February 28, 2017

3 Keys to Smarter Marketing Through Active Listening

Successful marketers have always understood the value of listening to the customer. Listening is the key to gaining consumer insights about your product, your company, your competition and your industry – insights that can guide and influence your marketing decisions.

Surveys and focus groups used to be the preferred way to listen to the customer and are still a valuable tool. Today, however, marketing insights that used to take a substantial investment of time and money are readily available via social media. Social media channels are where today’s consumer goes to share their experiences with your brand. In fact, 50 percent of all millennials interact with brands through social media.

Your customers are talking about you. Are you listening?

Today’s skilled marketers are using social media monitoring and listening to guide their marketing decisions. If you’re one of them, congratulations. But if you haven’t started integrating social insight into your marketing strategy, we offer three important keys to make the most of this important new tool.

Social listening or social media monitoring?

Before we go any further, it might be helpful to clarify the difference between social media monitoring and social listening, two terms that you may hear used interchangeably. They are related but different. A popular analogy to describe the difference between the two goes like this: “Monitoring sees trees. Listening sees the forest.”

In a nutshell, social media monitoring uses software to crawl sites for specific words or phrases (product name, category, topic, etc.). Most social media monitoring tools crawl not only the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter) but also forums, news sites, review sites and other more topic-focused venues for conversation. This is an important distinction to note, particularly in the agriculture sector, as more farmers will be found having relevant conversations on AgWeb and Agriculture.com than on Facebook.

Even with this more focused look at particular sites, getting information from the internet is a bit like taking a drink from a fire hydrant. On Twitter alone, there are 500 million tweets every day. So while many marketers feel their work is done after signing up for a monitoring account, their work has really just begun. That’s where the listening comes in. Listening analyzes the data, looking for patterns and trends and drawing conclusions that can be turned into an actionable strategy.

1. How are you listening?

Whether you use Google Alerts or any of the number of other social listening tools and apps, there are basic search criteria that can lead to more successful results. Keywords and topics to monitor should include:

  • Your brand and product names, including possible misspellings and abbreviated names (for example, look for “Dairy Queen” and “DQ”)
  • Brand slogans
  • Your competitor’s brand names and slogans
  • Campaign names, spokesperson names
  • Industry buzzwords

What are you listening for?

First and foremost, you want to know what your customers are saying about your products and your company. It’s important to keep an open mind and to be prepared to hear things that may not be positive. Don’t overreact. This is your opportunity to fix potential problems. As Bill Gates says, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Learn from the good and the bad. And listen carefully for the following:

  • What are your customers’ pain points?
  • When they talk about your brand, what do they say?
  • Do they like or dislike your products?
  • How can you make it better?
  • Is this person a potential brand ambassador for your product?
  • What is the competition doing and how are customers reacting?
  • What new products is this audience talking about?
  • What hashtags or unexpected keywords is your audience using when they talk about your brand? (Using these keywords can help you strengthen your SEO strategy for your website, blog or social posts.)

How are you going to respond?

The power of the new online community is that you can choose to listen and remain silent, or you can join the conversation and potentially influence its direction in your favor. Responding to negative comments appropriately can create goodwill in your audience and build customer loyalty. But it should be handled with restraint and diplomacy by a customer service professional. Skilled customer service can be the difference between losing a customer and gaining a loyalist. Here are some things to consider if you’re going to respond:

  • Start by responding to questions posted on community forums about product performance, usage, availability, etc. There are some questions that only you can answer accurately. This is a great way to set the record straight. In the ag world, negative product experiences are often due to incorrect usage (applying chemicals off label at the wrong rate or timing, for example).
  • 48 percent of customers don’t expect a brand to respond to a negative review. This is a great way to exceed customer expectations and build brand loyalty.
  • Beyond improving customer service, negative feedback from listening should be shared with your R & D teams. They may be able to use it to improve current and future products.

Once you establish that you’re a brand that engages and communicates with its audience, more followers and brand advocates will join your conversation. Those advocates could turn into brand influencers who help spread your marketing campaign messages to a bigger audience. Just by being more active on social channels, users will start to watch for what you post. You may start to see more “likes,” favorites, shares, comments and interaction on multiple digital channels around your brand keywords.

Social listening isn’t a fad; it’s what marketers today must do to stay a step ahead of the competition. Knowledge is power. And there’s a vast knowledge base out there for the taking. All you have to do is listen.

Send us a note to find out more about social listening with WS.