Many marketers think they know what their customers need or what interests them. But, in reality, they might not know their customers as well as they think they do. This is why social listening is a crucial step in any marketing strategy. It allows you to provide better customer service, gather incoming sales leads and learn more about how to engage your audience.

When you work with an organisation for years (or even months), the industry lingo, company product offerings and mission statements become ingrained in everything you do. For marketers, this can be both a blessing and a curse. Being knowledgeable about your industry is crucial to good marketing, but it may also come with a knowledge bias that makes it difficult to think inside the mind of your customers.

This is where social listening becomes so critical. It helps you decipher exactly what your customers want from your brand and what kind of content will engage them. Here’s some tips to help you nail your social listening efforts:

Monitor the hashtags your customers are using


Some of the terms your organisation uses may not reflect how your actual audience discusses the industry or your company. It’s important to do thorough industry research to determine which hashtags and phrases your customers actually use on social media – not just the ones you wish they would use.

It pays to follow industry influencers and users who personify your perfect target audience. Take note of which hashtags they use. If you stay ahead of the curve by using trending hashtags to guide your content creation, you’ll get more website traffic, because searches for newer terms are usually higher.

Monitor competitor activity


How often do you track what customers are saying about your competitors? If not often, or never, you’re missing out on valuable insight. Look out for questions asked repeatedly of your competitors. This can help generate content ideas for your own blog. If your audience is asking the question on social media, you can guarantee they’re putting the question into a search engine as well.

If your competitors use special hashtags for contests, taglines or campaigns, you should also track these with your social media listening tool. For example, Nike uses #JustDoIt as a hashtag, and their customers do too.

Don’t forget misspellings


For proper social listening, you also need to track misspellings. You might know how your company name and products are spelled, but sometimes your customers don’t. Think about possible misspellings and track them on social media sites regularly.

Also some customers use a hashtag instead of a direct mention to tag a company, so be sure to track this, otherwise you won’t be alerted to the interaction. Not only does this mean you’ll be able to offer better customer service, but you might get more insight into what customers are saying about your brand.

Don’t stop at Facebook and Twitter


So you’ve mastered the art of social listening on Facebook and Twitter, but the job’s not over. You should be checking any social platforms where customers could be talking about you, your industry or your products. Instagram, LinkedIn, WordPress, TripAdvisor – the list is quite long, which is why it’s a good idea to let technology do the heavy-lifting.

Ask your audience


Learning what your audience is already interested in is one of the primary benefits of social listening. However, you can also take a proactive approach by utilising the polling tools in Twitter, Facebook and Instagram stories, or by simply asking an open-ended question on your social channels.

This enables you to build your community, receive free feedback and gain a deeper understanding of your audience in real-time. The secret is to make the question and choices as specific as possible, and take any additional replies into consideration as you build out your content calendar.

No matter the industry, social listening takes time, dedication and patience to set up and manage. Following the latest hashtags, competitor mentions and misspellings, as well as asking your customers and frontline staff what content you should be creating, are all key ingredients to a solid social listening strategy – one that can help inform content creation.

Download the State of Marketing report to learn how technology is changing the way consumers gather information, communicate and engage with brands.