The importance of social media isn’t to be underestimated, but with so many messages to cut through, how can businesses ensure their voice is the one that’s heard? It all begins with listening, as Sylvia Jensen, Senior Director for Oracle Marketing Cloud, explains why social listening is key to the success of a social media presence and how to approach it.
How many of your customers and prospects are posting to social media? Do you know what they are saying? Do you know what networks they post to? These are some of the questions you need to answer before you create a social media plan and start posting on behalf of your business. There are those who tell you to pick a site and jump right in, but you could be wasting a huge amount of time if you are talking in a place where your customers are not paying attention.
The most basic level of listening is to focus on the mentions of your company or brand names across the major platforms. The first time you fire up a social media listening tool and discover conversations about your company can be surprising. Start by categorising these conversations by things like customers versus prospects, positive versus negative sentiment, recommendations versus complaints. You should also determine which social networks have the most comments or questions.
This information will help you get started creating a social media marketing plan. Remember your social media efforts should align with business goals. Keep that in mind as you are listening. Your listening will be much more successful and focused if you try to answer business questions or solve business issues. One example of this is if you are looking to improve your customer service or customer satisfaction. You can listen for company mentions and words like “problem,” “issue,” “broken,” “doesn’t work,” “complain.”
Once you have a handle on your company mentions, or if you discover that there aren’t any company mentions, it is time to focus on keywords. These are the terms that your customers and prospects use to describe your products and services. These could be very different to the terms your organisation uses to describe what you do.
While keywords are still important for a customer service approach, as many people might talk about your company without mentioning the company name, it is more important if you are approaching social media to generate leads or acquire new customers. With an understanding of the most common keywords used, you can add search terms like “want to buy,” “recommendation,” “looking for,” and “best” to find conversations that indicate the beginning of a buying process.
You must be sensitive when approaching a prospect at the beginning of their buying process so that this interaction doesn’t feel like an intrusion. Instead of taking a sales approach add value to them, offer to answer any questions or provide an educational resource that can help the prospect learn more about topics related to your products.
Paying attention to your main competitors’ owned channels will not only help you know what’s important to them, it will also give you insight into how they are marketing their products. Next you can listen to their customers’ complaints and understand how they are responding. Customer service is really becoming another marketing channel, and how companies respond on social media is becoming a bigger part of how customers build or break relationships with brands.
Before creating and implementing a social media strategy, you should first spend time listening, to your customers, prospects and competitors. Only by listening can you ensure you’ll be truly taking part in the conversation. In order to listen you first need to identify where your customers are, not just assume which platform they are using. If the strategy is to listen in order to interact e.g. find prospects through keywords, then it needs to be kept in mind that this could come across as an aggressive approach, so consider how you can add value not just sell.
Combining sensitive and analytic listening is key to learning more about your unique social media markets. Although customers should be the main focus, look at competitors, this can help give you an extra edge, as analysing their levels of customer service and content can help inspire positive changes and more developed strategies.
By Sylvia Jensen
Oracle Marketing Cloud