Social listening is fast becoming an essential part of the PR and Comms toolkit. Yes, that’s right, it’s not just for marketing teams! Forward-thinking brands are already embracing the strategic advantages that social listening tools can offer when it comes to managing brand reputation, crisis detection, and optimising comms strategy.
Before we dig into our list of ‘11 ways social listening will transform your communications strategy and performance’ first we need to answer the question: What is social listening? And how is it different from social media monitoring?
Social media listening and social media monitoring: what’s the difference?
Sometimes these two terms are used interchangeably, (they’re interdependent after all) but there are significant differences.
Social media monitoring captures data on the performance of social media activity from both your company and your competitors. It’s a reactive measurement for campaign analysis and overall performance reporting.
Social media listening is more proactive, capturing quantitative and qualitative data to anticipate trends, sentiment, and consumption styles. It can support content creation, positioning, and customer relations.
Now we’ve cleared that up, let’s get into it. Here’s our list of 11 ways social listening will transform your communications strategy and performance:
- Know who’s talking about your brand and what they’re saying
- Get clear on the sentiment of conversations about your brand
- Detect a PR crisis before it gains momentum
- Identify the best journalists to pitch your stories to
- Trend spotting becomes easy
- Identify influencers
- Identify de-influencers
- Benchmark performance of earned media against your competitors
- Data-led insights to support decision-making
- Real-time campaign measurement and evaluation
- Greater cross-team collaboration and teamwork
1. Know who’s talking about your brand and what they’re saying
With social listening tools, not only can you monitor the volume mentions of your brand and engagement, you can also get a view of what people are actually saying about your brand. This is crucial for understanding what topics are important to your many stakeholder groups.
You should pay careful attention to comments and conversations relating to:
- The quality of your products and services
- Governance (transparency and ethics)
- Civic engagement (causes, environment, etc.)
- Leadership and innovation
- Your work environment
- Financial performance
These components are drivers that make or break your brand’s reputation. So, they must be monitored and analysed closely. And you can’t always rely on your audience to @mention you (which sends you a notification) when they are commenting on these vital components for your brand reputation – you need to actively listen for them.
Once you’re armed with this information, you can craft your multi-stakeholder communications strategy accordingly.
2. Get clear on the sentiment of conversations about your brand
Understanding the sentiment (positive, negative, or neutral) behind what people are saying about your brand online is the next step in building a robust comms strategy, and social listening tools give you that capability. Analysing and understanding sentiment is important for several reasons:
- You can tailor your communications to address the concerns and priorities of different stakeholders, which will inevitably boost customer satisfaction and improve brand reputation.
- You gain a good understanding of what stories and campaigns resonate well with your audiences and which don’t – meaning you can learn and improve your future strategy.
- When a journalist writes a negative article, internal stakeholders may jump to conclusions about the impact that will have on your brand. But with social listening you can get a true, real-time view of brand perception. Has that story had a negative impact on stakeholder sentiment and requires a response? If not, time can be spent more proactively working on future activities.
- You can course correct your comms strategy when overall sentiment dips and immediate action is required.
- You can benchmark brand sentiment by topic to understand how consumers perceive your organisation in relation to key social issues such as sustainability, diversity, and data security. This will reveal unmet customer needs. You can go further by analysing competitor activity and consumer discussions to see how you compare. As well as giving you actionable competitive insights, the data will highlight the gaps you need to fill it with your communications and helps you generate content.
3. Detect a PR crisis before it gains momentum
Social listening tools can identify ‘bad buzz’ and catch a potential crisis before it escalates. This is enough of a reason to embrace social listening, even if you don’t use it for anything else! You can analyse conversation topics, sentiment, and even set up real-time alerts on a single dashboard.
Because social listening tools can track conversations and customer feedback across social media platforms and review sites, it’s easy to identify potential issues that are bubbling up, monitor customer sentiment in real-time, and take proactive measures to address any negative comments or reviews. The ability to stay ahead of a crisis and show what you did to prevent it, with meaningful statistics, is a complete game-changer for any PR or Comms team.
4. Identify the best journalists to pitch your stories to
Social listening allows you to keep up to date with the attitudes of journalists and what content they’re engaging with in real-time. And with many journalists covering multiple niches and hopping from one freelance gig to another, this is invaluable.
Using deep social listening of journalist and thought leader commentary, you can build target media lists by identifying who is writing about your industry and pitch them the most relevant and timely stories. As you already know, the key to securing media coverage is to make the journalist’s life easy; give them what they want and when they need it. This can feel like a full-time job – so let social listening tech do the work for you.
5. Trend spotting becomes easy
As a PR or Comms pro, it’s essential to stay up to speed with the latest trends and topics in your industry so you can create timely, relevant stories that engage your audiences and position your brand as a leader. But your success with newsjacking viral themes and popular topics comes down to how fast you move – are you leading the conversation or joining it?
Because social listening tools harness the power of AI to do all the heavy lifting for you, gone are the days of trawling Google and Twitter to find out what you need to jump on and ‘newsjack’ before it’s too late; social listening technology gives you everything you need to stay ahead of the game at the touch of a button.
Additionally, it can be used to gain insights into what’s trending in the current political climate, allowing brands to pivot away from messaging that will harm their reputation.
6. Identify influencers
Social listening tools can help you to find the most appropriate niche influencers based on specific searches and account analysis. A good tool will segment potential influencers and key opinion leaders based on geography, reach, engagement, and brand affinity.
If you’re thinking that influencing sits with marketing, you’re mistaken. Influencer PR has become a popular strategy for building brand reputation – the most valuable currency in today’s business world. Unlike marketing, where an influencer’s job is to help promote and sell a product, a PR influencer focuses on building relationships and trust between an organisation and its stakeholders whether that’s customers, employees, investors or the media.
7. Identify de-influencers or detractors
Yes, that’s right. If social listening can help you to identify the best influencers for your PR campaigns, it can also help you to find the ‘de-influencers’ – people who discourage others from over-consuming. They often talk about how much they distrust sponsored posts or critique the amount of money influencers make from promoting big brands.
With the right social listening tools, you can identify and monitor de-influencers, their concerns about your brand, and develop strategies to turn them into advocates.
8. Benchmark performance of earned media against your competitors
Social listening can give you a rich understanding of the conversations and trends surrounding your competitors. By monitoring what your competitors are saying and doing, you can find valuable clues into their strategies, customer feedback, and potential weaknesses or opportunities. This can help inform your own competitive strategies and keep you one step ahead.
9. Real-time campaign measurement and evaluation
Social listening tools are a dream when it comes to measuring success as you go. Being able to view real-time performance metrics on a single dashboard means that PR and Comms teams can be agile and make data-driven decisions to optimise campaign performance.
10. Data-led insights to support decision-making
With real-time campaign measurement comes the ability to influence decision-making. Without a doubt, social listening gives you the evidence you need to influence at the highest level of your organisation. With a robust social listening tool, you can create compelling reports in minutes that will speak volumes to senior internal stakeholders. You can’t argue with real-time reporting that shows how stakeholders have responded to specific campaigns and messages, and how your brand is performing against its competitors.
11. Greater collaboration and teamwork
By having all your brand’s social listening and monitoring data and insights on one dashboard, you can share key information across multiple teams including marketing, sales, and customer service – improving internal relationships and helping to achieve common goals.