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One biggest life mantra of a long-lasting relationship is to listen to each other to keep the interest and love alive. This stands true in the marketing world as well. Brands must listen to what customers want, perceive, talk about and offer a content basis the same. While there are several means to listen to consumers' conversations, listening to conversations on digital is termed social listening and forms an integral part of brands’ content strategies. 

One such case study of brands listening to social conversations was when Honda found out from Twitter that there was a band that was creating music videos for its cars. In no time, Honda created the ‘Honda loves you back’ campaign to showcase the love for its consumers and surprised the band, Monsters Calling Home, making them perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Like this, the campaign became a superhit among consumers. 

In June last year, a video of a delivery partner with a Swiggy bag on his back riding his white horse in Mumbai rains had gone viral. Swiggy then announced a bounty hunt of Rs 5000 to search for the delivery man in a marketing gimmick. 

Although a few days later the search came to an end. It turned out that the guy was not a ‘deliver boy’ but a young caretaker for horses who had taken the Swiggy delivery bag from someone and had forgotten to return it in time, as per the investigation by the company. But Swiggy made the most from the viral video by listening to social media conversations about the brand. 

Read the full coverage on Swiggy’s marketing activity banking on the viral video of a delivery boy riding a horse here:

Social listening takes centre stage

Prachi Bali

According to Prachi Bali, EVP and Business Head of Saatchi & Saatchi Propagate, a big part of the content which a brand puts out should answer what consumers are intuitively looking for. “In order for brands to be relevant in the consumers’ life, bust myths, find the friction points in the consumer journey and many more such applications, social listening is the best way to analyse the voice of the consumer,” she said.

Asif Upadhye

Asif Upadhye, Director at SPRD, shared that social listening helps brands improve their content strategy by:

  • Identifying relevant trending topics. 
  • Understanding the audience's attitudes and feelings towards their brand, products, and services helps create content that resonates. 
  • Identify key areas where their audience is seeking more information or content. 
  • Monitor competitors' activities and identify areas where they can stand out. 
Madhura Ranande

Madhura Ranande, VP - Business and Branded Content at Isobar India, commented that without an idea of what’s relevant to the audience, it is like shooting in the dark and hoping for miracles.

“In fact, in some cases, listening even helps brands adapt products and services to better serve consumer needs, and more importantly, anticipate a social media crisis which one can strategise how to tackle or be better prepared for,” she added. 

In today’s time, social listening for devising content strategy has become all the more important with more and more power coming into the consumers' hands to influence the brand’s reputation. 

Mukesh Vij

Mukesh Vij - Founder - Hashtag Orange, said, “In today's time, social listening has become even more important because of the increasing use of social media and the growing importance of online reputation management. With the rise of social media, consumers have more power than ever to influence a brand's reputation, and brands need to be able to monitor and respond to social media conversations in real-time.” 

He further said that by leveraging social listening tools and techniques, brands can develop a content strategy that resonates with their audience, drives engagement, and helps them stand out in a crowded online marketplace.

Rishabh Mahendru

Rishabh Mahendru, VP, Client Success, AdLift, believes that social listening can help companies connect with their customers on a personal level, by allowing them to respond to their queries, concerns, and feedback in real time. He said, “By demonstrating a commitment to customer satisfaction, companies can build stronger relationships with their customers, increase loyalty, and drive positive word-of-mouth.”

Sarah Johnson

"Around 51% of brands use social listening as part of their marketing efforts. (Emplifi, 2021). Instead of relying on intuition and emotion, social listening tools give you solid data about what topics your audience is interested in and what types of content engage them. Therefore, brands need to incorporate social listening into their content strategy. As times change, so does customer awareness. They want brands to talk to them and actively interact with them”, said Sarah Johnson, AVP - Content, Arm Worldwide.

Devising content strategy once the social listening is done

Framing a content strategy that addresses the consumers’ passion and pain points is key. Overall, social listening can provide valuable insights that help build the right content strategy. 

“By analysing the data, determining your content themes, developing content formats, planning your content calendar, and testing and refining your approach, you can create a content strategy that resonates with your audience and achieves your marketing goals,” commented Vij of Hashtag Orange. 

Therefore, listing below a few checkpoints that will help brands formalise a content strategy to address the audience’s needs with the help of social listening.

