In the digital information age, companies of all industries are trying to gather as much information about their brands and customers as possible, believing that it can magically be turned into increased sales. But when a company finally has all the data and statistics it could wish for, what next? That is where social listening comes in.
Social listening has been around for almost as long as social media itself, but how and the extent to which it is used has changed greatly in recent years. Social listening is tracking what people think about a company, topic, or person on social media through social listening tools and essentially creating a two-way dialogue between companies and their target audiences. These tools include programs like Hootsuite, Icerocket, and Social Mention, as well as built-in social media tools like Twitter’s advanced search. These programs let companies “listen” to what customers are saying—not just about their own company, but about their competitors and about general industry trends.
As people engage in new ways and at new levels with social media, a strong social media presence becomes even more essential to attracting and keeping customers. In the publishing industry, this can be a great way to target readers based on their interests, especially if the publisher has a book on a specific topic. It can also attract people who may have stopped reading frequently for pleasure, since a quality, well-targeted literary magazine or short work can convince them to try again.
The key aspect of social listening is to integrate what a company “hears” and what it posts; if the two are not connected, all the data mining in the world is not going to do any good. Find out what the customer(s) wants, engage that person or group in targeted marketing, and then listen again to see how successful the marketing was. Luckily, most of the tools for social listening are free and widely accessible, allowing even the smallest companies and nonprofits to benefit from them with enough time and practice.