If you are looking to find out what your customers and prospects are thinking, what products they need and what issues are they having, you should be involved in social listening. This refers to monitoring conversations on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
While social listening is akin to market research, it does get more involved than the generic definition of a market research, which is usually one-sided. The main purpose is to not simply gather data but to actually listen to what people are saying, providing valuable insights you can use in your marketing.
Participate in Conversations Online
The general notion of social listening implies a one-way process where the brand listens to what its customers are sharing. While this is the minimum you can do, it is possible to reach much better results if you participate actively in the conversation. This helps you introduce topics that are relevant to your business model.
For example, you can join Facebook and LinkedIn groups, ask questions on forums and encourage people to share their issues or concerns. Social listening doesn’t need to be secret, akin to you spying on your customers.
An approach where you engage with your audience helps build better relationships and raise awareness about your business. Even if you don’t gain insights you can use right away, there’s always value in connecting with the people in your market.
Combining Listening and Marketing
Social listening is a cog in a larger marketing strategy and is often considered as a separate category. For example, you use specific tools to listen and get insights and completely different tools to generate leads. While this is often the case, you should also seek ways to mix the two.
When you find conversations where people talk about a need that you can fulfil, there’s no reason not to offer it to them. However, this doesn’t mean spamming every discussion you encounter with links or sales pitches. For effective connection building, this should be done in a non-intrusive way.
An example of this is monitoring question & answer sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers. If you find someone looking for a solution that your product perfectly addresses, it is okay to send a link as well. Similarly, this can be applied to social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook where you will often see people looking for suggestions from their peers. If you find opportunities for lead generation or marketing while engaging in listening, you may as well seize them.