy on competitors. Monitoring competitors can reveal competitive opportunities by identifying weaknesses in competitors’ products, customer service or marketing. Your organization can exploit their weaknesses and copy their strengths. To select keywords, you can essentially replicate your own corporate and brand search terms with those of competitors. Include their company names, product names, products, misspellings and other keywords that describe industry issues.

Compare success. Competitive intelligence enables a company to compare its PR and marketing against competitors. Companies can track trends in engagement levels, follower numbers, and product messaging and other metrics. PR can track competitors’ earned media coverage, both negative and positive, and compare changes to their brand’s share of voice and sentiment over time to competitors’.

Seek insights. Many communications professionals concentrate on the data and pretty graphs produced by media monitoring and measurement services. While comparing PR or marketing performance with competitors is undoubtedly useful, the most valuable nuggets of competitive intelligence usually come from looking beyond the numbers and seeking insights from the content. To find those insights, organizations need knowledgeable staff members or a third-party service to review media mentions for both content (including data) and context.

PR Crisis Management

Spot emerging crises. Social media listening can identify a nascent PR crisis and give your organization time to resolve the issue before it explodes into a full-blown crisis. Paying close attention to spikes in negative comments allows PR to spot an emerging problem.

Monitor the crisis. Understand how a crisis is evolving by continually monitoring corporate and brand names, names of top executives, and derogatory words people use during a crisis. In addition, search for common slang terms and common misspellings of those keywords.

Analyze the PR recovery.  Changes in brand sentiment over time indicate whether your PR crisis response is succeeding. Monitoring competitors’ brands and keywords describing your industry niche can help you better understand changes in overall market sentiment.

Gain real-time information. Social media comments from people at the scene of crisis often reveal information before news reports. It’s essential to vet information since it may be inaccurate or fraudulent.

Improving Social Media Listening

Sharpen reports. The internet is full of acronyms, abbreviations and words with multiple meanings. Identical abbreviations may exist for your company. Such multiple meanings can fill monitoring reports with irrelevant results.

Boolean search terms reduce extraneous results. Place the word “not” before the undesired term to exclude it from results. Write “and” between search terms to require the search results to include both words in any order. Write “or” to find any of the desired search terms. The Lincoln Motor Company can monitor for Lincoln AND (auto OR car OR dealer OR etc.) AND NOT (president OR penny OR emancipation OR St. OR Ave. OR school, OR etc.). Tip: Regularly test search strings, perhaps once a month or more.

Research vendors thoroughly. While more companies embrace news monitoring and social media listening, finding the right media monitoring solution can be challenging. Companies often chose a vendor that doesn’t meet their needs and must start a new search almost immediately or when their contract expires. Asking the right questions will separate high-quality firms from the less desirable services. For instance, does the service monitor all the media you need? Can it customize its services to your needs? And will it require a one-year contract or offer the flexibility of a month-to-month service? A free trial with your own search terms lets you learn about the accuracy and features of the service much better than a canned demo.

Bottom Line: Social media listening can greatly improve an organization’s PR, marketing and customer service. To gain its full advantages, it’s essential to monitor the right terms and carefully analyze the information. A media monitoring service that provides comprehensive and accurate data integrated into a single dashboard and allows you to customize metrics is most likely to deliver worthwhile insights.

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This article was first published in April 12, 2017, and updated on Nov 5, 2020.