Most modern businesses, especially digital businesses, include social media as part of their wider marketing strategies. Yet for most, the concept of social listening is relatively new. According to Upfront Analytics, 54% of B2B marketers have generated leads from social media, yet 24% of brands actively pursue social listening.
Social listening is increasingly important for sales teams, because it’s far more than simply replying to queries, it’s about getting to know prospects. Without it, sales teams can only guess what prospects are thinking and saying about your business. If you’re an ecommerce store owner in 2018, here’s why social listening should be your new priority.
What is social listening?
Social listening involves monitoring conversations online to better understand what customers are saying about you, your industry, and your competitors. With an intentional social listening strategy, you can reach people with insightful commentary and take this back to your business.
Social listening and social monitoring are frequently confused, and while you certainly shouldn’t ignore your analytics, the benefit of social listening is that it goes deeper – tracking individual conversations between real people, i.e. potential prospects, not just data. These insights can prove valuable in more ways than one.
When it comes to sales, social listening is a must-have marketing tool that can help direct product development, content marketing, and sales aftercare.
Why you should care.
If you’re only looking at the cold, hard data, you could be missing out on a potentially lucrative opportunity to connect with people who are talking about you and your products. When you analyse wider trends through aggregated social listening, you’re able to identify clear patterns and insights. None of us has the time to go trawling through every individual Tweet or Facebook post that mentions our brand or a relevant piece of industry news, which means opportunities to pick up on these patterns are sometimes lost.
With social listening, you can see the bigger picture, and this makes it considerably easier to pinpoint and resolve issues that are cropping up on a regular basis. You can see your customer base both as individuals and as a collective, and start to form insights on whether sentiments about your brand are generally positive or negative.
You can also spot seasonal trends, trending products, and get a better idea of how to bundle and market your products and services. Customers will often inadvertently spark a new business idea by wishing for features and functions. It’s worth paying close attention to what they’re saying.
How to do it well.
You will certainly need to use a social listening tool – more on these in the next section. To carrying out the strategy itself, the first step is to think about what keywords and topics you’ll be ‘listening out’ for to get a bird's eye view of how your brand is perceived. To start, you’ll want to cover the obvious bases, things like your brand name, product names, industry buzzwords, branded hashtags, and competitor brand names. Misspellings and common abbreviations count too.
It’s important to listen on behalf of your competitors, as well as for yourself. Knowing what your target audience thinks of your competitors is no bad thing, and can even give you a strategic advantage. Once you’re all set up, the main thing is to take action on what’s coming in – otherwise you’re back to social monitoring. This means being present in conversions, making changes after customer suggestions, and being willing to wade in and convert potential leads with your shining customer service skills.
The best social listening tools.
So what are the best social listening tools for retailers? Here are what I consider to be the top three:
Hootsuite – A social media management and marketing tool that will integrate directly with your channels. If you use Shopify to power your online store, the two can be seamlessly integrated to efficiently transfer and automate day-to-day tasks. Hootsuite offers a range of social listening tools to help you track conversations and important topics, all from one dashboard.
Social Mention – This simple but effective social media search engine seeks out brand mentions from user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks and even videos. It then aggregates the results into a single handy stream of information, making it easy to track and measure what people are saying about your company in real time.
Talkwater Alerts – Talkwalker is an alert service. You set up specific terms and keywords in your dashboard, and it will comb the web to deliver the pages where these terms appear. It’s ideal for tracking mentions that appear in articles and blogs. It can be a good partner with an email service like Zoho — allowing you to reach out to site editors and influencers to see whether they’d be open to finding out more. If they mentioned you, they’re likely to be interested.
What a social listening sales strategy looks like.
In relation to sales, social listening is an incredible tool for starting conversations and finding prime new prospects – those who are dissatisfied with your competitors’ service, for example. Social listening helps us to really get to know these prospects and their no-holds-barred opinions. As a conversation unfolds, you can sit back, observe, and jump in at just the right time to gently offer your services. This interaction is essential, otherwise once again, you’re simply monitoring without pursuing opportunities.
The best part is that by interacting with prospects, you’ll automatically find that more start to come your way; but it’s important to be subtle and to genuinely add value. People will notice if you leap into any and all conversations with an outrageous sales pitch. The clue is in the name: social listening. People want to be heard. Show that you’re present, show that you’re listening by giving ‘likes’ and leaving the odd comment here and there, and jump in to join the conversation when it’s appropriate.
Sales teams should 100% be using social media to sell, and if you’re yet to really embrace social listening as a feature of that, now is the time to try it. You’ll quickly discover it’s one of the most effective ways to recognise your prospects’ needs, interests, and personalities. The more insight you gather about your products, industry, market, and competition, the easier it will be to drive online sales.
Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips — an industry-leading ecommerce blog that offers practical marketing advice so your online store receives the exposure it deserves. Check out the latest posts on Twitter @myecommercetips.