When brands first started using social media, few even had defined strategies. We were all figuring this new strange beast out. Not everyone was here yet, there were no algorithms, we were actually interested in the content that was being shared.
Fast forward to 2020 and it’s a very, very different space. By next year it is predicted there will be 3.1 billion social media users globally. Everyone is here, and they are all talking.
When brands create content for social media, they’re not just competing with other brands, they’re competing with memes, and pictures of dogs and whatever is trending on TikTok today.
A social media strategy helps with getting your content in front of eyeballs, (it’s imperative if you actually want to social media to perform for your brand). But how can you be sure that your social media strategy is actually going to deliver?
The answer is social media listening
Social media listening is simply the practice of using some kind of software (I favour Pulsar and consider it best in class) to listen around keywords/brand names across a variety of social channels.
Why is it so useful? I’ve broken it down into 3 sections below.
Understanding who your social audience actually are
Almost all brands have an idea of who they want to reach on social media. This is oftentimes either anecdotal or based on real life/traditional research methods. But the internet isn’t like real life. It’s like the internet. I’ve worked on so many projects where the client has had a very clear idea of who their social audience is, and social listening has revealed something very different indeed.
Take Sherlock for example. When I was approached to write the digital strategy for the Sherlock immersive escape game, the offline data said Sherlock fans were mostly male and predominently boomers.
Anecdotally this didn’t make sense to me, everything I knew about the online fandom suggested different. So I did a big chunk of social listening before the project even began. I looked for Sherlock fans and their interests and differences based on location and platform and it became incredibly clear that the Sherlock social fandom was incredibly female, and mostly under the age of 35. (Offline data was skewing more toward the literary fandom/Sherlockians)
Using data from the social listening I was able to create a strategy that played to the global audience, spoke their language, actually engaged them on platforms they were already using and drove an incredible amount of organic traffic.
Most people will do a social media audit of their own brand, and look at what competitor brands are doing themselves on social media. In my experience it’s uncommon for people to dedicate the time to doing social listening around key competitors, oftentimes the brand in question won’t even be doing this themselves.
This is important as it’s far easier to get a realistic idea of the general feeling about a brand by listening to what people are saying when they aren’t addressing the brand directly. (Pulsar leverages IBM Watson to actually understand the key mood of the conversation alongside the sentiment)
This can help your brand by identifying current issues with competitor products, pain points, and even understand what consumers are actually looking for (that’s right, social media listening isn’t just for marketing, R&D teams hit me up!).
You can use this data for creating a robust content strategy for any part of the funnel, or even for product development.
Identifying influencers, micro-influencers and detractors
So many brands have got influencer work so wrong, just going for the biggest name with the broadest appeal. Although this can be brilliant for reach, I tend to favour a more micro-influencer based approach. Social listening is brilliant for finding the people in your communities of interest who talk about your keywords all of the time.
The other side of this, is it’s also very easy to identify trolls in the space too. I look at the people who are talking the most around the keywords, switch the sentiment to filter to negative and then I have all the biggest detractors in any community listed out for me- ready for my community managers to keep an eye on. (This was helpful when crafting the social strategy for the Climate Assembly.)
I’m going to stop here, although I could add many more reasons that listening should be a part of your social media strategy going forward. As always, if you have any questions or would like to work together – get in touch!