“Listen before you speak.”
As individuals, we (should) understand the importance of listening and thoughtful communication. As marketers, we haven’t always had the strategies or tools to do so, at least at scale. Enter social listening – which allows you to track, analyze, and respond to conversations about your brand and industry online, in real time.
In this episode of The Marketing Remix, Will Price, Manager of Content Strategy, and Allie Franklin, Business Supervisor, explore social listening, its impact on audience research, ways to incorporate the tactic into your social media strategy, and more.
What’s the difference between “social media listening” and “social media monitoring”?
Will: Sure, so off the bat, the two words, sound somewhat synonymous, but there is a lot of disparities between the two and how we approach them from a strategic perspective, social media monitoring is where you are just seeing what the conversation looks like it's just happening, you log in in the morning and you see that some people are talking about your brand in this way, and some people are talking about your brand in this way and another audience is not talking about your brand at all and then you just say "Cool, thank you. Next. Time for something else."
Reid: Way to bring in the Ariana Grande in there [chuckle]
Will: It's like every pitch I've done for the last year [chuckle] But you take a deeper dive into social media listening, and this is really where the data starts to pop and it's where you start to understand what the conversations look like, and turn that data into actionable insights and into strategy. So before when you're just monitoring conversations saying, "This person hates me, this person likes me." Next, you go into, "This person hates me because", And you take a deep dive down that way, to figure out ways that you can maybe turn their sentiment from negative to positive. "And this person loves me because", and I can expand on this sentiment as positive sentiment to grow that further for my brand.
Reid: So the difference is that in one case, you are actively listening, so you can take action. The other one is, I'm just passively checking it out, so I have a sense of how things are going?
Will: Yeah, it's reaction versus pro-action.
Reid: Okay, nice. All right, so what are some of the fundamental ways social listening can benefit a brand? Allie you represent a lot of times on our client side, the voice of the brand, to certainly within the agency, but how is this social listening, benefiting them from a manager stand point.
Allie: Yeah, I think the cool part about social listening is that if you incorporate it early enough into a campaign or a program, it just allows you to be that much more relevant in your messaging, it means you're listening to your audience and you're developing a strategy or a piece of creative, or even just an overall program that's responding to their needs and based on the conversation. So, I think brand should be incorporating social listening early and frequently because it's not just a set it and forget it, it's use it to inform your marketing and your program, but then use it to gauge success use it to understand how your audience is responding. Are they responding favorably? Are they really digging your message and what you're putting out there, or are you getting some real negativity out there? That allows you to then refine and adjust and really make the most of your media dollars. I think that's where the benefit really comes in, is you're not just launching a massive media program. And then looking at it in a year and hoping it did well and then saying, "Oh my God, it was not [chuckle] doing well. It's the new form of reporting and KPI that we can do on an ongoing basis to help optimize.
Reid: Yeah, so would you say then actually Will, this is for you. What's the consumer expectation here? Are they assuming that we're listening to them, from a... I imagine it depends on the brand, to a degree, how big the brand is, but is there an expectation at this point?
Will: I think it varies from brand to brand, but it also varies from demographic to demographic. 'cause I feel like the 65-year-old mom on Facebook might not think that the brand is listening to her in the same way that a 25-year-old on Instagram knows that a brand is listening to her or him. So, I think expectation is all over the place, but that's the great thing about social listening is that you can start to pinpoint what those demographics and audiences actually look like, so you can start to get into their lives a little bit more in an authentic ways in authentic ways, not in an authentic ways [chuckle] And there's a saying that's going around about how brands aren't competing with other brands anymore, when it comes to getting their messages out there, they are competing with other people. So the gloat of content out there shows you that brands need to be proactive, like Allie was saying and getting early into the social listening as it pertains to your strategy, because you are missing out on what the conversation actually is organically versus just saying like, "Buy our shoes, it's the 13 other things people are talking about before they even make the decision to look at your website.
Allie: I think if a brand doesn't respond to the way an audience is talking about them, they almost get called out even further, and it can just keep getting worse, because it shows that they are so out of touch with their audience.
