Hands up if you’ve ever taken to social media to vent about a terrible customer service experience or a bad meal at a restaurant. If you haven’t got your hand up, you’re either lucky or a liar… When I spoke with one of the rudest customer service representatives from my mobile service provider who was astoundingly unknowledgeable about the company they worked for, not to mention dismissive of my request for information, did I ask to speak with their supervisor or make a formal complaint? No! I did what we all do and I went on a full-tilt Twitter rant to express the complete injustice of how terribly I had been wronged.
And you better believe that the company responded to me almost immediately, offering discounts along with promises of better service in the future. Sweet justice. You know that feeling too, I’m betting. In a recent survey by Sprout Social, they found that over 35% of us prefer social media for customer care compared with 19% for email and an understandable 5% of people who actually prefer going into a store and dealing with a representative face-to-face. It seems we’re mostly braver from a distance, choosing the relative safety of our screens to voice otherwise silent opinions… But to the point: with over 95 million photos posted to Instagram every day and over 25 million tweets, it’s not surprising that businesses would want to know what people are saying about them online. And that’s where Social Listening comes in.
Social Listening is a way for businesses to sort through the shear volume of online conversations and filter out the noise to easily monitor what people like you and I are saying about their products and services. “Monitoring” sounds a little creepy but but we’re not talking about an invasion of privacy and the information is vital to any business who cares about the public perception of their brand. Our opinions and beliefs are a little like a public library: we keep the shelves stocked whenever we share something social media and that information is freely available to anyone who wants to borrow from it.
Being able to keep up with what people are saying about your brand gives you the ability to boost your CRM to new heights or avoid making repeat mistakes. Imagine someone recommends your brand on their Facebook timeline. You could thank them with a personal note or an offer of discounted services. Good customer service goes a long way and when that service is personalized, you can almost guarantee that the customer will be singing your praises. These opportunities and insights can be used to fine-tune a more informed marketing campaign, targeting similar groups of people looking for a product or service just like yours. Not only are you increasing your online presence and commitment to customer service but you’re gaining valuable insights into your market and in turn, generating sales.
But there some other, less exciting reasons why you should be utilising social listening. Whether you like it or not, the internet can be a nefarious place and there are people out there who would take advantage of you and your hard work. I’m talking about those internet trolls who spread rumours or impersonate accounts to damage their public image or even direct sales away from you and this can easily go unnoticed unless you stay on top of it. There is nothing more important than your brands image and it should be protected at all costs.
So how do you listen in on these digital conversations and make the most of this information? There’s a whole host of tools out there to take advantage of this information but the easiest and cheapest option is Google Alerts. By using keywords and phrases the Google search engine scans and searches the web for any content that matches your criteria- and then alerts you about it. It’s an easy and effective way to stay up to date with your brand perception and you can create as many different alerts as you need.
If you need something a little more in-depth or specific, then Hootsuite offers some amazing tools right there inside the dashboard. Using the Search Stream feature, you can monitor multiple social media streams at once and set up search queries based on keywords or hashtags. You can even constrain the search to locations near you or within a certain timeframe, making the search super-relevant to your local market. Unfortunately, you do need a paid subscription to really make the most out of this service.
If your business is focussed on providing the best product, service and customer experience, then you’re already on your way to ensuring a great public image. Using social listening tools can give you the extra edge to perceive your customers needs and continue to provide them with the best customer experience for the years to come.