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Social Listening: How To Understand Your Target Market Using Social Media

Kimberly Francisco
November 23, 2020

Social listening is becoming more important in today’s climate. With a global pandemic keeping us home, people are moving online to stay connected, shop, order food and be entertained.

A survey by Kantar found that social media usage increased by almost half in a ten-day period since governments across the world started implementing nation-wide lockdowns due to Covid-19.

As more people turn to social media, it is important for brands to tune in to what their customers are saying. Social listening can help you understand the evolving behaviours of your target audience in real-time and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

But what is social listening? 

Social listening is about collecting data from social media channels for keywords, topics or feedback that are important to your brand. When you know what your target audience is interested in, you are more equipped to respond promptly and appropriately to their concerns.

(Hubspot, 2018)

It is a two-part strategy that requires you first to track what your audience is saying on social media then take action on insights gained. Without analysis and action, you are just doing social media monitoring. It is what you do with the information that makes social listening different.

How can you use social listening to understand your target audience?

People tend to speak their mind on social media. By listening to what they are saying, you can gain authentic feedback on what your customers really think, say or feel about your brand.

Social listening tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Brandwatch can now capture these data and provide valuable insights into consumer feedback, behaviour and trends. Here’s how to use social listening to understand your target market better.

1. Gauge customer sentiment about your brand

Figuring out social media sentiment, or the mood behind a social post, can be tedious. However, social listening tools have made it easier. 

Algorithms or filters are used to generate dashboard reports that gauge sentiments behind each social mention, categorizing them into positive, negative or neutral ones. 

This lets marketers gather real-time insights and reporting about rising concerns, tensions or positive and negative brand perceptions that signal if a brand is doing something right or wrong.

For example, Nintendo released Animal Crossing: New Horizons early because fans were asking for it on Twitter. With people being forced to stay home, fans of the game were hoping for an early release. Through social listening, Nintendo was able to identify this sense of growing restlessness.

Nintendo’s response to release the game ahead of schedule put them at the top of the list of brands that consumers have praised for their efforts around Covid-19. Their action was viewed so favourably by fans worldwide, it boosted brand conversation by a whopping 5038%!

Thanks to social listening tools, Nintendo was able to gain valuable, real-time customer insights and were able to respond promptly, earning them phenomenal brand perception.

(Brandwatch, 2020)

2. Initiate meaningful conversations

As more people engage with brands online, social listening can help you initiate meaningful conversations with your target audience. By finding out what they care about, your brand can take a stand on issues that matter to them.

Customers like it when brands respond and show that they are honest, friendly, helpful and funny. Of course, when you do shout out about something, do it authentically. The manner that you do it in has to fit your brand personality. 

(Sprout Social, 2017)

One brand that gets it right is Nike. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, Nike responded with a new ad that acknowledged systemic racism, particularly against the Black community in America. 

“For once, don’t do it” read their tagline, tweaking their famous slogan in a bid to support the Black Lives Movement. This ad was congruent with #BlackoutTuesday, a social media trend where people started posting plain black images as a way of showing their support.

This was a significant move by Nike, where they saw the opportunity to use a social media trend to take a stand. It was also tastefully done and aligned well with their brand image.

Their ad on YouTube has since garnered more than 800,000 views and people have commended them for it. Adidas even retweeted their ad in a show of solidarity.

Social listening has helped brands like Nike pick up on a trending issue and how they can lend their voices to it. If done right, your brand message can come through powerfully and be well received by the masses.

However, if you are just “doing it for the ‘gram” (aka for the sake of social views and likes), take a note from Nike and don’t do it.

3. Social listening is for everyone

Social listening is expanding beyond the marketing team. It provides valuable insights for the whole company including departments such as consumer insights, product and even sales. 

Take for example, Ben & Jerry’s. 

Ice cream is often thought of as the perfect food for hot weather. Using a social listening tool, Ben & Jerry’s scoured their social channels for any mentions around their products. What they discovered was that sales surprisingly spiked more on a rainy day

This puzzling insight actually made sense once they realized that the kind of posts that they were mentioned in showed people eating ice cream while binge-watching Netflix during a rainstorm.   

Realizing this helped them pivot their marketing strategy to target this new audience set that they had previously ignored. But marketing was not the only one to alter their messaging.

The product team also used this insight to create a new ice cream flavour called “Netflix & Chill’d”. Without social listening, Ben & Jerry’s might have missed this amazing opportunity.

By listening to what your target audience is saying on social media, you can gain important insights into customer behaviour and trending topics that your brand can leverage on. Social listening helps you monitor social sentiment around your brand and if done right, can reap remarkable benefits when you are able to turn those customer insights into an effective marketing plan.

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