Reid: Yeah they seem out of touch, exactly. That's wild is now the expectation is... But before, you could just be the brand say what you wanted to say and kinda sit back and not necessarily maybe realize you are out of touch in that regard, but now you have that feedback loop if you are actually using the feedback loop, which would require then you have to prepare to do all of this stuff. And to prepare to do all that stuff you need tools. What tools does a brand need to start thinking about having in place because now that it's beyond the idea of monitoring, I think the expectation is there is at least some level of monitoring. What does it take to actually listen?
What social listening tools are currently available to marketers?
Will: Yeah, so, RDI, we utilize NetBase a lot for our social listening insights which is a great very robust and comprehensive tool, that allows us not only to gauge what conversations look like, but also the sentiment behind them, geographically where the conversations are located as well as just digging super deep across competitor research and even getting into some market research to help inform our strategies. So, NetBase is a good place to start. It is on the upper end of the price scale but then you can get into some free-er versions of like BuzzSumo which is a great. Sort of, that's more of a content monitoring social listening tool. So it doesn't give you the exact same information that a net base does where you can actually say, someone associated this negative word, with my brand and I can dig into that and figure out ways to combat that in the future, so it's almost like proactive reputation management, at that point.
Will: BuzzSumo though will give you just what, content based on network and based on content type, is getting the most engagement. So it's like the light version where you can say, "All right I want to do an infographic on financial savings", something of that nature, but you can go into BuzzSumo and even the free version, and say that, "Oh, no one's engaging with infographics about the specific content, but video is." So then you can start to at least guide your strategy that way. And then on top of that, there is Sprinklr, which is a great social media, not only listening tool, but good reporting tool as well, and that's more of like a day-to-day management of your social media profile tools. But then the laundry list goes on.
Reid: Yeah there is a couple of things you highlighted there, So recognizing the difference between content types and that would optimize them from those learnings, what effort you are going to put into what types of content but you also mentioned a little bit earlier, a part of it is the geography is. I would assume there's differences between what people say in different areas of the country, about you. Again, if you are big enough brand I think it's probably important that a lot of brands recognize maybe they are so small that segmenting it in these different ways aren't... It's not going to tell you a whole lot because it's just you don't have that many conversations, but for bigger brands, that do have them, when you start to cut this up in different ways, different demographics, different geographies, different content types. What else, what are other kind of ways that cut in this thing?
What are some things to consider when incorporating “listening” into your social media strategy?
Will: Oh man, where does it stop? I guess you can use social listening to not only guide basic market research so where the conversations happening. And does it look the same in Indiana as it does in Austin, Texas? Probably not, because these are two widely different categories of people. That sounded bad. Those are wildly two different audiences [chuckle] categories.
Reid: Well, you.
Will: What do you mean you people?
Reid: Yeah well [chuckle]
Will: So, but then cutting it up further from there, you can start to, based on determining content type ladder that up to an SEO strategy or paid media strategy. So if we're seeing that, infographics are the best types of content that are getting the engagement as it pertains to a certain industry. We know that inherently, that's going to get more backlinks that's going to get more traffic to site because people are engaging with that content that can help increase the value of your money keywords or your long-tail keywords, so you can start to feel strategies in that way, as well, and then, as it pertains to paid you can start to take that interactive content types that you've determined to be the most successful and start chopping those up too in different ways to improve quality scores on landing pages to reduce ad spend and start to engage with people that way. Because like we said earlier, ads are just ads until they actually have a human quality to it. And the way to find that human quality is to understand the conversation and to understand that conversation you need social listening, because that's where the conversation's happening.
Reid: Yeah, that's really interesting in the sense that now that we start to break these things apart and see things in different ways, and see people as the people that they are and their different demographics and locations and that kind of stuff. I would imagine then, obviously it's informing all the different strategies beyond social. You talked about search, you talked about paid using that. This is another plug for certainly our perspective of why it's so critical to have all these things integrated and how all these things can magnify the results in other categories, not just in social performance or something like that. So that being said and Allie maybe you can talk from the client's perspective. I mean what are their expectations what's a client's expectations or what should those clients' expectations be for goals as it relates to social listening, what do they hope to see from all of this? Because it can't just be about more likes, and more engagement.