Define your goals and objectives

Sahil Chopra

Start by defining your goals and objectives for social listening. The first step to approaching social listening would be identifying the words and websites where people talk about your brand, as per Sahil Chopra, Co-founder and CEO, iCubesWire.

“This will help you determine what data to collect and how to analyse it. This will help you focus your social listening efforts and collect more relevant data,” added Vij. 

Monitor social media conversations and sentiments

Brands can start by identifying the most relevant themes and topics that resonate with their audience. Upadhye said, “By monitoring conversations and sentiment across social media platforms, they can better understand the audience's preferences and tailor the content accordingly.”

Vij added that these themes should be based on the topics, interests, and pain points that the audience is discussing. 

While it's important to track brand mentions, social listening should also focus on understanding the larger trends in the industry. “If your brand has a global presence, it's important to monitor social conversations in different languages to understand local trends and sentiments. Sentiment analysis is a valuable tool for understanding how your brand is perceived by your audience,” explained Vij.

Develop actionable insights

This is most often ignored, but developing actionable insights is the first step to a successful content strategy. Strong insights can help assess the gap in the content strategy and an action plan can then be devised and implemented. Isobar’s Ranade said, “Insights can be related to gaps in topics being discussed (or not discussed!), or they could be related to posting frequency, wrong hashtags, or even content formats.”

Identify the types of content

Vij suggested using a mix of formats such as blog posts, infographics, videos, social media posts, etc. Creating a content calendar that aligns with your content themes and formats will help you to structure your plan. 

“This will keep you organised and consistent in your content production. In the end, continuously monitor the performance of your content and use social listening data to make adjustments and improvements to your strategy.”

Instead of blindly posting content to your social media handles, create content that engages your audience. Johnson said, "You can risk relying solely on the number of likes and comments to shape your social media strategy, but this will only lead to a lower ROI for you on your social media efforts. Look at your social media analytics data to understand the types of content your audience likes and dislikes. Insights from social media analytics can help you get a clearer picture of what content your audience is engaging with."

Analysing audience sentiment 

It can help businesses gauge the effectiveness of their content and address any negative feedback. “Social listening tools can help them identify the tone and sentiment of conversations around the brand and products, allowing them to make informed decisions about our content strategy,” he added. 

Even Chopra said that analysing audience sentiments helps marketers pay attention to staggering numbers and any negative sentiments around their brand.

He further suggested, “Social listening tools can help businesses identify key influencers in the industry and leverage their reach for better engagement. Businesses can increase brand awareness and drive conversions by partnering with influencers and creating content that resonates with their audience.”

In totality, “Based on the data, you would create content which addresses negative sentiment and converts it to neutral or positive. Based on the analysis the content should educate, engage and gratify the consumers based on their conversations. Also, the impact of content should be measured via listening and therefore should be course corrected on a regular basis” commented Bali. 

Johnson stated that social listening gives you a solid grasp of online reputation management (ORM). The process of social listening allows you to dig deeper into what your customers and prospects think about the brand, whether it's your products, customer service or content. Some of the basic steps of social listening are: 

  • Identifying your platforms and defining the goals/objective 
  • Extracting data with live API integration
  • Using data processing for sentiment analysis
  • Visualising the data

Mistakes marketers make while listening to social conversations

While brands spend heavily on social listening, as per Upadhye of SPRD, not having a clear purpose, letting customer feedback stay unanswered for a long time and using generic hashtags to extract data will only fetch vague results.

Having a tool in place, an escalation matrix and a content strategy working in tandem are the important steps in having an effective social listening strategy. Bali observes, “Mistakes only happen when either of these three isn’t agile enough to action the learnings from listening.”

Adlift’s Mahendru seconded, “The biggest mistake people make is, they don’t act on the insights gained. It's important to use the data you collect to make informed decisions and improve your social media strategy.”

Understanding that social listening is proactive as opposed to reactive is the Holy Grail in business. “Not having a social listening plan is another common mistake, not knowing what filters to activate and at what point to narrow a search to listen to the right conversations, not knowing what information to look for, are some common challenges a lot of brands face,” said Ranade. 

Johnson listed four common mistakes marketers make when creating social listening reports. Avoiding these common pitfalls provides even more insight:

  • Implement social media monitoring instead of social media listening.
  • Ignore competitors or industry insights.
  • Focus on demographics rather than psychographics.
  • Do not share data with other teams.