Social listening is an odd field of study.
It’s so adaptable that defining it – or even narrowing it down to a concise list of benefits or use cases – can be challenging. One could argue that social media monitoring enables you to manage your brand’s reputation; while this is true, reputation management is only one of the numerous applications of social listening (and, arguably, not the main one).
Equally, one could argue that social listening enables you to identify potential customers – not just those who say “hey, I’m looking for a home insurance company in New York City,” but also those who say “hey, I’m about to move to New York City,” if you’re willing to go there.
I attempted to compile a comprehensive list of the benefits of social media listening in this social listening guide. Additionally, I’m going to attempt to break down each use case into simple-to-follow steps and provide you with a way to track performance. But before we begin, let us address a perplexing question: what exactly is social listening?
(An attempt at) deriving a definition for social listening
Social listening is the process of monitoring online conversations for mentions of a keyword (for example, a brand name) or a complex search expression across social media and the rest of the web.
Additionally, the process involves performing analytics on the data to provide users with insights into:
- the volume of conversations surrounding their keywords,
- the reach of these conversations,
- public sentiment toward the subject,
- key themes within the mentions,
- and the geography and demographics of those who mention the keywords.
All of these can then be compared to mentions of other keywords (e.g., competitors of a brand) in order to benchmark performance and determine which metrics to focus on.
Eight strategies for leveraging social data:
- Keep an eye on and improve your brand’s reputation
- Evaluate the health of your brand and compare your metrics
- Discover the secrets of your competitors
- Evaluate the impact of marketing and public relations.
- Identify influencers with whom to collaborate.
- Identify potential customers
- Boost your SEO
- Create more engaging content
Keep an eye on and improve your brand’s reputation
Reputation management is an obvious application of social listening. Many brands use social listening tools exclusively for this purpose — monitoring the volume and sentiment of conversations about their company and products and ensuring that spikes in negative mentions are addressed immediately to avoid reputation crises.
If you’re looking to manage your reputation, it couldn’t be easier — simply sign up for a social media monitoring tool that includes sentiment analysis. Consider Awario if you’re looking for a cost-effective but robust solution, Talkwalker if you’re looking for Enterprise tools, or Social Searcher if you’re looking for a free, easy-to-use alternative.
Simply enter your brand’s name (along with common misspellings and social media handles) and the tool will track down mentions and pull in analytics. The following are the most critical areas to monitor in terms of reputation.
Calculate the volume of mentions
The first metric that appears on the dashboard of any social media monitoring tool is the number of mentions over time. I’m not going to tell you that it should ideally be increasing (or at the very least not decreasing) month over month.
If you notice any spikes, be sure to examine mentions from that day to determine what prompted the increase in new mentions – was it a campaign you launched, a new blog post, or a viral mention by an influencer? Keep track of your findings to determine which of your marketing tactics generates the most brand awareness.
Maintain an eye on reach
Not all mentions are created equal: if every member of your family creates a post extolling the virtues of your brand, the sum of those mentions is unlikely to reach the same number of people as a single acknowledgement by Billie Eilish (whether or not those are the right people to reach for your business is a whole other question).
That is where reach comes in — an estimate of how many times your mentions are seen. As with the volume of mentions, it’s a good idea to dig deeper into any spikes — if your reach changes significantly on a given day while your volume of mentions remains relatively constant, this indicates that you’ve been mentioned by an influential person.
Keep an eye on public sentiment
Perhaps the most critical aspect of brand monitoring is sentiment analysis. Make it a habit to log into your social listening dashboard each morning and monitor for spikes in negative mentions.
Sentiment analysis chart. Awario screenshot.
Whenever you come across one, you can click directly on it to investigate the mentions that contributed to the spike. Proceed through them one by one, making certain to respond promptly to any negative comments.
Calculate net sentiment to advance sentiment analysis.
Net sentiment is a single metric that indicates how your brand is faring in terms of sentiment. The formula is as follows (note that neutral references are not included in the calculation):
In other words, net sentiment indicates whether you have a greater number of positive or negative mentions, as well as the magnitude of the difference. As an illustration, consider the sentiment chart above, which shows 23.7 percent positive mentions and 31.5 percent negative mentions. Net sentiment can then be calculated as (23.7 percent -31.5 percent) / (23.7 percent +31.5 percent) = -0.14. The fact that the number is negative indicates that there are more negative than positive mentions; the value indicates that negative sentiment outnumbers positive sentiment by 14%.