As more and more conversations continue to happen online, social listening (the process of using publicly accessible social media content for market research) is becoming a valuable marketing strategy. Businesses can use social listening to gather helpful information about who their customers are and what they are looking for. And because social listening tools are always introducing new and improved ways to leverage this resource while protecting PII (personally identifiable information), you can feel confident that you’ll be able to find actionable insights while respecting your audience’s privacy.
Advanced social listening often requires a high level of expertise and costly tools. However, there are still techniques available to small businesses with smaller budgets. And while these techniques may not provide you as strong of insights as a professional agency would be able to surface, they’re a perfect first step for small business marketers to begin exploring the value of social listening on a budget. Here are five ways marketers of all sizes can use social media to grow their business.
Test the waters using free tools
There are a number of free resources you can use to begin learning about social listening through hands-on experience. Tools like Mention, Hashtagify, and TweetDeck are all great introductions to the social listening space. You’ll be able to explore conversations that feature your chosen keywords or hashtags.
Browsing through these posts can give you a sense of what topics your audience is interested in and how their sentiment may lean. You can even set up Google Alerts to receive automatic updates on any press coverage for your business or industry. Don’t underestimate the value of keeping a pulse on social conversations. A quick check-in at the start of your day is a great way to stay in-the-know.
Using Twitter’s advanced search tool is a useful way to perform more in-depth analysis of key topics. Competitor research is a great example. Have you ever wondered what people are saying about your competitors or what marketing techniques they are using that are performing well?
Twitter's built-in search function can help you answer questions like these. You can search for relevant keywords, posts from particular users, content published during select date ranges, and more.
This resource offers boundless opportunities beyond competitor research as well. If you recently launched a new product, perform a search to see what people have to say about it. If you’re thinking of entering a new market, refine your search using language demographics to explore conversations from a specific audience pool. An advanced search of social media conversations paired with a bit of analysis can answer a variety of questions.
Not all platforms offer an advanced search feature, but you can still perform an advanced search. As you spend more time using social listening, you’ll begin to see Boolean operators come into play. These are words and punctuation used to point your search in a specific direction.
Do you want to know what people love about your product? Perform a search on Facebook for (“your product name” AND “love”). Are you curious to learn more about current marketing trends in your industry? Perform a search on LinkedIn for (“your industry” AND “marketing” AND (“tips” OR “trends” OR “advice”)).
The more intricate your query is, the more precise your search will be. Start with something simple, and expand your query as you gain experience. Learning to navigate using Boolean operators can help you uncover deep insights across many social media platforms and other online communities.
Make the most of key moments using free trials
Many popular social media management and listening tools offer free trials, including Social Sprout, Buffer, and Agorapulse. Once you become more familiar with social listening metrics, you’ll be able to put these tools to use. Many offer similar data, just showcased in unique ways. If you’re thinking of investing in more advanced social listening tools, be sure to put these free trials to use so you can find the tool that works best for you.
Not ready to commit to a paid resource full-time? These free trials can still come in handy. If you’re launching a new product, getting ready for a grand re-opening, or seeing a recent shift in sales, you can temporarily use these tools for a detailed analysis to guide your marketing strategy with data-backed insights.
Learn directly from your audience.
Ask your audience what you want to know. Customers enjoy building a genuine connection with their favorite brands, and often jump at the chance to interact and help guide a brand’s decision making. Whether it be through a Twitter poll, Instagram question, or livestream Q&A, lean on guidance from your followers. They know best about the sort of marketing they’re most likely to engage with.
These five tips are just an introduction to all that’s possible through social listening. There’s plenty more to learn, and the best way to do so is through practice. To start, why not pick one of these techniques to try this week? You may be surprised how quickly you can learn, and how much it can help your business grow.