How do you determine benchmark goal(s) for a social listening campaign?
Allie: Yeah, I think sentiment, I say brand sentiment but it also can be campaign sentiment is a big one when it comes to using social listening. I think going back to our typical reporting KPI reports where we're looking at ad spend, impressions, engagement clicks, all of that, those are great when you're doing a roll-up maybe on a monthly basis. But I think understanding real-time how people are responding to what you're putting out there allows you to be that much more efficient. So I think that clients should expect that level of ongoing, I don't want to use the word monitoring because we're using social listening as an opposite of that, but I think having a pulse, I think that's what social listening allows you to do is have a pulse at any time, and I think we're really starting to incorporate this into any large ongoing campaign actually large or small, just so that we can have the ability to read our audience and understand how what we're putting out there, yeah, is resonating with them. Yeah.
Reid: Resonating? Yeah. And that's what you're... Again, the integration. So we've got a campaign going and it's paid and that was your origination of it but now using social listening to see the reaction and manage that, I have to think to bring up such a still famous example is the Kaepernick stuff with Nike, all that, social listening had to play a huge role of that while the campaign started. Obviously, with TV spot things like that. I think the campaign lived via social listening and the response to that, what are your thoughts on that?
Will: Yeah, I'm sorry, yeah, I definitely agree that that campaign was successful, solely because of social, I mean there was a lot more at play with brand equity and Nike having so much of it. However, when it comes to understanding what that conversation looked like they took a huge risk with the Kaepernick campaign, and they did so, informed because they were understanding what audiences were wanting to see from that brand at that certain time on certain networks, so they strategically placed things in different areas. So that would get the most attention.
Reid: Yeah. And you think that that came from listening on then the front end before they got to the campaign.
Will: I think there's an element of both and one of the things in terms of evolution of social content and social listening over the course of the next few years that you're going to see, and this is my opinion, but I'm starting to see it already.
Reid: An expert opinion.
Will: An expert opinion, that's true. Is social listening is starting to take the place more of market research and my wife's a market researcher so don't tell her to listen to this episode, but.
Allie: It complements it.
Will: It complements it. It's going to start to add more fuel to the fire that is market research. So, a couple of episodes back, we talked about how content marketing is going to just be marketing in a couple of years because of the breadth of the service and how it's now we're talking about it leaking into every single offering, that RDI has and across the agency, so we're going to start seeing social listening play more of that high-level input from the get-go, versus just sort of being that tertiary ask once we already have our audience demographics and that market research focus group type of material established. So as soon as it starts to loop into that versus be segmented from.
Allie: I think to that point on the level of research, market research, I know I've been speaking a lot and probably in general, we're talking a lot about marketing, and campaigns, and some of these bigger programs that brands are running, but I think social listening has legs even outside of marketing, specifically.
Allie: It's really can be used to inform product, it could be used to inform long-term planning for a company, it could be used to inform news outlets that they might reach out to from a PR perspective. I think we're trying to use this as really it's going back to the pulse of, if we know what your consumer is talking about it might not necessarily always be in response to something you put out there, it could just be about your industry, and having those level of learnings really is going to help you make really smart business decisions. So I think thinking about it bigger than just marketing creative and messaging it can have some really big impact on a business.
Will: Yeah, we actually did an exercise similar to that, as we were recruiting for a new role within RDI. So the marketing team or the content team has been growing pretty exponentially at the agency and to understand how we actually wanted to attract the right talent, we stocked our job description with insights that we found based on searches in NetBase, so we were able to understand what words people were using when they were searching for certain jobs and plug those in. So, we appealed to them before they even had the chance to ask if we had that service or we had that offer. So yeah.
Reid: Secret sauce. I know.
