Maximise Social Listening Efforts with an Effective Strategy

Social media marketing should already be a major part of any marketing strategy. Like having a basic website, a social media presence (of some kind) has become the norm to do business in today’s economy. This shouldn’t be news to anyone reading, just re-stating the obvious. However, as common-sense as it may seem to market your brand using social media, it may not be as intuitive to invest in a social listening software or implement a formal strategy. While the purpose of this post isn’t to convince you why social listening matters, here are some quick stats to help remind you of the importance of an ongoing social media listening campaign:

 According to

  • Only 20% of CMOs use social networks to engage and collaborate with customers (MarketingLand). This means there that are probably a number of your competitors not interacting with customers and that can be detrimental to a brand’s online reputation.
  • Likewise, only 24% of brands say they do “social listening,” (DashBurst) which is an integral part of any social media marketing campaign. Again, this statistic suggests your competitors are missing out on important conversations. By not monitoring their various social media channels they are missing out on numerous marketing opportunities.
  • There are many more reasons why you need to be proactive in listening to your audience, but ultimately it comes down to this: if you aren’t listening, someone else is. If you aren’t interacting with your customer and potential customers, then someone else will. They can get their information from you or someone else, but be sure they will get is somewhere. 

How do I build a social listening strategy? 

An effective social media listening strategy is built by establishing goals, determining audience, selecting specific keywords and phrases to monitor, selecting an appropriate response to specific channels and topics, and finally delegating specific members of your team to own the listening process. It is important to make your monitoring process a regular part of each workday and set aside time each day to interact with customers, handle complaints, and deal with negative sentiment or major issues.

I’ll go more into depth with each point below.

First thing: Set Goals

As you begin to put together a preliminary social listening strategy, it is important to set goals and establish quantifiable metrics to measure your success. Examples of common marketing goals include: 

  • Build brand awareness 
  • Improve customer service
  • Conflict monitoring and resolution 
  • Measure sentiment around a new product or ad campaign 
  • Interact with customers

It’s cliche and you’ve seen it before, but bears repeating: you should strive to make SMART goals. This is an excellent system to keep your team focused and on-track. Too many goal planning sessions have been derailed by employees, while they may have great intentions, set goals that are unrealistic and unmeasurable.  
One thing to keep in mind (and this is pretty important) is you can’t have three or four goals tied for first place. You need to prioritize, and that means only one thing can be a priority. That doesn’t mean you can’t simultaneously be working towards multiple goals, it just means one thing needs to be more important than anything else. You need to have a focus.

Next, figure out who you are talking to: Define your audience

Once you know what you want to accomplish, it is time to figure out which audience will best help you reach that goal. For example, if your primary goal is to improve customer service then your target audiences will be existing customers who post about a problem they have with your product or service and potential customers who may have posted a question or concern online. Knowing your goals and audiences are crucial first steps because you need to know which keywords to monitor and set up your software to search for specific words and phrases.

Another important thing to remember before we move on is that your audience is larger than just those talking about your specific brand or service. You may be marketing for a new company whose brand isn’t very well known and therefore probably won’t be mentioned often enough to justify the cost of a social listening software. But here’s the thing: just because there isn’t much chatter around your specific brand doesn’t mean there isn’t conversation around the product or service. Your audience should include not only mentions of your brand, but also generic names for your product or service so you can conduct proper market research.

Keywords and Phrases

What a perfect segue way to our next topic: keyword research. Similar to your SEO efforts, building a listening strategy begins with finding the keywords and phrasesyour audience regularly discusses. As I mentioned above, you want to set up monitors for your brand (with a #, an @, as well as by itself). Doing research for this post, I set up a monitor for keywords dealing multiple variations of “social media, social listening, and social listening strategy.” I wanted to know what people were already talking about and what I could add to the conversation. I also wanted to know what questions you, the audience, are asking so I could make this post as relevant as possible. What I found was that there are a lot of people talking about social listening, so I know it is still an important topic, but I also found that there is a high level of chatter already, meaning it will be harder to break into the conversation. 

Know how to respond before you have to respond

One thing to keep in mind as you begin to put your social media listening campaign in action is determining what you will do with the data you collect. As these funny LifeLock commercials demonstrate, monitoring without taking any action, is a waste of time and resources. 

It is important to make your customer interaction process as simple as possible while still staying true to your voice and making each customer feel your response is personalized to them and their comment. Forbes recommends that you create a rubric that allows you to be strategic about the best response to each type of comment. This doesn’t mean you have a canned, generic response to every single customer, but it will simplify the process if you have a template in place for various types of comments. It is also beneficial to have an escalation process for complaints and problems. Some problems can simply be resolved with a personalized tweet or DM, others will require a more prolonged engagement to fix the issue.

You should also be strategic about the various networks on which these discussions might occur. A comment on LinkedIn, for example, requires a very different type of response than a tweet on Twitter. Understanding the medium should be a core part of how you engage with each user.

Find someone to own both the listening and the responding

The final step in your social media listening is determining who is going to be responsible for putting your new strategy into action. Someone, maybe you, needs to be in charge of setting up the monitors as well as adjusting keywords as the process evolves. You also need to make sure that someone is quickly responding to mentions, praise, and most importantly criticism/ problems. Online conflict can do irreparable damage to your brand if left unanswered.

You can also set up alerts to notify specific individuals when certain keywords or phrases are used. For example, if your company sells solar panels, you would set up a monitor to listen for phrases such as, “Going to go #solar this year!” and then a salesperson would be alerted and could respond. Get other departments (sales, public relations, customer service, tech support) involved so they can take ownership of specific issues without relying on marketing to respond every time.

In Summary

First off, if you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. The role social media listening plays in the marketing world is only going to get bigger. More and more people are going to social media to brag about a purchase or berate a company for poor service. We go to Twitter to ask questions and expect a quick reply. If you do not currently have social listening software, you will need to invest soon. The payoff in improved customer service, retention, and increased sales will more than justify the expense of the software.

About the Author: 


   Porter Plant - Content Writer at

Tags: Social Media, Social Intelligence, Social Media Intelligence, Social Media Listening, Social Listening

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