A brand’s reputation can be its most valuable asset and its greatest vulnerability. As PR and comms professionals you play a pivotal role in shaping and safeguarding your brand’s image. One powerful tool in your arsenal is social listening. Let’s look at how social listening can enhance and protect brand reputation – offering PR and comms folk a deeper understanding of its practical applications.
Understanding Social Listening
Social listening, is the practice of tracking and analysing online conversations and discussions relevant to a brand, product, or industry. It involves reporting on social media to gain insights into what people are saying about a brand.
It is often confused with social media monitoring which a reactive measurement for campaign analysis and overall performance reporting. Social media listening, however, is more proactive – capturing quantitative and qualitative data to anticipate trends, sentiment, and consumption styles.
The Three Pillars of Social Listening
- Tracking mentions, comments, and discussions related to your brand or industry. Analysing the data collected. This step includes sentiment analysis, demographic insights, and identifying trends and emerging issues.
- Taking Action! This might involve responding to customer inquiries, addressing negative feedback, or crafting PR strategies based on the insights gained.
Protect Brand Reputation
Now that we’ve established what social listening is, let’s explore how it can protect brand reputation.
Real-time crisis detection
One of the most valuable aspects of social listening is its ability to identify issues in real-time. PR and comms professionals can spot negative comments, complaints, or crises as they unfold. This early detection allows for swift and strategic responses to address problems before they escalate – a brilliant way to further protect brand reputation.
Imagine a scenario where a dissatisfied customer takes to Twitter to vent about a defective product. With social listening, you can spot the tweet almost immediately, allowing you to acknowledge the issue publicly or inform your client facing team and advise them on the issue. A quick response and well-tailored comms can turn a potentially damaging situation into a positive customer service story.
Top Tip: More than 80% of users do not tag a brand’s handle or hashtag when posting on social, so it’s vital you have a social listening tool that can monitor all your mentions – whether you’re tagged or not (Digimind). Social listening tools like Onclusive’s can analyse comments about your brand even when you’re not @ mentioned – meaning you don’t miss any insights.
Data-Driven Decision Making
Social listening provides a wealth of data that can inform PR and comms strategies globally. By analysing sentiment trends and common topics of conversation, comms people can tailor their messaging and campaigns to resonate with their target audience. For example, if social listening reveals that a particular social issue is gaining traction online, a brand can align its messaging that issue to connect with socially conscious consumers. This can be done across markets meaning you can fully localise your content.
Understanding how your competitors are perceived in the market is crucial so you can maintain and protect brand reputation. Social listening tools can give unmatched insights into the strengths and weaknesses of competing brands. By analysing competitor sentiment and customer feedback, you can identify opportunities to differentiate your brand and gain a competitive edge.
You can also see if another business has pivoted and suddenly become a competitor. Any new competitor could be a threat to your brand awareness efforts and will need to be strategically managed to ensure your audience share does not dwindle.
Enhance Brand Reputation
Social listening not only gives you the tools to protect brand reputation – it also allows you to further enhance your existing brand awareness strategies.
In addition to crisis detection, social listening can play a pivotal role in crisis preparedness. By continuously monitoring social media platforms, PR and communications professionals can identify trends in consumer views which could become potential threats and vulnerabilities in the future. For example, if your target audience are increasingly becoming more socially conscious and concerned about sustainability, then you may want to ensure your businesses green initiatives are being fully communicated.
64% of consumers said that they would buy from a brand or boycott it solely because of its position on a social or political issues (Oberlo).
This proactive approach allows brands to develop crisis response plans in advance, ensuring a swift and effective response when needed.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a brand’s reputation may be tarnished. Social listening can help in the process of reputation repair by providing insights into the root causes of negative sentiment. By understanding the issues that led to a damaged reputation, PR professionals can develop targeted strategies to rebuild trust and goodwill.
For instance, if social listening reveals that a brand’s product quality issues are a major concern among consumers, the company can invest in product improvements, communicate these changes transparently, and actively engage with customers to regain their trust.
Identifying Brand Advocates
Not all online conversations are negative. Social listening can also help PR professionals identify brand advocates—loyal customers who speak positively about your brand online. These advocates can be invaluable when seeking to protect brand reputation, as they can counter negative sentiment with their positive endorsements and support. Building and nurturing relationships with brand advocates can be a proactive strategy for enhancing brand value.
Compliance and Risk Management
In some industries like big pharma or finance, compliance with regulations and ethical standards is paramount. Social listening can help PR and comms teams ensure that their brand is not inadvertently associated with controversial or unethical activities. By watching online conversations and mentions, brands can identify and address potential compliance risks before they become public relations nightmares.
Top Tip: This kind of insight works best when you have a holistic approach to media monitoring. You need to be gaining insights from traditional print media as well as online news to see what news is trending and which stories are likely to spur conversation on social media.
Practical Tips for Social Listening
It’s great knowing the theory behind what social listening can do for you, but there are a few practical steps to take to ensure your actions bear fruit. Here are some practical tips for PR and comms professionals:
Choose the Right Tools
Invest in a social listening platform that works well with your other media monitoring tools. Choose features that automate data collection and analysis, saving you time and providing more comprehensive insights.
Onclusive Social Listening is the one of the only social media monitoring providers that can coherently pull social listening data from TikTok and LinkedIn. It is part of Onclusive’s comprehensive suite of tools that support you at every stage of the media lifecycle.
Set Clear Objectives
Define your goals and objectives for social listening. Are you listening for brand mentions, tracking sentiment, or seeking competitive insights? You may even want to use social listening purely for content creation purposes. Having clear objectives will stop you from gathering data you don’t need.
Social listening is not a one-time task; it’s an ongoing process. Stay engaged with online conversations to maintain a pulse on your brand’s reputation and industry trends.
Onclusive social listening can deliver weekly and monthly reports on the social listening data so you are updated regularly on activity that is of interest to you.
Use automation features in your social listening tools to set up real-time alerts when peaks of negative sentiment, keywords, topics, or hashtags arise.
Collaborate Across Teams
Social listening should not be siloed within the comms, PR or marketing department. Collaborate with custmer support, and other relevant teams to ensure a holistic approach to crisis management and protect brand reputation.
Regularly assess the impact of your social listening efforts and use the data to refine your strategies and tactics.
In a world where perception often becomes reality, social listening is your window to deeper actionable insights for PR success.