Your customers are talking. Are you listening?

When you think about social media, it’s really easy to jump straight telling (aka content). Some of the questions that come up are “What am I going to say?” “How often should I post?” “When is the best time to post?” and “I don’t want to just take pictures of my lunch.” If you’re not sure what your customers are saying (or even if you are), think about social listening.

Don’t get me wrong, content is important, but social listening can give you insight you can’t get anywhere else. Don’t think of listening as a one-time exercise. It’s an integral part of your entire digital marketing ecosystem. Here’s how:

Know your target audience

First, figure out exactly who you want to listen to, where they are — and recognize that conversations won’t always involve your company name. For example, if your business targets Canadian women age 35-45 in the upper middle class who live in a northern climate, do some research to find out what their habits are and where they spend time online. To go one step further, create a customer persona for that demographic so that you document the results of your research and can share it broadly across the team. Don’t just leave that persona siting on the shelf as a fait accompli. People change and your personas need to evolve with them.

Find the micro and macro influencers

Don’t just think celebrity when you think influencer. Take a close look at who has influence within the circles of conversations that your company cares about. The more traditional (and expensive) influencer model involves paying big name celebrities with massive social media followers for product endorsements, but times are changing and influence and trust are changing along with it. In fact, according to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Canadians trust “people like themselves” more than an employee, CEO or Board of Directors. A larger number of local influencers with a following of 1,000 or more can have incredible impact on purchase decisions. Recommendations can spread like wildfire and it’s the modern “word-of-mouth” advertising.

Research keywords and hashtags

The best way to get started is just to start. Roll up your sleeves and do some deep research. Start with customer service to find out what the top questions are and tap into the language that your customers use. Use Google autocomplete — start typing in a keyword and see what searches people are using to talk about your product, service or your area of expertise. Go on Twitter, type in a hashtag and review the results. It’s important that you use the same words that your customers do — and recognize that if you’re inside the business, you may not know what they are. Be curious and have an open mind, but also know how you’re going to report on the results of your research and who you want to share it with.

Keeping your social listening in tune

Make sure you share the results of your social listening with other parts of the organization including marketing, product development, customer service and even human resources. Social listening is an ongoing and permanent part of a strategic social media presence, but more importantly, the results can transform the business to be truly customer-centric. It can seem daunting to open the door and find out what your customers are really saying. Chances are they may not even tell you directly. Put your super-sleuth detective hat on and be prepared to act on the results. When you can transform insights into measurable output and then communicate it within your company, you can get a real edge that contributes to positive growth, customer retention, sales and revenue.

The secret sauce is to listen and learn.
— Susan Peters

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