8 Steps For Social Listening To Improve Your Content Marketing

A woman sitting on a chair looking at her phone, with a text box to the side of her that reads "introduction to social listening."

Your customers are telling you what they need from your brand through social media—but are you listening to them?

Although 90% of marketers agree that data from social media enables them to stay ahead of competitors (Sprout Social), we know from firsthand client experience that many teams struggle to lead an effective social listening program. Too often, teams rush to implement a social listening solution without setting a clear strategy, or they fall short by focusing on social monitoring, not listening. 

To help your team extract the greatest value from your community conversations on social media, we’ll explain what social media listening is and provide a step-by-step guide to help you lead a successful social media listening strategy. 

What is Social Media Listening?

Social listening is a process where you monitor conversations across social media platforms to gain direct customer and key audience insights (also known as social monitoring) and analyze that information to adapt your strategy (that’s how you show you’re listening). 

In its simplest form, social listening involves looking for direct brand mentions on social media. Every platform notifies you when another user directly ‘@’ mentions or tags you in their post or comment. Engage with all brand mentions, and thank your community member for sharing their thoughts. 

A complete social listening strategy includes monitoring for indirect brand mentions, including common misspellings of your company name and untagged brand mentions, as well as competitor and industry-focused conversations. This process can include:

  • Monitoring influencers to listen to conversations about trending topics
  • Tracking hashtags to brush up on industry trends
  • Searching for common job tasks associated with your brand solution to learn the emotions that people have when completing the task
  • Listening for customer questions and challenges

Shruti Deshpande, a B2B marketing and content professional, says that “social listening enables you to be aware of conversations around your brand. Monitoring questions around your brand allows you to know where to improve your presence across social media channels, help retain existing customers, or monitor your competitors.” 

8 Steps to Conduct Social Listening

Give your team a competitive advantage and run a successful social listening program by taking the below eight steps: 

Step 1: Set Social Media Listening Goals

Before you embark on your social listening journey, you need to know your destination. 

Social listening can support a range of brand needs, all of which can result in greater sales or customer engagement and retention. For example, social listening can provide you with key insights about your:

  • Brand perception
  • Customer and community engagement
  • Industry and competitor strengths and weaknesses
  • Campaign sentiment
  • Product hits and misses

Step 2: Review Your Audience Personas

With your social media listening goals in mind, you should now review (or define) the relevant audience personas that support your goal.

  • Who are you listening to?
  • What channels do they most often engage on?
  • What are their biggest pain points?
  • How can your brand’s content marketing program help?

Step 3: Identify Your Keywords

Using your audience personas, develop a keyword list of common topics they discuss that are brand-relevant. Start with your brand name and common misspellings. Then list your product capabilities and key features that customers will talk about, both directly and indirectly. Supplement the list with general industry terms or phrases, and persona pain points. 

Step 4: Pick Your Priority Social Media Channels

The previous steps are vital for ensuring you monitor the right social media channels. Again, ask yourself where your audience gathers to chat with their peers and discuss their day-to-day work. 

As with any social media strategy, it is best to focus on just one or two channels before expanding your social media listening program scope. Identify the most relevant channels and start listening there. Ideally, your brand should also have an active presence on those channels, but it is not required. 

Step 5: Pick Your Social Listening Tool(s)

Effective social listening at scale requires you to implement social listening tools. Without them, it would require an entire team of full-time employees to collect data and analyze it on an ongoing basis.

Choose a social listening tool based on your goals and priority social media channels. Some tools are best used for specific channels, while others can provide cross-channel monitoring features and capabilities.

A few of our favorite social media listening tools include:

With each of the above social listening tools, ask about the cost for key features or capabilities. Additionally, check to see what level of support the platform provides. Setting up your tool can take a considerable effort—creating dashboards with influencer accounts and keywords can be tricky—but some solutions provide robust support to make the process as painless as possible. 

Step 6: Collect Data

This step is where you’ll start to see your efforts pay off, but it’s not the finish line. This is, however, where social monitoring ends.

Set up your chosen social listening tool with the appropriate dashboards or alerts based on your identified goals, audience personas, keywords, and channels. While it’s tempting to jump in and start making changes immediately, you need to have enough data to see trends over time. Once you have a month of new data in hand, plus a historical comparison period, it’s time to dig in. 

Step 7: Analyze Your Data

We have now reached the true value of social listening. Use your social data to identify trends, assess risks, and measure your brand reputation. What trends are you seeing in how and where people engage with your content? How does this compare with your competitors’ results in the same channels?

Step 8: Report, Refine, and Repeat

Social listening can only provide your team value if you regularly collect data, compare findings, and report key takeaways. In addition to daily monitoring for issue resolution or conversation opportunities, create monthly or quarterly social media reports that highlight trends and takeaways, as well as information on how your social program has evolved. 

Empower Your Entire Organization with Social Listening Insights

When you develop a comprehensive social listening program and dedicate the appropriate resources to help the program thrive, your entire organization will benefit. Any feedback from customers or potential community members on social media is a gift to your team, and it can be the key to staying ahead of your competition.

Shruti adds that a smart social media strategy is to “partner with other successful brands that complement your business to enable you to reach relevant and bigger markets. Ensure that you bank on opportunities that facilitate mutually beneficial collaborations to build bigger audiences and truly add value to your social media efforts.” Social listening can be key for uncovering these potential partners. 

If you’re looking to extract the full value from a social media program that involves social listening, let us know! We’ve partnered with countless brands to audit their social media channels, develop a content strategy to engage their audience, and implement AI-informed social monitoring to help them stay ahead of the trends. Reach out today to start a conversation.

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