How to use social listening to leverage customer conversations

Brooke B. Sellas
By Brooke B. Sellas
Best practices

Social media never sleeps, nor do the conversations happening around your brand. How can you make social listening a key part of your social media strategy?  Brooke B. Sellas from @HelloBSquared shares her insight.

Social listening is imperative to any social media strategy. Why? Because, whether you know it or not, conversations about your brand are already happening.

Here’s how to leverage social listening to uncover and decode your brand mentions (and join the conversation).

Get started with social listening

There are often six major ways brands use social listening to achieve business goals:

  • Figuring out which social channel your customers use the most
  • Attracting leads
  • Obtaining feedback on your products/services
  • Identifying brand advocates or influencers
  • Improving customer care
  • Spying on the competition

As Sprout Social’s Q4 2017 Sprout Social Index says: 

“One of the best ways to understand consumers’ natural behaviors and how they’re already talking about your brand is through social listening. The insights derived from the world’s largest, most open and accessible focus group—social media—can inform brand content that has a much greater potential to resonate with your audience by leveraging the ways they’re already acting and engaging on social.”

In other words, you can’t expect to deliver on any of the five social listening initiatives above without first understanding how people are already talking about your brand.

One of the first things you’ll want to uncover is sentiment.

Sentiment is the attitude or opinion someone has of your brand and is often broken down into three categories:

  • Positive
  • Neutral
  • Negative

We like to use two free tools to help us keep up with social mentions: Google Alerts and Mention (which not only finds mentions but also shows sentiment).

Look who’s talking

So, just who is talking about brands online? According to the Q4 2017 Sprout Social Index — just about everyone. In fact, consumers are more likely to share life happenings on social media rather than IRL (in real life). Yes, seriously.

Though social barely beats in-person methods for sharing milestones, it shows just how important social media channels are for deep, personal conversations.

And, if you think brands aren’t a part of those conversations, think again.

  • 50% of consumers include brands in these milestone conversations to recommend them
  • 34% say they want to thank the brand
  • 34% do it because they’re looking for reciprocity from the brand in the way of a discount/incentive

Those three reasons alone should have you chomping at the bit to use social listening to pinpoint, as well as join, crucial conversations surrounding your brand.

As far as what consumers expect from you once they mention your brand, here’s what the report says:

Part of being a social brand means seeing to it that your content is customer-centric. When someone mentions your brand online, it’s critical that you show interest, respond, and try to ascertain whether or not this piece of content is worth using in your user-generated efforts.

3 ways to jumpstart your social listening game

So, what does the day-to-day of social listening look like? At @HelloBSquared, we listen in the following three ways.

Use tools: Along with the two mentioned above, we use Sprout Social. Sprout’s comprehensive social listening toolallows our team to execute real-time brand monitoring and analyze social data for marketing insights.

Keywords: First of all, part of our strategy (and yours) should focus on finding relevant keywords and keyword phrases people use when searching for your brand. This also includes searches for your product or services. For us, we know that the phrase “outsourcing your social media management” often brings up our website in Google Search and is how users land on our blog or website. Though you don’t have to use Sprout, their tool also allows us to input and follow keywords surrounding our clients’ brands … like “outsourced social media management.” Then, we can look at the data surrounding these keywords or phrases in our reporting.

Engage: Lastly, you have to plan to intelligently respond to the conversations you uncover online. You will likely uncover all kinds of conversations around your brand or keywords. Complaints, compliments, recommendations, reviews … make sure you have an engagement strategy to address each one.

Joining the conversation

Using social listening to listen is obvious. Using it to join the conversation is what social is all about!

Here are four ways to join the conversation and be ready to give your audiences what they’re looking for.

  • Get real. Meaning respond in real time, or as fast as possible! The average response time for a brand to reply on social media to a user is 10 hours, while the average user will only wait 4 hours.
  • Give incentives. 45% of consumers mentioning your brand are looking for a discount or deal. Be ready to offer something for a review, a nice comment, or shout out.
  • Get personal. Your responses should do two things: 1) use the person’s name and 2) aim to give a genuine, personal response that enhances the conversation. “Thank you” doesn’t quite cut it.
  • Give (true) appreciation. When people are sharing their opinions, ideas, and suggestions, do yourself a favor and make use of them! Then, to bolster loyalty and trust, tell them how you did!

At the end of the day, people are out there talking about your business. It’s your job to find those conversations and guide them in a fruitful direction. How are you using social listening at your company? 

Additional reading:

This article originally appeared in The B Squared Media Blog. This article was written by Brooke B. Sellas from Business2Community  and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to


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