It’s easy to dismiss naysayers on social media as “trolls” when you’re a celebrity, but for a business owner, negative sentiment on Twitter, Facebook or similar channels represents an urgent customer service issue.

Some customers only go on social media to discuss a company they’ve dealt with when they feel they’re not being heard, for example. In other cases, social media becomes a sort of informal rating service they and their peers can use when it comes time to consider a vendor for one purpose or another.

Many organizations have already recognized that social listening tools provide valuable data that, along with tools like Service Cloud, can help address or solve customer issues more quickly and effectively. What may not be immediately obvious, however, is what exactly you should be “listening” for.

The average business would probably start with the basics. For instance, it’s critical to monitor the messaging functions of social media services to make sure you haven’t missed any questions or complaints from customers who choose that channel first. On a larger scale, companies may also look for mentions for their names in social media conversations, which could show positive feedback, negative feedback and even damaging forms of criticism.

Messages and mentions are by no means the only things that fall into the scope of effective social listening strategies, however. Stay focused on these other elements to ensure your customer service strategy is as informed as possible:

1. Hashtags

We used to call it the “number sign” in the days of rotary dial telephones, but the “#” symbol has become the default way to categorize and add context to all manner of social media posts across Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.

Of course, many companies will create their own hashtags to promote certain kinds of content they’re sharing online, or as part of an overall marketing campaign for a specific product or service. In many cases, these hashtags are monitored for “engagement” by the marketing team to see who clicked through to a particular landing page. Service teams should be equally vigilant, however, because customers have no qualms about using such hashtags as a way of framing their questions or complaints. It’s like throwing the company’s slogan back at them when you feel they’re not living up to it.

Don’t just limit yourself to your own hashtags, though. Think about the hashtags that are specific to the industry or even the roles you target. Do you sell to chief financial officers? Keep a watch on #CFOs. Selling into retail? Hashtags could include everything from #fashion and #food to many other possibilities. These may not uncover any specific service issues for your firm, but they could give the company a deeper insight into the levels of service customers will expect it to meet.

2. Product Names

Customers don’t always think in terms of corporations. They think in terms of the items they buy and use, so leaving out those details will make social listening efforts inadequate.

Think about a company called Industrial Vacuum Corp. that makes a product called the DustDestroyer. You’re far more likely to hear someone making an angry comment about their DustDestroyer than a formal mention of Industrial Vacuum Corp. This is even more likely in a B2B context, where certain products have a special branding and marketing effort all their own. It may be worth listening for social conversations about an entire product category, especially if you serve a really defined niche.

3. Leadership Names

It might seem like eavesdropping, at first, to look on social media to see what people are saying about your CEO or other senior team member. In many cases, though, those leaders are responsible for articulating the firm’s vision and values, which can deeply influence the kind of first impression customers will have once they actually interact with the company.

The last thing customer service agents will want is to be caught unaware when the company has behaved in a way that seems to contradict or undermine something the CEO has said in the media or at a conference. Given that many senior leaders are expected to be more public than ever before and sharing “thought leadership” about their organization, their impact will be reflected as sharply on social media as it would anywhere else.

4. Industry Events and Keywords

Social listening is about getting a real sense of what matters to people based on what they’re willing to say in a very public online forum. That can really help customer service teams that want to be more proactive about potential issues.

If your firm is serving the healthcare sector, for instance, it might make sense to monitor for conversations around common phrases that reflect a big focus area for customers, like “patient-centered health.” If there are major changes to regulations or other events in the sector, you’ll want to follow those too, because they could change the way products are used and where customer service teams will be asked to assist.

5. Nicknames

This is a little awkward, but some companies are routinely referred to by monikers that make the marketing department cringe. This has been true of car companies, oil companies and firms in a host of other sectors. The fact that someone might use an unflattering nickname on social media may already indicate what they’re going through from a service perspective, while a large volume of comments with a nickname could indicate a wider trend in terms of sentiment.

There are also nicknames (usually a little more light-hearted and friendly) that companies give themselves, especially if their official name is long or hard to remember.  If these nicknames stick, customers are apt to use them on social media too, and keeping watch on them will ensure those nicknames never take on a more negative connotation.

Of course, no matter what you monitor as part of your social listening strategy, what really matters to customers is how you act on that information. Make sure those details become as clear and concise as anything you could find on Twitter or Facebook, and you’ll know the work you’re doing with Service Cloud is bound to pay off.

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