Do you know what your customers are saying about you?
You probably think you have a pretty good idea of their perception of your products and brand based on surveys, feedback and various pieces of data. And if you´re measuring customer satisfaction in your contact center or holding regular focus groups, chances are you do have at least a basic grasp of where you stand.
Why does it matter? Scott Cook describes it better than anyone else: “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is, it´s what consumers tell each other it is”. We´ve entered the age of customer-centric culture, but what if we told you that, actually, your picture is at best incomplete and most likely biased?
There are a few reasons behind this:
- The data you are gathering only applies to part of your customers, the ones who have agreed to give you their opinion or feedback. And they´re not necessarily representative of your customer base or your target audience.
- The answers and opinions you collect in a survey-type campaign or a focus group are not always a true reflection of what the customer thinks. It depends on when you catch them and how much they trust you to give you an honest review.
- This is even more accurate if they received a product for free or even at a discount, hence the recent scandal about fake online reviews
- When it comes to PR reviews, again it´s likely the journalists or bloggers who review your products are the ones who you sent it to or who picked up on your press release.
There are thousands of other people out there who have an opinion about your brand, product or service. They just haven´t told you directly.
However, they have certainly shared their opinion with their friends, family and colleagues.
So how can you make sure you have a better view of these thoughts, and how can you turn that data into actionable insights that will improve your bottom line?
Welcome to the world of social listening, where you can gain a complete picture of insights and trends about you. We´ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about social listening and help you uncover the best ways to use it to your advantage.
What is social listening?
It´s the art of identifying trends, actionable insights and issues about your brand, product and customer experience, as well as competitor information, by capturing and analyzing customer comments and conversations that are publicly available on social networks and channels such as forums and news websites.
Social listening opens up a whole new world of customer insight where you can:
- Get a more honest and complete set of information on what your customers are saying about you
- Improve customer service and customer experience by identifying arising issues
- Improve campaign efficiency and targeting by integrating data with your CRM data
- Adjust your product features and identify customer needs for future products and services
- Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing
- Manage your online reputation and stay on top of any potential crisis as they usually blow up on social media first
Is it right for your business?
Most definitely. How do we know? Because no matter what type of business you´re running or which product you´re intending to sell, customers are talking about it or their unfulfilled need for it. Customers share more on social media than anywhere else. Social media is simply the best source of information for your company, especially if like us at ICR evolution, you put your customers at the heart of everything you do.
This is still true even if you´re a very small company. In fact, social media is already probably a key part of your marketing efforts if that´s the case and you´ve most likely already identified that social media advertising offers some of the best value for money. By incorporating social listening, you will no doubt amplify the ROI of your existing investment.
Where should you listen?
The answer to this question is the same as most of your marketing efforts: be where your customers are. And, as Lori Raff, the famous brand strategist, says: “Social media is here. It’s not going away; not a passing fad. Be where your customers are: in social media.”
Once we´ve said that, the hard work can begin. You need to spend some time and effort identifying who your current and target audience are, and therefore where they like to interact with others.
Different social networks are used for different purposes so if you´re selling baby clothes, targeting a motherhood forum is a good idea, but a gardening website is unlikely to be the best option. Geography is also key, for example Vkontakte is very popular in Russia whereas in LATAM, a lot of people use Telegram.
We recommend that you systematically listen to all the main social networks such as Twitter or LinkedIn, in addition to some dedicated sources based on your audience interests and demographics e.g. forums. Remember to also listen to news websites and RSS feeds too, as you don’t want to miss out on press opinions and reviews either.
What should you listen for?
Conversations, of course, but not just any conversation. You want to listen to all the keywords and phrases that are relevant to your brand, product and service. As Neal Schaffer said, “The key to listening to social conversations, then, is to understand the unique set of keywords that are potential triggers for lead generation”. When you´re building your keywords lists, make sure you’re considering your industry, sector, product and competitors as well as phrases around customer service issues to shape the most complete picture.
Combining the right keywords and the right channels gives you an unprecedented data set, and this can be daunting to look at. We recommend focusing on these four key performance indicators to begin with:
- Mentions: how many times are customers talking about you
- Sentiment: how do people who talk about you feel about you
- Share of voice: are you occupying the social floor in your industry?
- Influencers: are people who have a large follower base talking about you and what are they saying?
Do you need a dedicated platform to perform social listening?
The short answer is yes.
Of course, dedicated platforms only use publicly available data, so they won´t give you any information that you couldn´t source yourself manually.
The power of a social listening platform is that it will automatically scrape all that available data based on your choice of topics and channels. Then it sorts and categorizes it nicely for you in pretty dashboards, which you can then slice and dice at will to analyze to your heart´s contempt.
So all you need to worry about is finding those trends and insights!
In addition, social platforms give you insight on the demographics of your audience and help you identify influencers and detractors.
What was a very niche market a few years back is now a full-on competitive market with solutions that range from end-to-end covering listening, content curation, paid advertising etc., to point solutions that simply do social listening.
If you’re using ICR evolution to serve your customers on social media, you can already engage on your owned channels so we recommend going for a point solution for social listening only, such as AgoraPulse or Mention which are affordable and will cover social listening needs.
Are you short on budget? There are some options for you to still use technology, especially if you don’t have a dedicated marketing resource for this.
Option 1: chances are your marketing agency uses a similar solution so it’s worth asking them before investing.
Option 2: Look into what your CRM offers. Some of the big names in the market have off-the-shelf solutions and these may already be included in your package or can be added for a small premium.
What do you do with the social media data you´ve collected?
We´ve spoken already about all the great insight you´ll gather using social listening and how it will help you make the most of your marketing efforts and understand your market positioning.
More importantly for us, as customer experience experts, social listening is the best way to understand where customer service or product issues lie and tap into the underrated channel that is proactive customer care.
With ICR evolution, you can serve your customers using Twitter, Facebook Messenger and Telegram, with WhatsApp coming very soon. Incorporating social listening to your customer service strategy means you can proactively reach out to those customers who are raising questions and issues about your product and solve it before they even feel the need to speak to your directly. And of course, that´s over and above your existing customer service channels. Very few brands have yet to implement this feature so you can really go the extra mile for your customers by doing this.
Remember, the quality of customer care is one of the biggest brand differentiators, so you could be making a real difference by offering both proactive and reactive customer care. Kim Garst, a marketing blogger, says: “Legendary service is one of the criteria that sets one company apart from its competitors. It’s the mark of a truly authentic company – you just can’t fake caring!”
In a nutshell, whatever business you’re running, if you’re not listening for brand, product and service insights on social media, you’re missing out on valuable data that could help you know your customer a lot better and improve customer experience.
Getting started on social listening means first understanding where your customers are so you can listen to the right channels.
Each channel will provide you with a wealth of data so it´s worth agreeing which keywords or phrases are relevant to your brand, product and service.
A dedicated platform such as AgoraPulse is really helpful, as they´ll do all the hard work for you.
With the collected social media data, you´ll be able to proactively solve product issues for your customers, improve your marketing initiatives and stay on top of your competitors and online reputation. Remember to store that data in your CRM!
We hope we´ve helped you navigate the world of social listening.
If you´d like to find out more about a specific topic, please let us know in the comments below or reach out to us via our contact form. We´d be delighted to have one of our CX experts help you achieve your goals.