Unleashing The Potential Of Social Listening (It's Not Just About Being Responsive!) While having dedicated teams to respond to customer queries on digital channels is crucial for an effective social media strategy, true social listening goes beyond mere responsiveness, and aims to provide tangible solutions.

By Evangelos Moustakas

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In the world of social media, incidents like the one involving TikTok influencer Alix Earle and her friends can have a significant impact on the reputation of businesses. When Earle's group arrived in Italy only to find out that the house they had booked through Booking.com didn't exist, they turned to TikTok to share their plight. That video turned viral, garnering millions of views, and eventually catching the attention of Airbnb's social media team.

Within 24 hours, Airbnb swiftly arranged for the group to stay in a nearby villa, earning praise and positive exposure, with Earle's video on it garnering over 3.8 million views. In contrast, Booking.com's slow and inadequate response missed an opportunity for redemption, leaving them portrayed as unreliable, and out of touch.

This incident demonstrates the power of social listening in today's digital landscape. Social listening is the process of monitoring social media channels, online forums, blogs, and other online platforms to gather information about what people are saying about a particular brand, product, or service.

It is an essential part of social media marketing, as it can help businesses to understand their customers' needs, preferences, opinions, and concerns. Social listening offers numerous benefits for businesses seeking to understand their audience and enhance their brand presence.

By monitoring social networks and digital channels for keyword mentions, particularly within user generated content, companies can gain valuable insights. Advanced tools go beyond mere mentions and provide analysis on conversation volume, sentiment (positive, neutral, negative), and net sentiment in comparison to competitors. This enables managers and companies to tackle sophisticated questions, improve market understanding, and identify relevant topics of discussion among prospects and customers.

Moreover, social listening serves as a valuable data source for new product development, offering insights into brand popularity vis-à-vis competitors, identifying brand issues, and uncovering pain points. The ability to calculate the proportion of positive and negative brand mentions in comparison to competitors further aids in assessing brand perception.

Related: "Thread" Lightly: What Brands Need To Know About This Emerging Social Media Platform

Additionally, social listening empowers businesses to manage and respond to negative comments, build relationships, and understand customer needs through active participation in discussions. Engaging in social listening also provides a competitive edge by optimizing digital marketing campaigns, uncovering the influence of customers on products, and vice versa, while also preparing for potential social media crises.

Furthermore, social listening proves beneficial for live or digital events, allowing companies to identify and follow important individuals and influencers who are relevant to their brand. With these advantages, social listening becomes a crucial tool for companies aiming to stay informed, adaptable, and connected in the dynamic landscape of social media.

When it comes to social listening, a variety of powerful tools are available to assist businesses in monitoring and analyzing online conversations. A few examples of social listening tools that can provide valuable insights include Brandwatch, Digimind, Meltwater, Synthesio, TweetDeck, Sprout Social, and others. Each tool has its unique features and strengths, so businesses should evaluate their specific needs, and then choose the tool that best aligns with their goals and objectives.

Social listening also transcends the concept of implementing tools or forming teams for responding to customer queries on digital channels. While having dedicated teams is crucial for an effective social media strategy, true social listening goes beyond mere responsiveness, and aims to provide tangible solutions.

The aforementioned incident involving Earle and Airbnb exemplifies this distinction. Initially, Airbnb was not even involved in the booking, but its team's vigilant social media surveillance allowed them to identify the issue, and offer a genuine solution. In contrast, Booking. com's approach was limited to social media monitoring, as the booking was made through its platform. This disparity highlights the essence of social listening– it should be about more than just monitoring social media channels. It should encompass a broader range of activities, and empower brands to address and solve customer problems swiftly.

Social listening is not limited to the reactive realm of social media monitoring; it is an active process that empowers brands to provide real solutions. It requires a deep understanding of customer expectations, the ability to anticipate potential issues, and the agility to respond promptly and effectively. By embracing this comprehensive approach, businesses can build stronger relationships with their customers, foster brand loyalty, and stay ahead in today's dynamic digital landscape.

Related: Every Brand Has A Story, But It's How You Choose To Craft It That Ensures Its Impact

Evangelos Moustakas is the Professor in Digital Marketing and Executive Director of Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education at Heriot-Watt University Dubai

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