November 7, 2014 Kevin Erb

Put your ear to the ground

When developing a social media strategy, the two questions brands most often focus on answering are:

  • Where? (What platforms should we be active on?)
  • What? (What do we talk about?)

ear_guyAnd both are important questions, to be sure. The first question answers the critical audience part of your strategy; after all, if you’re not where your audience is, how will you connect and engage with them? The second question answers the equally crucial content portion of your social media strategy. If you don’t provide informative and entertaining content to our audience, after all, how will you connect and engage with them?

While these are of vital importance, there’s another component of a sound social strategy brands must be mindful of. While the questions above both focus on what you say, it’s just as important to focus on what you hear.

“Social listening” is what it’s called, and it’s pretty much just like it sounds. It’s the act of observing and measuring how the market talks about your products, your services and your brand online, and especially via social media – and using that intelligence as an important cog in your marketing machine, content development and brand strategy.

It’s just as important as content and platform – and, ideally, an integral part of your overall strategy. And it’s more than just casually scanning various social platforms and the web for mentions of your brand. Doing so would be incredibly time consuming, of course, and inefficient, creating a ripple effect that negatively impacts all other aspects of your social strategy and activity.

Here are a couple of key aspects of a good social listening program to keep in mind as you get started – or as you look to refine what you’re already doing:

  1. Set your terms. Define and map out the specific words, phrases and terms you want to listen for. These will cover your brand, your products and your services, to be sure, but think beyond the basics: Names of leaders and key personnel, competitive brands and products, industry thought leaders, etc. Clearly defining what and who you want to listen for gives you a key benchmark and commonly understood parameters.
  2. Keep your ears to the ground. Always. Having a defined sense of what you’re listening for helps you be more consistent and proactive in how you listen. There are many great monitoring and listening tools out there to help you streamline and centralize the process beyond the Google Alerts of the world. A couple of very good lists of such tools can be found here and here and here.
  3. Analyze and adapt. The market and industry in which you operate is always changing – your social listening habits should be the same. Monthly – or quarterly at the very least – measure and analyze your social listening data and then answer key questions about what is working and where you may be missing important sources of input and insight. And adapt your social listening habits as a result.

What you say – and where you say it – are both of utmost importance when it comes to the perception of your brand via its social presence. Here’s an important reminder that knowing what others say – and where they say it – about you is just as important.