“Even when you love social listening, you find those moments where you are tired or and want to take pause, or you feel like it can be the task that you put off for another day. And one that never comes unless it must, unfortunately. Social listening is really no different that when you are tired of listening to a conversation at a party… Sometimes you want to excuse yourself and move on”
I’ll admit it – I procrastinated in writing this blog… Indeed, the expert found herself uninspired.
I love my work and my research, and I especially love sharing stories, so it’s somewhat shameful for an educator and professional to admit to procrastination, but it’s true and I’m human. Admittedly, I’m also a little fatigued, because I’ve had my hands elbow deep in the topic of social listening research for the past several weeks while wrapping up year-end research projects and kicking off consulting work by developing the new version of the Social Listening CEU. Maybe I found myself a little drained from dedicating so much time and focus to the topic, and, hey… that happens occasionally, right? In coming up for fresh air after that push of professional productivity, I continue to embrace my growing knowledge and research agenda on the topic of social listening, and it’s fair to say that my lack of inspiration remained on my mind. It sparked a curious thought that inspired me to write this piece to share with you.
Social listening can be awesome, and when you work in social media strategy having a breakthrough in social listening is always energizing. Perhaps you discover a new influencer or ambassador who is talking loudly and favorably about your brand online. Perhaps a customer is complaining, and you’re invited to make a timely and public response to their concern. Maybe a crisis is brewing, and your social listening activities help you to be prepared.
Even with all these benefits, prioritizing social listening above other routine social media management processes may seem unnecessary. After all, those in social media wear the hats of content creator, digital content manager, social media advertising manager, researcher & analytical specialist, and community manager. A brand’s social media strategy typically begins with conducting a social media audit, establishing their target audience, designing and creating content, building and engaging with community, and creating and delivering campaigns. Social listening is extremely important, but admittedly it can get lost in the very active social media strategy sauce.
So how does a brand, organization, or social media professional remain inspired to actively prioritize social listening? Here are a few reasons:
1 : Remember the benefits
Slacking off on social listening as a critical task in your daily or routine social media workflow compromises the opportunity to benefit from its value. For instance, lets say that one of the social media groups that you participate in on behalf of your brand yields conversation about a need of many members of the group. If your organization can present a solution to satisfy that need you already have evidence that your idea might be well-supported among an engaged community.
What about a crisis? If your organization finds itself in the midst of an IRL (in real life) or digital crisis, the social media chatter does not pause while you strategize what to do. Determining appropriate procedures for how to respond to a crisis online are absolutely vital, but they lack context and timeliness without an ear on the digital street.
Whether for purchase signals or crisis management, and more, social listening offers organizations to a premium seat at the table where spontaneous conversations are occurring non-stop related to their brand, business, or industry.
2: Revisit social listening periodically and at select intervals
In most organizations, there is a periodic review of goals, objectives, and outcomes. Perhaps the company reestablishes its vision, mission, and stakeholders annually, maybe a business revisits quarterly and yearly goals. During these developments, all hands on deck related to executive, digital marketing, communication, and social media need to revisit ongoing social media and social listening strategy efforts as well.
It is important that social media strategy goals, including objectives set for social listening, are aligned with the overall business strategy. If the “big” goals of the company or brand are not considered in social media efforts then there is a good chance that social presence of the brand will be skewed and disjointed, and in a time of increasingly digital transparency it won’t take long for this to come to light. If or when it does, the results may be problematic.
3: Keep in mind how quickly and aggressively social media changes
Skipping over social listening for any given length of time not only deprives the brand of fully harnessing the benefits of the practice, it also fosters challenges with staying in tune with the movement and temperature of the social media landscape.
At the beginning of the semester in my Strategic Social Media course, students complete an audit of current social media platforms, features, and trends. We debrief on this information to establish a realistic foundation on which to build projects and ideas. I encourage this exercise among organizational social media strategy as well within part of that routine evaluation. Consider what has changed. Consider what is new. Consider what might come next.
Is your brand or business going to be in ruin if your hard-working, yet possibly overwhelmed, social media manager isn’t listening 24/7 to social media chatter? No. Instead, it is important to find a rhythm and process for social listening which supports ongoing social media strategy and campaign execution and seek out new innovations in social listening which may benefit your brand or organization.
To recap, if you are feeling or getting sluggish towards social listening practice within your social listening strategy here are three things to keep in mind – focus on the benefits, evaluate strategic social listening at set interviews, and finally, consider how social listening is impacted as new innovations and changes to the social media landscape occur. In reading these thoughts, whether you’re a business executive or the social media managers that hands on the process, I strongly encourage you to pause and consider what you are currently doing with social listening then generate a strategy to seam the process into routine workflow.
Author: Margaret Stewart
Margaret Stewart is a college professor and a professional researcher, trainer, and consultant. She has a Ph.D. in Communications Media & Instruction Technology and teaches in the School of Communication at the University of North Florida (UNF). Recent client projects include training prospective medical school students and job-seeking professionals on interview skills, conducting an Internet-based research project for a legal case, and designing short courses for the National Institute for Social Media (NISM). Her academic research centers around social media and new technologies for strategic, professional, and relational purposes. She is the co-planner of an annual social media & digital marketing conference called Social Media Expo JAX.