Allie: Sneaky sneaky [chuckle]
Will: So I love that because I was at the NetBase conference last week, and talking to them about some of the new ways that we're using the tool like that, and I was talking with one of the reps about how they're starting to use the tool for, basically conveying very tough news via email, internally, so if they can start to understand what the conversation looks like around something like discussing financials or discussing workforce or something of that nature, they can start to position those conversations to satiate the company internally while not really having to think externally, but that internal conversation and that positive sentiment that you can garner within turns your employees into advocates, and that in itself is the best type of marketing that's all UGC from there.
Reid: And so, we're highlighting a few things that related to one of the questions I did also how was around some of the things that are surprising because we talked... I think we, when we first started this, we were talking about, it starts a little bit with monitoring people that "What are people saying?" And how does that relate to the brand? But now we've talked about recruiting, we've talked about product development, and how it plays a role in that it developing empathy for our brand and how... So those things are not, I would say measurable in this particularly quantifiable sense, there's probably aspects of it that are what are maybe now bringing it back to the metric side of things. If one of our listeners trying to then sell this through there's going to be the qualitative sense, look at all these different ways this can help us, but then on the quantifiable sense of here's how much a net basis or something like that, and I need to justify its cost, what metrics do I need to start measuring to be able to start articulating that?
How do you determine which metrics (or topics/themes) to measure?
Will: Yeah, good question. [chuckle]
Reid: Well, it could be a leap of faith too. I mean I think that monitoring was a thing where you could say, "Hey we're going to measure this and it can help us increase engagement, increasing engagement than yields X, but now we're saying we're going to have better products, we're going to recruit better talent. There's so many different ways that this is start, have a better solid corporate soul to a degree, so how do you put a price on soul?
Will: Oh easy.
Allie: Oh easy.
Allie: So glad you asked.
Reid: Oh wait. Exactly. Isn't there...
Will: I thought you'd never ask, Yeah.
Reid: I think there's a song about that. Isn't it Selling your soul to... Oh that's right yeah yeah.
Will: No, that's a good question. And I think from a service level standpoint and sort of understanding the value of a tool, like a net base being so expensive, is in the power to get it in front of more people, so they understand the importance of it.
Reid: In front, within the organization?
Will: Yeah so Allie and I had recently worked together on a client that hadn't switched up their retainer in quite some time. And what we're able to do with the tool, at our disposal was show them all these conversations that were happening that based on market research we weren't able to show them based on just sort of ideas and concepts we weren't able to show them, but when we actually got into the tool and showed them proof of concept, we were able to increase that business. So I think right there you're already conveying to other stakeholders in the company that this tool has power or a tool like it has power enough to increase your business and your bottom line.
Will: And then outside of that, if you can start to, like I said, get it in front of more people internally, not just the people that are going to help you sell it to other clients, but also to your other department heads like your SEO managers, or your paid media directors or whoever it might be, and start to educate them on the value and then start to correlate like we talked about earlier, those long-tail keywords, starting to rank on page one versus page six, you're going to get that buy-in more people, you have using a tool for the same fixed cost, the better the tool is going to be because the better the insights that you're all going to be able to pull out of that and the data that you're going to get. Because everyone looks at it different ways.
Allie: I think even taking that a step further, trying to get into KPIs because that's at the end of the day, our clients want to know.
Reid: Yeah, performance.
Allie: ROI, they want to know "Why should I spend invest in this or in a tool like this?" It's hard to say one thing, but I think when you look at on a campaign level, you can start to look at... I mean the idea is if you're understanding your audience, that means you're developing a more relevant message, and you're hitting the right people at the right time with the right piece of content, so ideally, your media should be, you should be having seen tremendous efficiencies in your media spend. So it is a little bit of an indirect connection, and it's hard to say one for one, but ideally, if you are having that level of... I don't know.
