In a world where most people share their thoughts and opinions online, displaying love or hate for brands and their products through comments, likes, and views, is an everyday occurrence.
But beyond just measuring how many mentions, hashtags, or interactions a brand receives, companies must also ensure they know what matters to their audiences in real-time.
Meaning they need to know how their audiences feel about their brand because those who actually listen are able to quickly react to new trends and behaviours that matter to their consumers. Today, the cost of being tone-deaf, insensitive, or irrelevant is one that is too high to pay.
Take the recent example of a brand whose campaign was perceived as insensitive. Promoting the Galaxy Watch 4, the Night Owls campaign from Samsung features a woman running by herself at night in the city. It was aimed at highlighting the ease of use of the Samsung products and celebrating the freedom to exercise at all hours.
However, the campaign came under criticism as most women would not feel safe running by themselves in the middle of the night. Additionally, this topic of conversation was widely discussed earlier this year after a young woman was killed while running alone at night in Ireland. Beyond the use of common sense, this conversation could have been identified by Samsung early on social networks and avoided.
This one example alone shows how important it is to monitor social conversations and how social listening is now a crucial element in a brand’s toolkit. But what is social listening exactly?
Social listening is the process of tracking social media platforms for mentions and conversations in relation to a specific topic. The expected output is actionable consumers and brand insights.
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Many social listening softwares are now readily available from big names such as Linkfluence, Brandwatch, or Sprinklr, and they vary in terms of capabilities and budgets allowing you to either track a set volume of mentions or a set number of keywords per period.
But before brands embark on signing up for these services, there are five main ways on how best to leverage their capabilities that should be taken into consideration.
No brand is safe from a PR scandal or from being associated with a viral conversation outside of their control, and when such things happen it is vital to identify the situation at hand quickly and react accordingly.
Social listening platforms often give you the ability to set alarms to be triggered when specific keywords are being mentioned or when sentiment abruptly changes (e.g. a rise in the share of negative mentions), allowing brands to be notified and act quickly.
An interesting example is the one of Peloton, the indoor exercise bikes that gained extra popularity at the beginning of the pandemic and who found themselves in a growing number of conversations in December last year after their product appeared in the Sex and the City “And Just Like That” revival series.
The product placement was unfortunately not to the brand’s advantage (spoiler: Mr Big dies of a heart attack while on a Peloton bike) but they managed to react quickly by releasing a video aiming to counter the negative associations that could have been created through the product placement.
It is recommended to track mentions related to key products and collections but also to brand ambassadors in order to quickly identify sharp increases in these topics of conversations and the associated sentiment.
Making sure that creative ideas are based on solid consumer insights is vital for the success of a campaign and this is where social listening can also provide precious real-time insights.
Taking the example of the spirits industry, social listening informed brands about consumers’ post-pandemic changing relationship with alcohol consumption. Social trends such as the rise of at home cocktails or renewed excitement for the “bar dating scene” are just two examples of consumer insights that could have been built upon for a campaign or content series.
Tracking keywords relevant to your industry and to behaviours associated with your product/service consumption is key to identifying such insights.
Nowadays, social media platforms are increasingly used by consumers as a form of customer service and some brands are better at listening than others.
Once a Tesla owner suggested a change in the car programme when parked and its rather famous owner Elon Musk himself replied that the change would be applied to an upcoming software release.
A few years ago, Pepsi made the decision to remove aspartame from their products due to rising concerns among consumers. This is yet another example of a conversation that can be identified through social listening and in this case has been acted upon by the company.
It is to a brand’s advantage to listen to what users are saying about their products and when possible address their needs, creating a stronger relationship between a brand and its community and giving them the sense of having a real impact.
While social media analysis and reporting allows one to monitor what direct competitors are posting online and how they are performing, social listening takes it one step further by analysing what users are saying online about these said competitors.
A key metric here is the share of voice allowing a brand to assess its visibility and shareability factor versus competitors. This can be done not only by using the brand names as keywords but also by adding some iconic collections, as for some brands these can have rather high volumes of mentions.
Who better to represent a brand than someone who is already talking about it online?
Through social listening, brands also have the ability to identify users who mention them regularly (whether in a positive or a negative way). This is particularly interesting during key industry events during which people are more active online and talking about brands and products (fashion weeks, watch fairs, etc).
Keeping these people on your radar for future activations is a great way to find collaborators who are passionate about your brands and products.
Ultimately, social listening is a very powerful tool that should be implemented by all brands to ensure they have access to real-time insights about their consumers and industry. There are however some key points to consider to ensure that the data gathered is accurate.
Some keywords can have different meanings and that can create a view that is not a real representation of the conversations happening. For example, Piaget is not only the renowned luxury watchmaker and jeweler but also a prominent Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development. It is therefore important to carefully review the scope of the conversations you are listening to. In this instance, the use of negative keywords removing any mentions related to psychology or child development would be necessary.
Depending on your key markets, you may also need to add the same keyword in different languages to ensure you have the most accurate view of a given community.
Lastly, it is important to regularly review the data and insights gathered through social listening in order to proactively react to industry trends and address potential issues or concerns.
Brands of all sizes should consider adding social listening to their marketing toolkit. Users are increasingly sharing their opinions online, whether in a Facebook status or a Tiktok product review and brands now have the ability to listen, understand and react in a way that wasn’t possible before. Many brands have already mastered this game and if you haven’t boarded that train yet, the time is now.