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2 Social Listening Mistakes to Avoid in 2017

Whitney Durmick
Senior Product Manager

Social listening is quite possibly the best way to understand and engage with your audience. But with billions of messages created every day on millions of unique platforms, the task of listening for relevant content is more than daunting. With effective tools and a clear-cut strategy, however, social listening can become your greatest ally. From brand analysis to trend tracking, competitive analysis to campaigns, social listening delivers the insights of a focus group at a massive scale. 

While there is no single “right” way to listen, there are plenty of potholes on the road to actionable social insights. Avoid these, and you’ll be closer to cutting through social noise and leveraging data to optimize your decision-making.

Common Mistake #1: You’re Not Listening Strategically

How are you going to use what you learn from social listening? Answering that question should be the first step in launching a social listening strategy. I’ve heard brands start a listening effort with the weak affirmation that they don’t know what they don’t know. That’s fine, but I’ll task them with brainstorming what they would like to know. If you otherwise feel overwhelmed by the prospect of social listening, start with what part of your audience, industry or reputation you want to understand better.

The process requires some forethought: are you listening for brand awareness? Competitive intelligence and SWOT analysis?  Tracking your latest campaign? The goals you set at this phase will inform how you configure and deploy your searches. In that way, listening is a bit like fishing. To catch a certain type of fish, you should know a few good spots, and you’ll need the right bait.

Your searches should be consistent with your goals. For instance, don’t create a broad search for every single iteration of your brand name if you’re hoping to discover how people are talking about your recent hashtag campaign. (That’s like using a head of broccoli to lure a Great White.) Instead, try launching multiple searches, each with sharper focus. Want to learn about how people are reacting to your hashtag? Build a single search around just the hashtag, giving you direct access to the overall themes of conversation specific to the campaign and saving you precious time on analysis.

Common Mistake #2: You’re Listening Too Much

Now that you’re thinking purposefully about the content of your queries, let’s talk magnitude. Some brands come to social listening with the notion that they must capture literally every single mention of their brand. My question for them is always “but why though?” They often don’t have clear plans for what they’ll do with that data once they’ve captured it, and even more, they don’t have a platform that can easily analyze those messages to uncover insights. With this unfocused passion for sheer volume, they’re signing themselves up for hours of manual data mining and analysis.

To continue with my fishing analogy (last one, I promise), capturing every single last message is a bit like casting the broadest possible net into the sea and hoping for the best. What comes back could be worthwhile, but you’ll also have some garbage in your net. You’re better off casting a targeted net to catch a couple juicy lobsters that you can really sink your teeth into.

A Real Life Example Of Great Social Listening: Polaris

A focused approach not only saves time and resources, but it also helps brands utilize listening data to inform business decisions. Take adventure vehicle maker Polaris, for example. During a campaign launch for a motorcycle event, Polaris used social listening to gauge feedback from their audience. When the responses flooded in, Polaris realized that their branding had missed a mark with their fans, so they course corrected and ended up gaining more visibility for the event overall. 

“It was just feedback on a t-shirt but it showed us the power of engaging and learning from our customers,” affirmed Holly Spaeth, Polaris’ Interactive Media and Content Manager. “Social insights are being shared across the company and making a positive business impact regularly.”

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