Imagine you own a restaurant and one day you overhear two customers talking about the quality of your food. “Their new cheesecake is delicious,” says one customer, to which the other adds, “yes, but their Swiss mushroom burgers have really lost their taste.”
What does this piece of information tell you about the next steps you should consider taking? You may want to know whether other customers think the same thing about your Swiss mushroom burgers and if they do, you may consider changing the recipe to bring back its once glorious taste. You may want to eavesdrop on some of the conversations taking place at the tables where your burger is being served for more feedback or even ask them to fill out a comment card. All this information keeps you abreast on how satisfied your customers are with the quality of your offerings offering and to potentially customise them to suit their preferences.
Or you may be about to launch a new dish. You are confident because you know that nobody else in your neighbourhood is offering it. “People are going to love it,” you tell yourself, because you love it too. Yet, how can you be so sure since you have not had any indication of whether people would actually welcome it or not.
Social listening allows you to keep a check on what people are saying regarding your business. It provides insights about audience likes and dislikes and highlights how they are responding to your offerings. This is why it is important to integrate social listening strategies as part of your overall communications strategy, so that everything is connected with the conversations taking place online.
Read Between the Conversations Social listening is a process through which brands can track, analyse and respond to conversations on digital platforms. This process is an integral part of audience research and provides strong context for future communication. Social media has made it extremely easy for people to share their opinions and their likes or dislikes. The idea of social listening is to see who is ‘mentioning’ you and where, and what conversations are taking place about your category and your competitors. However, it is not enough to monitor those conversations, you need to derive actionable insights from them and plan accordingly. (This is an opportunity for brands to integrate crisis management as part of their overall strategy, if social listening shows negative sentiment).
Another key component of social listening is user sentiment, which allows you to understand what the general ‘mood’ around a certain topic is at any given time. By keeping tabs on how people feel about your brand, you can ensure that your marketing and product development efforts remain on track. Snickers made use of user sentiment in their Hungerithm campaign, in which they analysed the ‘mood’ of the internet and changed the price of Snickers bars accordingly. It was an engaging campaign whereby the angrier people were, the cheaper Snickers bars became – reinforcing their “you’re not you when you’re hungry” narrative.
A Basis for Communication From opportunities to engage with your brand to enhancing brand equity through personalised connections with audiences, social listening serves as a key processes that lead to well-informed marketing decisions and effective communication. It is about understanding what people say about your brand and about your competitors. Social listening done right can even become the basis of a new campaign. For example, soon after they launched Narcos, Netflix noticed that people started to talk about how their Spanish had improved as a result of watching the show. Netflix took this as an opportunity to promote the series as a way to improve one’s Spanish.
There are many opportunities for brands in Pakistan to learn from global practices of social listening and make decisions based on real-time audience feedback.
Humanising Your Brand Paving the way for brand and product development, social listening gives brands an opportunity to humanise themselves by having real conversations with people. When a brand responds directly to a consumer comment, the interaction becomes a brand building activity. Wendy’s are known for their tongue-in-cheek communication and this was especially evident when they engaged in a Twitter conversation with someone who had challenged their “fresh, not frozen” claim.
They stood their ground with snarky remarks eventually shutting down the troll – this led to a National Roasting Day event whereby Wendy followers were invited to challenge the brand in exchange for a good roasting.
The Right Tools Social listening cannot be accomplished manually and requires using specialised tools. These include: Buffer, Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Mention, BuzzSumo, Meltwater and Brand24
Muhammad Ali Khan is Associate Director Creative & Strategy at Spectrum VMLY&R. He also teaches in the Masters of Advertising program at SZABIST-Karachi.