Did you know that people are talking about you and your products and services? If you’re active on social media but aren’t fully aware of all the chatter behind your back, it’s time to tune in! These social media platforms tell you what people think and give you a great opportunity to tap in to your audience’s thoughts and opinions about you! If managed well, social media listening can increase lead generation and result in social selling.

What is Social Media Listening?

Hopefully yours is one of many organizations that realizes successful use of social media is much more than sending out messages or broadcasting. It’s about two-way engagement, as well as meeting the business goal of reaching people who are most interested in your content, and therefore interested in your product or service. How do you do this? Just as you have worked on your listening skills in your interpersonal relationships, you need to master social listening skills.

Social media listening is the monitoring of your social media conversations — or the comments being made about you — so that you can document what customers are saying about your business, brand, or your industry.

Why Social Media Listening?

Social media listening can be used to identify paint points, answer questions, and respond to comments. Some of the comments an organization gathers via social listening can be used to more clearly differentiate your service or product, or even your brand. With complaints, you can deal with them immediately. With positive comments and queries, you are able to pursue them as leads and, if possible, develop them into sales.

Social listening allows marketing teams to prioritize and evaluate feedback from the public. This feedback can be used to create more appealing offerings, both in the form of product and services as well as content and advertisements.

Following Sentiments and Intentions

Arriving at a place where you can gather leads and have success with social selling takes some work and time. It doesn’t normally happen overnight, although of course there are exceptions. You need to build up followings and share content that engages and promps comments, discussions, and enquiries. So if it takes work and time, is it worth it? Of course, because you have the opportunity and privilege of engaging with people directly. They are giving you their time and attention — rare commodities these days! By working this opportunity, you’ll be able to gauge potential customer sentiments and influence their intentions when it comes to considering your businesses products. You can move into a place where you can quickly position your product or service to meet people’s needs.

Each Social Media Platform Demands A Different Type of Engagement

In this post we are going to explain how to maximize social media listening opportunities so that you can develop leads and social selling opportunities. We are focusing broadly on social media, but it’s really important to understand that your engagement strategy and approach to lead generation must vary according to the social media platform you are using. In other words, tailor your approach. For example, on Twitter, you can build a following, tweet your content, engage, respond, and gently move into mentions so that you can try to develop leads. LinkedIn, meanwhile, will let you ask questions, post articles that may generate comments, and respond to posts.

For Instagram, you must find a way of making your product or service attractive visually. Of course you can always post about your activities, quotes, offers, and events. Equally, develop a suitable approach for Facebook, Pinterest, and any other platform you may use.

Social Media Listening vs Social Monitoring

Some people are still confused about the difference between social media listening and social media monitoring. It’s true that there are similarities and they should be practiced together. However, social media listening is more than monitoring, the focus is on extracting key insights from your social media conversations that you can apply to your overall strategy and ultimately develop more leads and more social sales. Remember that social media listening follows conversations about your organization. It is not intended to give insights into your marketing program’s impact.

Social media listening is about engaging your audience, so you have to know how to look for these conversations and where to go. This sounds like an important marketing practice, but very few businesses actually do it. In fact, according to Business2Business, in 2015, only a quarter of businesses were engaged in social listening.

Social Media Listening All Begins With Keywords

Should you really use resources on looking through social media to find out what has been said about you? The answer is a resounding yes. Let’s take Twitter as an example. Not every tweet about your brand will include your handle or product keywords. This means that there could be hundreds of updates you need to hear, but may never show up in your notifications. If you’re not doing a search, you won’t know about them.

Your keyword list should include your business name, industry, and key people who may be known, such as sales people, CEO, marketing lead, or anyone else audience members may know. Include various iterations, abbreviations, as well as misspellings of your organization. Developing a relevant list of keywords means there is minimal chance that a relevant comment will pass unnoticed. The more variations of your name you can come up with that members of your audience may actually search for, the less likely a comment about your product or service will slip through your cracks.

As well as developing your keyword list, it’s useful to include industry phrases that discussions coalesce on. Not least, in can be worthwhile adding competitor keywords to your list. It’s unlikely that you will want to engage with them, but these keywords may give opportunities and even possible sales leads.

Tools for Social Media Listening

If all this sounds slightly overwhelming, rest assured that today’s digital world provides you with a good range of tools for social media listening. Here are some of our favourites.

Hootsuite: can handle all of your social networks. You can listen, schedule, and view analytics from your dashboard. It is free for individual accounts, but businesses must select from various pricing options.

Tweetdeck: This cannot manage all social networks, but is great for Twitter. A more customized Twitter interface can be created with Tweetdeck so that you can monitor hashtags, lists, different users, and search terms. One panel lets you look at content from the groups you select.

