Social listening is a marketing tactic that has been around for a while and yet isn’t overused. Or, to be fair, isn’t used that much at all.
Have you ever heard about social listening? If not, I am here to uncover a whole new world for you. Social listening (also called social media monitoring) means using a tool (e.g., Awario, Mention, Brandwatch) that finds all mentions of your keyword (usually, a brand) or keywords on social media and beyond.
The strategy is usually used to:
- Improve customer service (reply to brand mentions that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise).
- Identify industry trends for product development and marketing campaigns.
- Manage the brand’s reputation (measure the sentiment around the brand and keep an eye on what people say).
- Perform competitor analysis and measure share of voice.
- Find relevant social media influencers.
- Find “hot” leads on social media.
Having said that, in most cases, brands don’t use social media listening for all of the above. In some cases, they prioritize one goal over another and put their resources into the goals that are considered more important. Other times, brands start with social listening, observe the data, and then decide on where the pain points and exciting possibilities are. As it happens, great discoveries are often made accidentally.
To provide you with real-life examples of how social listening is implemented, I wrote about four brands that I personally love. All of them use social listening in the most inspiring way.
1. Netflix invents Netflix Socks
The social media marketers behind Netflix are very good at what they do. That’s proven by the fact that their social media following keeps growing – Netflix US alone has almost 6 million followers on Twitter. That is the whole population of Colorado! And personally, I think a lot of this success has to do with their Twitter bio:
After all, there’s a whole generation that appreciates everything about Gerard Way.
Even this fact alone has to tell you something important – Netflix knows its target audience.
They know key target audience factors: millennial; used to having friends that exist only online; crave attention; do research before purchasing; value peers’ opinions more than that of movie stars; live for humor, self-irony, and sarcasm. And Netflix’s social media marketing team keeps all of that in mind – they post hilarious tweets, re-tweet opinions of users with only a couple of followers, and work with relevant influencers.
Netflix acts as every Internet user’s best friend. It spreads humor, understanding, and attention. And they use social media listening non-stop, because as they said at the Shorty Awards:
“When we aren’t posting, we’re listening, looking for the new trends igniting the entertainment world”
Through social listening, Netflix found out that many of the people binge-watching the shows were falling asleep. Not many brands would consider that a serious problem, but Netflix obviously saw an opportunity to show that they listen, they care, and they are as creative as a brand can be. So they invented Netflix Socks – smart socks that detect when the user is dozing off, send a signal to the user’s TV and pause the show. This way, no one wakes up to the screen of spoilers and confusion. The product was cheered, went viral, got tons of coverage, and even won a Shorty Award for creative use of technology. Now isn’t that something to learn from?
2. L’Oreal chooses a correct product strategy
L’Oreal isn’t that much about having fun online and entertaining their audience. They take their marketing seriously. It also looks like every digital representative from L’Oreal has at some point spoken about the necessity and fruitfulness of social media listening. Esohe Omoruyi, L’Oreal’s Senior Vice President of Global Open Digital innovation and Business Development, said at Variety‘s Cannes Lions that social listening “is fuelling the product development cycle” by helping the company identify industry trends and showing what consumers are asking for.
While the brand mostly uses social listening for product development, it’s not the only goal that L’Oreal is after. Adrienne Rostaing, Market Insights & Data Manager, said the following in an interview with Brandwatch:
“Social allows us to refocus our actions on the present moment, tracking and adapting in real time to continuously improve the link with our consumers”
Social listening helps the company keep an eye on ratings, reviews, and conversations. L’Oreal believes that as consumers’ path to purchase is becoming more accelerated, it’s important for the representatives of the beauty industry to be everywhere. That’s why they also work closely with bloggers and social media influencers.
The following example illustrates how L’Oreal uses social listening for major brand decisions. When in 2011 the brand was faced with a dilemma of which hair product to develop next (omber, tie-dye, or splat), they turned to social media to discover which trend is the most promising. The company researched YouTube to identify user-generated content and unveil issues and opinions that their customers voice on social media. They identified thought leaders in the industry who could act as influencers. This, together with the analysis of Google trends, helped them make a decision – the company went with the ombre hair color trend and developed L’Oreal Feria Wild Ombre. The product became a huge success and the trend indeed lived on.
3. Fitbit develops “Reminders to Move”
Social media listening is sometimes compared to a tool like Fitbit – something that lets you keep track on what’s going on with your body or your brand and gives you data to work with. Perhaps, digital marketers behind Fitbit knew about that analogy. In any case, Fitbit actively uses social media in their marketing, and it’s definitely working for them.
Like many other employees, Allison Leahy, the ex-director of the community at Fitbit (who now works at Spotify), said that in the online space, “Fitbit is trying to be everywhere you are and more”.
Being everywhere you are and more is the task of a social listening tool. At Fitbit, social listening is used to identify “emerging issues and to troubleshoot and gather information from customers who may be experiencing a certain type of issue”. The company collects ideas from their communities as well, as many Fitbit users have relevant expertise. The best ideas are then brought to the engineering teams.
Fitbit highly prioritizes customer care, using social media listening to “resolve all customer issues, provide customers with a little bit more delight from the brand, and give customers a really fast support experience”.
A good example of how the brand uses social listening for product development is the “Reminders to Move” feature – a buzzing reminder that tells the user to get up and move a little bit. This genuinely useful feature (I should know, I never leave the computer without a reminder) was brought to Fitbit by the users themselves. Leahy, as an ex-blogger, understood the value of customer feedback, user engagement, and the power of an online community – a community that knows that the brand listens to them.
4. Taco Bell provides excellent customer care
Taco Bell is one of the most exciting and inspirational brands when it comes to social media. They are one of those brands that do funny interactions with other brands, work with comedians as influencers, and hire programmers to create an engine that does this:
It’s no surprise that Taco Bell is number five on Fast Company’s most innovative social media companies of 2017.
Loads of their ideas come from listening to social media in real time. They use research to create new social media campaigns and product ideas. They always strive to exceed customer expectations. As one of the marketers at Taco Bell said;
“Instead of sitting behind glass and listening to a focus group, we now have access to 20 million consumers and can be inspired by them and connect with them and have real relationships with them”
For Taco Bell, customer service is a top priority that they cater for with social listening. Not only do they retweet every cool thing that’s said about the brand, and often interact with users just for fun, but they also reply to customers’ complaints and value customers’ opinions. For example, when the company’s social media team noticed that the customers are often disappointed with cheese in the Quesalupa, they started sending out emails to restaurants to remind them how to follow the recipe so ensure customer satisfaction. They react instantaneously to such cases with the help of social media listening and ensure quality control amongst the company’s products.
Social listening is what helps brands be “everywhere” in real time. The benefits and implications of such ability are enormous, just like the power of social media itself. It’s up to you and your brand to choose where to direct this power. However, if you don’t know where to start, there are always best practices of brands, such as the ones above, to give you an idea.