There are many advantages you can expect to gain from social listening, such as:
- A more accurate and up-to-date understanding of what people are saying about your brand on social platforms
- Customer-driven insights into how to improve your products or address common problems
- Opportunities to connect with potential influencers and advocates
- Higher standards of customer service
- Real-time information on the things that really matter to your audience
But while it can be highly beneficial, it's important to know the risks that can arise if you don't use social listening in the right way.
Being aware of common mistakes in this area of marketing and taking care to avoid them can provide valuable protection for your brand.
1. Confusing social listening and monitoring
While social listening and social media monitoring might sound like the same thing, there are some significant differences between these activities. Knowing these distinctions will help you get the best results from both.
Social media monitoring refers to the collection and examination of data on metrics such as:
- Content engagement rates
- Brand mentions
- Hashtags that are relevant to your marketing
- Competitor mentions
Social listening goes a step further than monitoring. It's the process of looking past the numbers and thinking about the customer mood and sentiment that lies beneath this data.
If you conduct social media monitoring but stop short of social listening, you could be depriving yourself of opportunities and risking reputational damage by failing to acknowledge people's thoughts and feelings about your brand.
2. Having a narrow focus
One of the most important things you can do to get maximum value from your social listening is to cast a wide net and track sentiment and attitudes towards your brand across a range of platforms.
This will give you a clearer idea of where most of the conversation relevant to you is happening, which in turn will help you make decisions such as where to position your paid social media advertising to yield the best results.
As far as avoiding risk is concerned, conducting social listening across a number of channels will help to ensure that your marketing and customer communications always feel relevant and up to date. Failing to reflect trends or themes that have taken off on a particular social network could mean you come across as out of touch.
3. Not learning from competitors
Social listening isn't only about tracking mentions and perceptions of your own brand. There's a lot to be gained from finding out what people have to say about your competitors, particularly when those comments are less than positive.
By staying in tune with conversations on social media, you can keep up with any criticism being leveled at your competitors and take valuable lessons from it.
If, on the other hand, you don't conduct social listening and make the same mistakes yourself, it will reflect even more negatively on you because customers will feel like they're not being heard.
4. Failing to act on what you learn
The conclusions you draw from your social listening activities will have little value if you fail to follow up on them.
You should always be ready to make adjustments to your marketing strategy based on what you learn from your social listening, whether that means bringing more attention to something that’s earned a positive reaction or tailoring your content or messaging in line with negative feedback.
This will show your audience - both existing customers and potential ones - that not only are you interested in what they have to say, but you're willing to change how you operate to give them a better experience.
5. Ignoring criticism
It's never nice to be criticized, but in business, you're likely to come across many situations where you can turn negative feedback from customers to your advantage. If social listening identifies a trend of people being unhappy with your post-sale customer service, for example, use it as an opportunity to engage with your audience and demonstrate what you're doing to improve.
One of the biggest mistakes the marketing department can make is to ignore complaints and criticism. This gives the impression that you're either unaware of what customers are saying about your brand or not interested in acting on it.
6. Keeping insights to yourself
The benefits of social listening can extend way beyond the marketing department. If you're able to gather customer opinions on the pros and cons of one of your newest products, for example, it's vital that this information is passed on to your product development and management teams.
If you fail to do this, the business could invest time and money in continuing to create products with flaws that have already attracted criticism from customers. This will damage your brand by making you appear out of touch with what your audience is looking for.
Similarly, the customer service team is likely to be very interested in what you've learned from monitoring sentiment on social media. By broadening your outlook beyond the marketing department and thinking about what the entire business has to gain from social listening, you can help to build a truly coherent and powerful brand.