Lithium: If you remember Klout, that is what Lithium is. It has a social response setting so that you can understand, manage and respond to the direct contacts users make to you. Lithium integrates with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms so that you can see where the people talking about you (and sometimes to you) are located, and move into their space.

Social Mention: This tool aggregates all of the blog, microblog, image, and video content from a range of search engines and social networks — based on the search term you provide. The aggregation means it is much easier to view and take in all that is being said about your organization in one panel.

SumAll: This social media listening tool allows you to connect to a range of accounts, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to give insights about your followers, your interactions, and engagements. There is a paid version which provides users with content recommendations and automatic post scheduling.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud: Radian6 is now part of Salesforce. Using its Marketing Cloud social listening technology, marketers can track the conversation in their industry to identify trends, opportunities, concerns, and competitor activity.

These are just a few of the tools you can use to track mentions and begin engagement with your audience.

How Do I Engage When I am Listening to Social Media?

What do you do when you’ve applied your keywords and discover people who have expressed interest in your products or services, or people who have questions? Now it’s time to being responding. Streamline your engagement by developing an engagement strategy. You will find all types of comments, from complaints to praises, comparisons, and general industry discussions. Create a spreadsheet that allows you to be strategic about comments and responses. This way, you can ensure leads are sent to sales, or future intentions for follow-up. You can find an example chart here, at bullet point number 14.

Be strategic about the various networks on which these discussions might occur. A comment on LinkedIn, for example, requires a very different type of response than a tweet. Understanding the social media channel and how people use it has to be an integral part of how you interact with users.

Engagement Is A Conversation, Not Selling

It’s important to have a process when you engage. Begin with some questions. Who is the person or publication? Do they know about your business or brand? What might they want or need from you? Next, be careful and don’t push the pace of interaction. Sending a poster loads of content or tweets is going to be a turn-off. A reply to a tweet with follow-up details is good enough. Play it by ear and gauge the process and pace wisely. Don’t forget that people you’ve tracked via your keywords are actually are posting to their followers. They don’t know how you found them so an aggressive sales tactic won’t work here. Just as important though, is to not waste people’s time. Get to the point when the time is right.

As well as developing your own process for engagement, follow guidelines when you engage. Mention.com states three key points as solid guidelines, and you might want to add your own:

  1. Follow any customer support protocols your company has in place.
  2. Show empathy and match their tone. If they’re being casual or making jokes, they’ll be cool with you doing it, too.
  3. Reroute to a better support channel (help desk ticket, phone, etc.) if their problem is too complex to be resolved on a public social channel.

You can read their full post on engagement here. However, if you’re a small business, you may not have protocols or other support channels. What then?

Here are some key tactics for authentically engaging with people who can potentially become leads and sales. Keep your dialogue friendly, open, and without sales pressure.

Direct requests: This is a request to your account for information about a product or service. The poster could want a call, weblink, or physical address. Respond quickly and answer questions clearly. Move the conversation to a private space to get more detail.

Indirect requests: For example, someone could tweet “We’re looking for a new gas BBQ this summer. Any suggestions?”. As a seller of BBQs you need to respond to this quickly to make a good first impression. Something like: “Hi @BBQseeker our new range of gas BBQs arrived last week. Time to come to our showroom for coffee? Would love to show you the new range. Or please call for details! Thanks, Tony!”. A reply like this is polite and to-the-point, without pressure. If there’s no response, it would be fine to follow up a day or two later with another query, this time including a weblink to the new product page. With this approach, you’re responsive and sharing content without being spammy or too intense. And you could get a follow-up from the poster, asking you to call them in two weeks. Now you have a lead.

Brand Supporters: Your business’ supporters may retweet or share your posts, or make positive comments. Thank them, and tell them that you’re grateful for their support. Ask if there is anything you can do for them, or if they are interested in special offers, new product lines, or your content. Depending on the response, move towards adding to your leads, or using this opportunity as a sales inquiry. Don’t pressure or send too much information.

Positive mentions: These individuals may have just discovered your brand or may only use your service rarely. Even if they only reference one of your products or services and not your business by name, engage with them. Encourage further sales by offering a discount coupon or some company swag.

It’s fine to experiment with posts and the content you share so that you can draw interest and enquiries, in addition to your keyword monitoring. As you become proficient with online conversations and finding the right content to share that will generate those conversations, make sure your leads are entered into your spreadsheet above and acted upon according to deadlines or client requests.

About the Author:Rebecca Hill is the Outreach Coordinator at TechWyse, an SEO agency in Toronto, Canada. While she isn’t building relationships with bloggers and influencers in the marketing world, she can be seen rooting for the Blue Jays.