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February 24, 2021

minutes read

What Is Social Listening and Why It Matters For Small Businesses

Conversations on social media have increased immensely as consumers continue to share their opinions on social networks and mainstream media brands. At the same time, businesses worldwide are becoming increasingly aware of the need for social data to operate with an informed brand strategy.

Today, 4.54 billion people use the internet. Of these, almost 80 percent or 3.8 billion people are social media users. Businesses have also taken to using social media. This is evident from the following statistics:

Perhaps the most important statistic is that Whatsapp handles 100 billion messages a day, making it almost impossible for organizations to track mentions of their brand or services. Whatsapp was just used as an example here. The same trend can be seen across all social messaging platforms, which is why social media listening is important.

What is Social Listening Exactly?

Social listening is about monitoring and collecting data from social platforms and forums. The process involves analyzing online conversations about a brand, a specific topic, competitors, or anything else that's relevant to an organization.

Why is this important?

Because it provides actionable insights which can impact business operations, product updates, and advertising approaches positively.

When it comes to social listening, I have a very different take on the topic than many of my peers. I firmly believe that efficient social listening goes well beyond monitoring social mentions.

I believe that successful social listening requires the use of innovative technologies to monitor conversations around the clock, offer actionable feedback, and develop meaningful relationships with customers through differentiated customer service or experience.

This comes from my desire to create the best user experience possible for prospects and customers using all resources available to my brand.

What Makes Social Media Listening Important?

Several reasons make social media listening important for businesses of all sizes. The following are some of them.

Identify and Follow Up On Sales Leads

You can identify and follow up on sales leads by answering potential customers' questions about a product or identifying mentions where they are considering buying a new product.

Respond To Customer Complaints Promptly and Professionally

Social listening can help you to respond to customer complaints promptly and professionally. This is important because customers judge brands by how they respond to complaints about poor products and services on social media.

User-Generated Content Discovery, Augmentation, and Repurposing

This includes posts, photos, videos, and praise of products. Using social listening for user-generated content discovery, augmentation, and repurposing is important because consumers trust the recommendations of other consumers and influencers more than brands.

With social media listening, you can gain market intelligence to keep pace with rapidly changing markets by quickly identifying market issues, concerns, and preferred product features. Additionally, you can gain competitive intelligence through social listening, including data on competitors, product development, marketing and sales efforts, PR activities, etc. Lastly, you can improve outcomes for your business by measuring product success and consumer reactions to determine product shortcomings based on social media conversations.

How Social Listening Works

how social listening works

Here, I will explain social listening from the perspective of experts who listen on social media platforms to provide businesses with valuable insights regarding their target audience.

Defining Goals and Strategies

Successful social listening begins with an understanding of the goals of the business. The social media marketing strategist acting on behalf of the business will then translate those goals into measurable actions and then provide this data to the analysts.

Collecting Social Listening Data


A strategist needs to provide the analysts with well-defined goals so they know exactly what to listen for.  But, how does the strategist collect this data in the first place?  They identify the keywords that signal something is of interest to your business. They then find all of the conversations that fall into those parameters.

Analyzing the Data

An analysis of the conversations matching the identified keywords is performed to find out what people are saying on social platforms about a particular business.

Do they sound happy? Is their tone angry or frustrated? Or are they just not too ‘over the moon’ about what is being offered? In either case, the analysts will look at historical data—typically data from the previous three years.

One really interesting thing about social listening is that the name itself is a little bit of a misnomer. The analysts listen to a lot more channels than just social channels. So, while they do capture a lot of data from Twitter, a little bit from Facebook, some Instagram, they have access to and utilize over 80 million different types of websites for social listening. This encompasses news, general websites, forums, blog posts, basically the whole gamut.

This allows the analysts to go in and get a very good picture of what people are saying about a business. This is a holistic way of listening and includes much more than just those social channels.

Recommend Outcomes and Impacts that Directly Relate to the Goals

The analyst takes the data from all of those sources, segment it and find trends that can influence the business’s strategy and help it identify opportunities to better connect with its audience.

These are all the steps involved in social listening that provide valuable insights to improve engagement and conversions on social media. However, one really important step in social listening that is not mentioned above is the use of funnels. This is because it’s not an actual part of the process. Instead, it is what the analyst uses to get ahead of the game when it comes to social listening.

Use of Funnels for Social Listening: How It Works

The ideal funnel for social listening begins with the analysts gather all of those mentions about a business. They are generally pulled in by software via the queries that the analysts write based on the specific needs of the business.

Once all the data is captured, the next part of the funnel is to analyze them. So, the analysts start to write the rules and put categories out there so that they can look at the conversation as a whole and start breaking it down.

There are two really interesting approaches to looking at and segmenting the conversation. The first is going out and looking for trends; the other is looking for more prescribed categories and looking at the data that way.

So, when the analysts are looking at the big conversation to identify trends, they are looking for things like the words people are using and what days the volume peaks. Moreover, they are looking into that data and seeing what people are talking about that day: was there something specific that generated a lot of hype? So that’s kind of looking at everything and finding those little nuggets.

The other approach would see the analyst going in and churning out the required historical conversations for the business. They can take that big pool of data and then write rules that allow them to segment out that historical conversation and dig into what people are saying about a topic.

An example of this is an audience analysis that our digital marketing agency performed for one of our clients; they wanted to know what a particular segment was interested in, the topics that they liked to engage with a lot, and what resonated with them.

