Social Listening: Recognizing the Ways that We Listen Online

A modern norm when beginning to establish a relationship is typically to connect online using social media. We meet someone and this person becomes a potential professional networking contact, new friend, or even a romantic interest. Before deciding to pursue the relationship further, we often find ourselves compelled to take a casual glance at their Facebook page or check out their LinkedIn profile. In some cases, we might even meet people virtually and maintain a relationship with them exclusively online, having never met them “IRL” (in real life). We participate in this behavior because we want to learn more about the others’ lives, and social media allow us to do so with great ease and convenience. In essence, these platforms allow us to listen in on countless conversation of those we are connected to; and this activity of social listening helps us to gain access to a wealth of personal information.

Social listening is not limited to interpersonal interactions. Today, countless brands and businesses have the opportunity to use social media as well. As the presence of businesses, companies, and institutions increases within the social landscape, this environment provides an outlet for marketing research that far exceeds previous capabilities. In the past, organizations had to rely on methods such as surveys and focus groups to learn about their consumers, and often these results were limited. The reach of the studies was minimal, and the result only yielded information about the consumer and their relationship to the product or service directly. Today with social media, there is an opportunity to learn about the consumer as a whole being instead of only understanding the segment that relates to the brand itself. In addition, organizations can now learn more about their entire community of consumers and the specific subgroups that exist within a given community, and create messages and strategize accordingly.

Organizations can use social listening for several key purposes. According to Social Bakers, Social Listening contributes to social media strategy, reputation management, productive development, competitive insights, setting benchmarks and evaluating measurement, and influencer capability. David Kerpen, author of Likeable Social Media, states there are many benefits of social listening. These include the stage that social media sets up for companies to have a front-row seat to the “spontaneous chatter” of their consumers. Along with ease of consumer insight, social listening affords casual and cost-effective competitive surveillance. Brands can receive real-time feedback on new ideas and uncover new opportunities among their community members; simultaneously, organizations can learn more about consumers and what is important to them beyond their connection to the brand, product, or service (Kerpen, 2015).

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