Social listening: don’t make it weird

4 years ago by Liz Estall

Confession time. Up until very recently I found ‘social listening’ really creepy. To me it felt like cheating. It’s eavesdropping which is just plain weird. Right? Wrong!

… Well actually it might be something between the two. Depending on how you tackle it.

Unfortunately, if you’re trying to grow your business, enter new markets and ultimately let people know you exist, then taking the ‘build it and he shall come’ stance just isn’t going to cut it.

The basics.

The way businesses approach social listening can range from the very basic to extremely robust and intelligent.  There’s the really tactical stuff, and then it can be really strategic and feed future comms.

Some examples of what effective social listening can help you achieve:

  • Generate enquiries by targeting people asking for recommendations (“can anyone recommend a good place to buy a lawnmower?”)
  • Build a following of people in exactly the right stage of the buying cycle (e.g. just had a baby and you sell baby products)
  • Better understand what customers want and need  (“Annoying that I can’t get my favourite meal deal in Sainsbury’s anymore!”)
  • Competitor analysis  (ask yourself: What messages are your competitors putting out?)
  • Understand how an audience feels about your brand, products and services  (“I love/hate/never use this product”)
  • To respond to and mitigate complaints and negative comments about your brand  (“I can’t believe what that cashier just called me!”)

I began with this guide from Oracle. As it’s an introductory guide to all things social media, the tactics sit somewhere on the more basic end of the spectrum. The points are nonetheless helpful and it covers the general theme of social listening very well.

It’s reassuring that this guide addresses that, unless carefully handled, being targeted can feel as an intrusion as far as the customer is concerned.  

Then this statement jumped out at me:

“Still a little creepy, but at least you are providing value to help in their decision.”

I scoffed when I read this. Something about the sentiment, “this is creepy but fuck it I’ll do it anyway” made me feel a bit icky. Then, with a bit more thought, I found myself actually not being able to find anything creepy about the statement that preceded it:

“One way to approach these kinds of situations is to offer to answer any questions or provide an educational resource that can help the prospect learn more about topics related to your products.”

Mentioning your products and services to people who are looking for those products or services. Is this not the entire point of digital marketing?

Social listening: taking notes

There’s no smoke without fire.

The cynical people (me included) may be onto something though. A lot of marketing is really creepy. It’s the kind of sinister, ill-meaning, shitty marketing that spoils it for everyone trying to achieve anything genuine and sincere. It’s particularly rife in digital marketing too. Give this particular marketing tactic a name like ‘social listening’ and, hey presto, you’ve made it weird.

There’s definitely a integrity spectrum to be had.

The hair-thin line.

To help clarify matters, we’ve developed the All Trousers “Heaven and Hell” of Social Listening.

Always let your conscience be your guide.

Agencies undoubtedly have an advantage here. However much they care what the public are saying about their clients, they are detached enough emotionally to not jump on a mention or conversation and be defensive. However tempting it may be to single out and respond to mentions (be they complaints or something good) you must try to refrain. Aside from running the risk of being intrusive by singling out and interacting with prospects, it’s also a waste of precious time. The entire point of social listening is to use any insights gained to feed back into your entire communication and/or business strategy. This is the All Trousers way.

If social listening is something that you are planning to do in-house then, as with most things, everyone has their own threshold for what they feel comfortable with. I think my feelings are (and speaking on behalf of everyone at All Trousers) - if you feel like something is overly contrived and feels a bit dodgy - then find a better way of doing it. One that makes you feel comfortable.

Don’t make it weird.  

Interested? Let's talk

Or join the conversation: