In today’s world, the customer is king and just like traditional kings, the customer will tell you exactly what they want, so you better listen. To listen, you have to find out what your customers are saying, and in today’s hyper-connected world, customers are talking online. But how do we listen to them online? Through digital listening.
Digital listening means locating and analysing what is being said about a company, brand or individual on the internet. The listening can and should take place across many channels – as many as your customers are located on – to get a full, balanced report of how people view your company, brand or product.
Getting started with digital listening can be intimidating. Venturing on to the internet unprepared and finding that there’s a whole conversation going on that you weren’t involved in until now can shock even a veteran marketer. So, where do you start?
1. Define your personas
The best thing you can do first off is create a persona of your customer or customers. A persona is a representation of your ‘typical’ customers – their likes, dislikes, physical location, characteristics and more. Generating personas will allow you to segment your customers, find trends in what similar types of people are saying about you and address their needs or concerns accordingly. Defining your personas will help you immensely with the second step…
2. Find where your customers hang out online
Once you’ve defined your personas, you need to find out where these types of customers hang out online. Are you a B2B organisation? Then maybe your clients are talking about you on LinkedIn. Targeting millennials? Then you might be better off seeing if they’re talking on blogs, Facebook or Instagram. Once you find out where exactly your customers are hanging out, you can focus more on what they’re saying on these channels, rather than searching the internet endlessly for comments.
3. Use listening tools
Once you’ve located your customers, it’s time to start listening. For the sake of simplicity and your sanity, you should use listening tools. Choosing the right tools for the right channels is key to your listening success. Comprehensive tools like Sprout Social or Brandwatch are great, but expensive, so they might not be the best option for smaller businesses. For them, tools like the free version of Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Klout and Social Mention may be better options. Once you have your tools set up, you can start gathering useful data.
4. Collecting data
There are lots of different kinds of data you can gather, including:
– Identifying and tracking keywords associated with your brand
– Setting up Google Alerts for phrases and terms associated with your brand
– Identifying brand advocates
– Finding the top influencers in your field
– Recognising your brands sentiment
– How your social media profiles have grown or shrunk over time
– Data on your competitors – their keywords, their online ad presence, their social media presence, sentiment about their service
– Seeing who’s mentioned you on Twitter, who’s retweeting you, who’s mentioning you – with and without using your Twitter handle – and what your Klout score is
Gathering many different kinds of data to begin with will quickly highlight what your greatest successes and problems are and may influence what goals you set for your social media listening.
5. Define your goals and analyse your data
Once you’ve gathered a sufficient amount of data, it’s time to bundle that data for analysis. However, to accurately analyse data and what it means to you, you must first define your goals for social listening.
– Want to increase Twitter engagement? Then thousands of followers don’t matter if none of them comment, favourite or repost your content.
– Looking to convert people through Facebook ads? If you’re not seeing conversions, you might want to optimise your landing pages.
– Dedicated to great customer service? If people online are calling your service reps unhelpful, it might be time for a retraining session.
There are an endless number of goals you could have – it’s up to you to decide which ones are the most important for your business.
6. Address issues appropriately
Once you’ve gathered your data and analysed it, it’s time to make some changes. If you think your product is fine the way it is or that negative comments about your company are over the top, you’ve missed the point of digital listening. Whether businesses like it or not – the customer is king - and their perception of your business is the reality of it. Some key takeaways when it comes to making changes based on digital listening are:
– Address comments: if someone’s said something nice about you – thank them! It’s polite and will foster great feeling and brand loyalty. Has someone said something negative about you? If so you should definitely respond. Negative comments are a part of life – dealing with them calmly will, for the most part, make people appreciate and respect you. Deleting them will make you look dishonest, and believe us, if there’s absolutely no negative comments about you out there at all, anywhere, people will know you’re deleting them.
– Always improve things for the customer: when you’re so close to a business, it’s sometimes hard to look at things objectively. If a customer says raises a problem or suggests an improvement, take them seriously. Don’t change something about your site or service just because you feel like it. Listen to the customer and make decisive changes based on fact, not fiction.
– Reassess the situation six months from now: when you fix one area of your business based on data gathered through digital listening, you can be sure in six months there’ll be another tweak to make, or another issue to address, so keep on top of those listening tools and analytics!
A word of warning…
Worried about mishearing your customers and falling prey to one of those terrifying, infamous digital marketing fails? Good news – most fails can be avoided by following one simple rule:
Don’t treat digital listening like traditional marketing.
The whole point of digital listening is just that – to listen – not to interrupt like traditional marketers. If a conversation is happening that you haven’t been invited to join (through customers using your Twitter handle, or casually talking about your company on Facebook), don’t jump in. Marketing to the modern customer is all about permission based marketing where the customer invites you in to their digital world by talking to you directly on Twitter, signing up to an email newsletter willingly, downloading your content because it’s great and more. ‘Jumping in’ is a traditional marketing technique which modern customers who have not explicitly invited you to the conversation will not appreciate. They’ll feel invaded, interrupted and irate – not good.
In every business of every size at every level the message is the same: listen, listen again, listen some more then alter your service accordingly. Your customers will thank you.
For more digital stories, follow us on Twitter