Get All Access for $5/mo

The Most Influential Companies on Social Media Listen to Their Followers Social media gives businesses that otherwise have a hard time finding their voice a place to experiment.

By Jared Hecht Edited by Heather Wilkerson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Justin Lewis | Getty Images

If you're a small business owner seeking inspiration on how to best use social media, look to the industry leaders. Nearly every business uses social media to share news, events, photos and videos -- but what are the best companies doing differently on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn?

Increasingly, we're seeing successful businesses use "social listening," also known as media monitoring. Social listening allows you to shrink the world of social media and focus only on what's important to you and your brand.

Related: 5 Ways Your Business May Not (But Should) Be Taking Advantage of Facebook Marketing

Every day, millions of Facebook updates, Tweets, Instagram posts and LinkedIn comments are posted online. And not every conversation relevant to your business -- whether because it includes your name or buzzwords from your industry or emerging trends you should be aware of -- can show up on your timeline.

Social listening tools allow you to collect all relevant conversations in one place and analyze them. You can use these reports to manage a cresting crisis, analyze them for general sentiment, and discover new opportunities to promote your brand.

As pointed out in a new Fundera report, "The 30 Most Influential Companies on Social Media," some of the biggest names in business are clearly using social listening to provide more targeted, relevant and valuable responses to followers and customers on social. McDonald's, Subway, Lyft, Airbnb and others claimed spots on the list in part due to their monitoring tactics.

What can your business gain by using social listening tools? Here are four upsides:

1. Send quick replies to customer service issues.

For better or for worse, social media has become a popular place for customers to air their grievances. Did your driver arrive late? Is your pizza not cheesy enough? Go on Twitter and tag the business with your complaint, and you'll often get a response.

Not every tweet or Facebook update concerning a customer service issue is intended as an official complaint, however. Some people simply use social media to vent about a bad experience or to warn friends off of a certain product or service. That means your business, as the offender, might not be tagged, or even mentioned explicitly.

Using social listening tools, you can find mentions of your business (or buzzwords that correlate with your business) across social media platforms, as well as online forums, blogs, and across the web. This means you can find customer service issues complaints and address them quickly. Not only will you identify issues plaguing your business before the problem becomes widespread, but you'll win the respect of people who are used to being ignored by the brands they give money to.

Feeling as though a brand isn't listening to complaints can cause customers to move on from a business entirely. Gartner once predicted that "failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15 percent increase in churn rate for existing customers."

Related: 4 Simple Ways to Up Your Millennial Marketing Game

2. Reward customers for mentioning you on social.

When a customer tags or mentions you or your business on social media, that's essentially a form of free advertising -- which is something you'll want customers to do more of, since their mentioning of your business can greatly influence what people in their social circles, such as friends and family, think of you, too.

One of the easiest ways to encourage repeat behavior is to reward someone for doing it. Therefore, one of social listening's best perks is that you can use it to find people talking about or complimenting your business, and responding to them positively for it.

You make customers heard when you reply, share, or otherwise acknowledge their comments. Knowing that they can get a retweet, fun response or encouragement from a favorite brand that in other contexts would not stop to "talk" with them could motivate them to continue promoting you via social.

3. Promote more products and services through replies.

People can say whatever they want on social media. When they're talking about a business or brand, however, it's rarely just to say "I love "X' brand." They're typically excited about a product or shouting out something specific about great service.

This is a great opportunity for you to engage with your customers. Use what you know about a customer's recent purchase to offer them -- and other followers and users -- related products or experiences in an organic way.

Airbnb, one of the companies listed in Fundera's report does an excellent job of this. You'll often see Twitter users announce they're taking a trip by saying they just booked an Airbnb. Whether they tag Airbnb or not, the company usually follows up with an encouraging "Where are you heading?" message. If they get a specific response -- Miami, Seattle, Nashville -- then Airbnb will reply again, this time with a link to one of their newer features, Airbnb Experiences, in that city.

This is essentially free marketing for Airbnb and allows the company to speak to customers with incredibly relevant, targeted campaigns. Airbnb's replies also show up in the mentions of any other friends tagged in the response, further multiplying the reach of this tweet-by-tweet campaign.

Related: The New Strategy for Lifetime Loyalty: Balancing 'Products' and 'Services'

4. Show off a different side of the business.

One of the main purposes of marketing and advertising is to differentiate your business from your competitors. Social media gives businesses that otherwise have a hard time finding their voice a place to experiment with different tones and angles. Eventually, you might discover a mode of expression that fits with your emerging brand.

Take Uber and Lyft, for example, two companies that made it on Fundera's list of influential companies. The two offer nearly identical services, and marketing, advertising and PR may be the only differentiator for customers -- besides price, which varies on both platforms.

Uber, according to Fundera, is the most highly valued private company in the U.S. and "primarily uses social media as a customer acquisition and retention channel, with posts about limited time deals and promotions."

Lyft, on the other hand, "has friendlier social media messaging" than Uber, and you can see that clearly in the way they respond to tweets about their company. While both companies appear to monitor media mentions, Uber typically responds with a stock answer like "We'd love to share on our social channels! Can you please send us a DM?" Lyft's preferred response is funny reaction GIFs.

The backbone of both brand styles is listening to what users are saying about them on social, but it's then up to each business to decide how to respond.


Social listening tools are more affordable and easier to use when you are an international business with a big marketing budget and a robust social media team. But any small business can start monitoring media mentions -- even manually, using the search or discover functions of most social media apps.

It may be just one piece of what makes influential companies so effective on social media, but it's one that almost any business, no matter how big or how small, can try for themselves.

Jared Hecht

Co-founder and CEO, Fundera

Jared is the CEO of Fundera, an online marketplace that matches small business owners to the best possible lender. Prior to Fundera, Jared co-founded GroupMe, a group messaging service that in August 2011 was acquired by Skype, which was subsequently acquired by Microsoft in October 2011. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Columbia University Entrepreneurship Organization and is an investor and advisor to startups such as Codecademy, SmartThings and TransferWise.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Starting a Business

I Left the Corporate World to Start a Chicken Coop Business — Here Are 3 Valuable Lessons I Learned Along the Way

Board meetings were traded for barnyards as a thriving new venture hatched.

Business News

'Passing By Wide Margins': Elon Musk Celebrates His 'Guaranteed Win' of the Highest Pay Package in U.S. Corporate History

Musk's Tesla pay package is almost 140 times higher than the annual pay of other high-performing CEOs.

Business News

Joey Chestnut Is Going From Nathan's to Netflix for a Competition 15 Years in the Making

Chestnut was banned from this year's Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest due to a "rival" contract. Now, he'll compete in a Netflix special instead.


Are Your Business's Local Listings Accurate and Up-to-Date? Here Are the Consequences You Could Face If Not.

Why accurate local listings are crucial for business success — and how to avoid the pitfalls of outdated information.

Money & Finance

Day Traders Often Ignore This One Topic At Their Peril

Boring things — like taxes — can sometimes be highly profitable.

Growing a Business

He Immigrated to the U.S. and Got a Job at McDonald's — Then His Aversion to Being 'Too Comfortable' Led to a Fast-Growing Company That's Hard to Miss

Voyo Popovic launched his moving and storage company in 2018 — and he's been innovating in the industry ever since.