So we identified10-12 different topic categories and segmented the entire conversation from this group of people. We were able to go back and identify those 12 topics, which were top one-to-three, that resonated with this audience.

In turn, our client was able to take that information and update the communication strategy. Ultimately, they were writing content, either via email or social (whatever their preferred channel was), that resonated with their audience to get them to engage more with their brand. And this how we were able to use social listening for the benefit of our client.

How Businesses Can Provide Better Customer Service with Social Listening

33 percent of people prefer to contact a brand or a business like yours via social media versus any other way. I'm a huge advocate for that. As it can often be the quickest way to contact a business.

I don't want to talk to anybody on the phone, but I had to contact my cable company. They had the option of just tweeting at them, and then they sent me a DM once I did. I got help through Twitter DM, and I didn't have to talk to anyone. It was fantastic!

However, not everyone would have the same experience on social media. Some people even describe their interaction on social channels with businesses as ‘disgusting'. Now I have had bad experiences also. One in particular that came to mind was with a Saas company. I had purchased their product and was having trouble getting it loaded to my website. I didn’t want to open a help ticket because that normally takes 1-2 days to get a response. I contacted them through Facebook messenger. They responded immediately, but unfortunately their response was to tell me to open a help ticket and a representative would help me in 1-2 days and then they immediately ended the chat. This frustrated me. They were more than willing to take my money that day but refused to help me the same day.

While your interactions with your customers may end up being classified as such, there is a good chance that you won’t get the response you desire. The good news is that you can change this by using these 5 tips to provide better customer service with social listening.

Tip#1: Listen to Your Customers

Your customers are out there messaging you on Facebook, mentioning you on Twitter, and leaving reviews on Yelp. So, listen to them and, most importantly, don't ignore them. Also, there shouldn’t be a reason to immediately transfer them to another channel. They have just told you the way that they want to interact with you so why would you ignore that? You wouldn't do that if someone walked into your shop today and was like, "Hey, Martin, you make a great cup of Joe”.  Or “Hey, Martin, I love coming here every day; it’s so nice to see you in person.” Would you just stand there and ignore that person? You wouldn’t.

Instead, you would acknowledge them with something like this, "That is so awesome to hear. I appreciate you coming in." – Bingo. Social media is no different. If you don’t listen to people, you will never respond to them. And this takes us to tip number two.

Or as another example. If you owned a brick and mortar store and a customer asked to speak to the manager on duty would you tell them to email them because they can’t speak to them in person. Well you could, but the negative blow back would be enormous.

Tip#2: Always Respond

Make it a point to always respond on social media—even to those negative comments. A good rule of thumb is to respond within 4 hours at the most even if its just a reply to let them know that you received their inquiry and are looking into it. Don’t leave your customer wondering if you received their message. When responding on social media, it is important to be personalized in your response. And do it promptly, which is tip number three.

Tip#3: Respond promptly

You would want to respond to comments on your social media pages promptly. This is because if you ignore the comments on your page for too long, more and more people are going to see it and wonder—Do they exist? Are they alive? Are they still in business? Where are they? Why isn't this person responding? And so on.

Or worse yet. You become labeled as just another business that is only concerned with people purchasing from you. Let’s be honest. If I see your page with a ton of unanswered messages then I’m thinking that I don’t want to purchase your product or service because the after sales service will be horrible. Don’t lose potential customers by refusing to take care of your current customers.

So, it’s established that responding promptly on social media is critical, but what is timely? According to a study, two out of three consumers expect a response within 24 hours. And, if you're on Twitter and you get a response there, they expect it within two hours. It's crazy, right?

So, we've talked about listening, responding, and then, of course, doing this promptly. That leads me to number four: Ask questions.

Tip 4# Ask Questions

This is a great chance to get to know what's working, what's not working, what your customers love about you, maybe what they want you to work on.  Take the criticism. It can help you in the long run. Feedback is a gift. So, when you ask questions, you're social listening to help improve your brand and fulfill your mission.

Tip 4# Ask QuestionsThis is a great chance to get to know what's working, what's not working, what your customers love about you, maybe what they want you to work on.  Take the criticism. It can help you in the long run. Feedback is a gift. So, when you ask questions, you're social listening to help improve your brand and fulfill your mission.

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Tip#5: Be Personable

I already briefly mentioned this before. When I say personable, what are some best practices that come to mind to you? Just guess? This may sound clichéd, but my advice to you would be to “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Give them a response from the heart, not just a quick, "Hey, thanks," or, "Okay," or, "See you next time."  You're on the right track, but you also need to use their name in your responses. When that customer has taken the time to respond to you, you have to use their name.

Also, include any details that they included in their message. So, if they went into your carwash and talked about how efficient it was to get a spot-free rinse or they went to your salon and everyone was so personable (which they loved), well, include that detail when you respond. That shows that you're actively listening, which ties it all in.


As seen above, social listening is critical for businesses today. The best part is that it isn’t all that difficult. There's a site called Google Alerts. You can go in and put your company name in, and every time it's mentioned on a website, you're notified. That way, you can listen, respond and make sure that you're on top of the mind of your prospects and customers all the time. How amazing is that?

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Jaimi Saunders

Need a Digital Marketing Agency that Maximizes Customer Value and Lower Cost Per Acquisition?

I’m the founder of Keystone Ad Agency and we help small businesses optimize their media strategy to lower cost while increasing revenue.

Questions? Contact me at KeystoneAdAgency.com

J'aimi M Saunders

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