Allie: Oversight, yeah, of your... Or just understanding I think you're developing more informed content to reach your audience, so you can say that's return on ad spend and things like that. I ideally would get more efficient. You can then start to go to other segments of the business when it comes to hiring, company spend so much money, it's so expensive to have to bring a new employee on board anything to streamline that process, making sure that you're finding the best candidate on the other end because you're understanding what those people are looking for, you're streamlining that process so you're finding efficiencies internally, there. It goes on and on and again, I think it's sometimes probably a little bit longer timeline that might not be in a matter of a month-to-month. You're seeing a lifter you're seeing cost-efficiencies but I think in the long term it's, we can really start to track that, and I would love to be able to start doing that I think for clients.
Reid: Well, and that's why I think in my opinion, the chief marketing officer, VP Marketing, whoever's leading marketing or even the CEO level, why this oversight needs to happen because what you're saying is, content influences search. Search media but you're going to have great efficiency over in the media span all these different areas, but if you're siloed, in, "Hey, that's a social thing", or, "Hey, you're effectively weld, your team is search's best friend or paid media is best friend because you're saying this is working, change this", that sort of thing. So, the integration isn't there, you're not going to see the financial results typically you'll maybe be able to pull some stuff out, say "Hey guys, look at this", but you're at that point you're just beating a drum, you're saying, "Hey guys, please look over here", whereas if there's true integration people believe in this idea, you're going to see the benefits in a lot of different places.
Will: Yeah, yeah, so I guess we need to talk about changing my business card from manager to everyone's best friend?
Reid: Everyone's best friend.
Reid: I love it, I love it. So any final examples as we wrap this episode up, of just some really cool things that people you talked about application in careers or anything like that?
Any relevant examples to share about the impact of social listening?
Will: So a couple of years back we have one of our clients is a major shoe brand. And something happened with a little bit of controversy on online. I know. Please let me finish.
Reid: Yeah, Oh my god, that happens?
Will: Exactly. And a rapper, who-shall-not-be-named mentioned that there was going to be a collaboration with a shoe brand and at the time he was in a lot of hot water, and so the backlash was just extreme. Like why would this brand do this with this person after everything that's been going on? And I can't believe I thought they were at least somewhat ethical so we were able to pretty much nip that in the bud pretty quick by identifying the conversation first and foremost, but then taking it one step further. So this is where that proactive reputation management comes into play that I was talking about earlier in the sense that we were understand we were able to understand the conversations happening by the people that were making the most noise, prior to and after the whole incident went down. And so, we're able to start speaking their language versus just saying, sorry, sorry, sorry, because once you say sorry, the 24h new cycle starts over again. It's like apology issued like things of that nature, so you have to just jump in front of it, in that way.
Will: But we were able to also jump behind it a little bit too and say that, "We already took care of the front end, now we're just taking care of the back-end because of the conversation, we were able to reverse engineer, I guess, as it were. So that was an interesting example.
Will: Sure, there was like a late night or two.
Reid: Yeah, and I would imagine that's not what everyone is going to deal with on a day-to-day basis. That's a pretty unique circumstance, but what the take-aways of all of that is just recognizing speaking people's language helps them probably diffuse hot situations, so that's particularly powerful.
Allie: Yeah, on that note, of any kind of major PR moment that a company might have, I think after it happens most companies are jumping into gear, getting PR teams on it having responses having social involved all of that, I think what's also most important, is that you're tracking the long-term impact coming off of that and is the work that you're doing to repair the image working. And are you gaining back some of those people that you might have lost as fans during that time? So I think that's probably another great opportunity really in terms of partnering with PR to say, social listening does kind of is an element of PR, you can really start to look at that of saying "Is this working? How's our audience feeling about us what is that? How do they feel about our company? Do we still have a lot of enemies? Are they not happy with us, or is the repair that we're doing working and Are we winning them back?"
Reid: Yeah, and that's true public relations, and I think that's what that industry has struggled a little bit with was, it used to be the press release machine and now it's actually getting back to probably what the original intent was, was good having positive good positive relations with the public, So. Guys...
Will: Social media is the new press release.
Reid: It is, it is. [chuckle] Well, guys thanks for joining us for a fantastic conversation.
Will: Thank you.
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