There’s a lot of talk about social listening, often with very binary opinions. Some see it as a silver bullet to know and see all that people think and say about their brand, while others consider it nothing more than a collection of ravings from internet lunatics.
The truth, in reality, is somewhere in between the two. Used in conjunction with other research methods, it can prove very insightful and play an important role in determining how a brand should behave, particularly online and in social media.
Bill Bernbach once famously said that "word of mouth is the best medium of all" and the explosion in social media usage means that word of mouth is now broadcast much further than over the garden fence.
Brands are increasingly feeling the need to understand what people are saying about them behind their backs.
Here are some insights into using social listening to enhance your thinking, from DDB and Brandwatch.
Finding your online market
At its simplest level, social listening can help you identify who, where, and when your brand should be having conversations online.
This can come from looking at how your brand is already being discussed online and creating strategies for how to own, steer, and join in that conversation, or from investigating the themes and passion that are relevant to your brand and consumer, in order to work out how best your brand can slot into those conversations.
Planning online advertising
Having a handle on who is talking about your brand and where it’s being talked about is, of course, great knowledge to feed into any online media plan.
Knowing where people are seeking information, where they’re sounding off, and where they’re not talking about you at all gives clear direction on where and when online advertising should be placed.
Understanding brand perceptions
As anyone who has read an Amazon review knows, people love to give their opinions online - particularly strong ones.
As such, social listening can be a great way to understand exactly what it is that people love and hate about your brand.
Whether it’s understanding the product benefits that people are most excited about, or seeing the frustrations people have with your service, social listening opens up a world of honest consumer feedback.
It’s only natural to want to compare yourself to competitors: everyone does it. What social listening does, though, is give you a handle on how you’re faring against them in terms of word of mouth.
Who is being talked about the most? More importantly, who is being talked about the most positively, and the most negatively? What have they been up to recently and what are people saying about them?
Can you honestly say you’ve never been in a meeting where 'getting the line into the vernacular' has come up?
If you haven’t, you probably don’t work in advertising. If you have been given this challenge I’m sure you’d love to be able to prove it.
Well, social listening can help you do just that, amongst many other things.
The ability to know how conversation about your brand has changed when your campaign is running, how people are sharing your content, using your brand assets and even talking about your campaign itself can provide the all important detail for that award entry, or those budget discussions.
Gauging public opinion
Want to know what people think about something before your brand takes a position on it? Social listening can help you find out what people are saying on a given subject, whether it’s which X-Factor contestant they hate the most, how they might vote, or their favourite car brand, the social web is a pool of opinion waiting to be asked the right questions.
Being able to identify the sort of content that your target audience is consuming, seeking and sharing can stop you from creating the wrong sort of content.
It can steer you to create a game instead of a video, to feature cats instead of dogs, or as we learned in one campaign, to reference Ghostbusters and not When Harry Met Sally.
We’re not talking about stealing ideas from the internet (creatives never do that) but rather finding those exciting little nuggets hidden away in a random tweet that sparks an amazing idea you would never have got to otherwise.
Whether that’s finding out that people are using your product in an unexpected way, loving a specific benefit, or worrying about a problem that hadn’t occurred to you, these insights can open up ideas that otherwise would never have been.
Sometimes, it can happen more directly as a result of interaction with fans. KLM famously launched their service flying to Miami a week earlier than planned after a prominent DJ tweeted them asking them to – 140 characters turned into a massive coup for the brand and a highly shareable launch idea that otherwise would never have happened.
There are lots of ways to use social listening, some stronger than others, but all with merit.
It never hurts to really understand what people are saying about your brand, your product, your category or about the world around them.
If brands want to participate in people’s lives they must first understand how they live them, and though talking about brands and products has always been a part of people’s lives, it has never been so easily accessed, dissected and fed in to the campaign planning process.