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How Social Listening Can Boost Your Marketing Strategy

Social Listening for your business (image), Mulligan Management Group

By Kristin Shawd

Social media, social monitoring, social listening. Ever feel like digital marketing terms that you hear bandied about, though familiar, are just outside your ability to thoroughly define them, not to mention use them in a useful manner for your business?

While most small to medium-size business owners have a firm grasp on what social media is and at least a vague idea on ways to use it to market their business. Many remain unclear about social monitoring and social listening and how these practices can be used to improve their overall marketing plan.

[Still pondering which social media channels to use in your marketing strategy? Check out our social media blog series for business use, beginning with Facebook.]

In this post, we will define both terms (social monitoring and social listening) because they are often confused and used interchangeably even though each is a distinct activity. We will then discuss how social listening can be put into action and introduce three tools for the job.

Social Monitoring vs. Social Listening?

Consider social monitoring a first (tactical) step and social listening a second, in-depth, strategic practice.

Specifically, social monitoring is the activity of purposefully tracking conversations and mentions of your brand name, products, and services on your social media platforms for the purpose of engagement and interaction.

You’ve built a social media presence and now you want to (and need to) interact with your followers and any others discussing your company, brand, or products. This monitoring of and engagement in conversations is the activity of social monitoring.

What is Social Listening?

Social Listening goes far beyond social monitoring. According to HubSpot,

Social Listening is the monitoring of your brand’s social media channels for any customer feedback and direct mentions of your brand or discussions regarding specific keywords, topics, competitors, or industries, followed by an analysis to gain insights and act on those opportunities.

The key here is the purpose for the activity of listening. You conduct social monitoring so that you can interact and be a part of the conversation. You engage in social listening so you can analyze and develop strategies in order to take specific action.

Highlighted Quote, Mulligan Management Group

Why Small Businesses Should Conduct Social Listening

Now that you understand the terms, why should you care?

Market research is as old as markets. Today, the most immediate, cost-effective way to conduct market research (especially for small to medium-sized businesses) is via social listening.

Your customer is on social channels discussing their needs, offering their opinion, rating your competitors. Your competitors are also on social media where you can quickly and continuously track their product offering, monitor their marketing and ad campaigns, and discover their gaps and gaffes.

By combining and analyzing the information gained from your customers, potential clients, and competitors you can develop strategies that capitalize on the information uncovered to act in the following areas:

  • Product development
  • Service offerings
  • Marketing Campaigns
  • Social selling
  • Reputation management
  • Customer Service

Great! But how do you collect and manage all this information? This is where tools come into play.

Social Listening Tools for Small Business

Social listening tools are available at a broad range of prices but for the budget conscious, we recommend the following:

TweetDeck is a dashboard application to manage your twitter account. The dashboard consists of multiple columns which can be configured to display multiple feeds (your listening queries) based on your selections:

  • Your own user Twitter timeline
  • Hashtags
  • Mentions
  • Trends,
  • search results (based on Twitter’s built-in search filters, such as location, language, and negative keywords)
  • All tweets by a single user (your competitors),
  • Direct messages, lists, or favorites

You can also post (or schedule posts) from the TweetDeck dashboard, and monitor multiple Twitter accounts simultaneously (if you have multiple Twitter accounts).

Pricing: It is a free app. There is no limited, intro level functionality for free with in-app upgrades. You get 100% functionality for 100% free.

Awario is a pro-level social listening tool with an affordable small business option. It enables you to listen not only to social platforms but also to blogs, forums, websites, news sites, etc. With its Boolean search capabilities, you can create very specific listening parameters.

Pricing: The Starter plan, designed for small businesses, costs $29/month (at the time of posting this blog). It allows you to monitor up to 3 keywords for up to 30,000 mentions/month.

Your brand name (or your competitors) would be a keyword. You set up an alert which triggers each time the keyword is found. You choose which sources you’d like Awario to monitor for you (social media platforms, websites, etc.). Using specific search terms and exclusions, you can focus the search results to fit your needs. Each search result is called a mention and the starter plan allows up to 30,000 mentions/month.

Not sure it’s for you? A free trial is available for the Starter plan. Once you hit 30,000 mentions on your 3 keywords, you’ll need to subscribe to a paid plan, or your account will be deleted.

Brandwatch is another pro-level social listening tool but its $800/month price tag makes it out of reach for many small businesses. If you have the budget, it’s a feature-rich solution worth checking out.

About Mulligan Management Group

Overwhelmed? We get it. If you find it makes sense for your business to partner with a content marketing professional, our team at Mulligan Management Group would welcome the chance to discuss your needs. Give us a call at 330-472-7673 to set up a free 30-minute consultation. We’re located in Hudson, Ohio, and our passion is helping our clients build their internet presence and expand their authority online.

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