This article was updated in March 2022.
Social listening consists of three main steps: monitoring, analyzing, and taking action. All of them are essential to any effective social listening plan. Skimping out on one makes the other two less impactful.
You should always be monitoring and collecting information on your brand, product, and relevant keywords. It’s a good idea to keep tabs on your competitors, as well. But collecting data is only part of the equation. You’ll need to analyze the data, looking at social media sentiment and identifying trends over time.
After both of those steps, you’re ready to take action. That action can be a simple response to a Twitter user, or it could be re-tooling your brand messaging entirely.
The benefits of social listening are plentiful, too. You’ll get real-time insights from your customers, discover pain points, and build new sales opportunities.
Not sure where to start? Get inspired by these seven companies who use social listening to their advantage.
Netflix socks for when Netflix and chill becomes Netflix and snooze
How many times have you turned on Netflix, planning to watch a single episode of your favorite show before bed? But soon, one episode of, say, Schitt’s Creek becomes the entire first season. You also fell in and out of sleep throughout the last few episodes. By the next morning, you’ve forgotten where you left off and what you actually watched.
Netflix knows this is an all too common tale, so it developed a solution: Netflix socks. These aren’t just your typical cutesy footwear, though. These socks serve a genuine purpose. Should you fall asleep while watching Netflix, your snoozing body will send a signal to your socks. When they do, Netflix will pause the current episode so you don’t miss a single second.
For hands-on Netflix users, the company offers step-by-step instructions for creating these socks on your own. Not only are you getting caught up on your latest shows, you’re also learning practical knowledge to apply in the real world. Win-win all around!
The Takeaway: Social listening helps you understand how your customers are using your products. If you can solve a pain point, they’ll be much more likely to spread your message.
Bud Light crowdsources its Super Bowl commercial promotion
Bud Light is no stranger to the Super Bowl, so it needs to find new ways to creatively deliver an impact during the big game. After all, the $5.6 million cost of a commercial isn’t cheap! Rather than simply launch a commercial on Super Bowl Sunday, Bud Light sought the advice of its fans:
Throughout the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Bud Light encouraged users to vote on their favorite Post Malone commercial, choosing between #POSTYSTORE and #POSTYBAR. Both ads featured similar themes of taking a trip inside the rapper’s head, controlled by an Inside Out-esque crew of face-tattooed helpers. For example, his “taste buds” were a group of locked-arm wrestling bros, and his spleen was sadly left out of any major bodily decisions.
Post Malone got in on the fun, too, retweeting and engaging with Bud Light and voters. The day of the Super Bowl, the winning commercial aired (spoiler alert in case you missed the game: #POSTYSTORE won). By then, millions of people had already seen not one, but two ads. Bud Light got a lot more exposure than one television commercial, and its fans had a lot more fun contributing to the final result.
The Takeaway: Your fans want your brand to succeed, so use them as a resource. If you’re deciding between two products to roll out, include them in your newsletter and have them share which one they prefer. You can even get more granular—take to social media and let your fans weigh in on your next blog post or podcast episode topic.
Samsung embraces an influencer partnership
Influencer marketing is nothing new, which means companies are often reinventing how they partner with key players in their space. Jay-Z’s 2013 album Magna Carta Holy Grail changed the way the recording industry counts its sales. That was due to a clever partnership with Samsung. The rapper and electronics company teamed up to tease the album by releasing a commercial during the NBA Finals.
While everyone had access to that commercial, Samsung users were treated to extra bonuses. In the weeks leading up to the album’s release, Jay-Z shared lyrics on a Samsung app on the new (at the time) Samsung Galaxy. Those app users also received the album for free, days before the commercial release.
The result? A million free downloads and 528,000 copies sold in the first week. Magna Carta Holy Grail had already received platinum status before it even came out, and it debuted as number one on the Billboard 200 charts.
The Takeaway: Partnering with an influencer can help bring your product in front of more people, and social listening can help you identify who might be a good fit. For smaller brands, micro and nano influencers can be a perfect solution—and they often provide more ROI than traditional influencers.
Pepsi proves the power of A/B testing
Emojis are quickly becoming a part of everyday communication. Beyond their standard usage in texts and social media posts, emojis can be found in email subject lines, on the big screen, and…on bottles of Pepsi?
The #SayItWithPepsi campaign introduced 200 different Pepsi Emoji bottles, serving up soda for just about every mood. Pepsi and Walgreens ran an influencer campaign, creating “social shops,” where the influencers’ fans had a clear call to action: head to Walgreens or Duane Reade stores and purchase these cool new Pepsi bottles.
The work didn’t stop after reaching out to the influencers, however. During the campaign, Pepsi influencer agency Carusele analyzed every piece of content, whether it was a blog, Instagram post, tweet, or video. The top performing content was syndicated to 40 secondary influencers, who still targeted Pepsi’s key demographics while using content that had already proven to be effective.
The #SayItWithPepsi campaign received over 46 million impressions and 50,000 engagements. Combined share of voice for Walgreens and Pepsi more than doubled and overall mentions of Pepsi Emoji rose by 677 percent.
The Takeaway: Whenever you run a digital campaign, keep an eye on how your content is performing. Certain posts will likely get higher engagement, just as specific newsletter subject lines may result in more opened emails. Doubling down on what’s working best leads to more effective campaigns.
Wendy’s gets a little salty
Wendy’s is well known for its terrific Twitter feed, and it’s able to keep track of conversations thanks to monitoring its social channels and dishing out quick response times to people contacting them. The brand has been a champion of social listening for more than a decade, even when they’re not mentioned at all.
Back in 2010, Wendy’s debuted its new fries, which were “natural cut with sea salt.” It was the first time in the company’s 41-year history that they gave their fries a complete redesign. A big catalyst for the change was Wendy’s listening to conversations its customers were having. Wendy’s noticed there was more positive sentiment around sea salt, while good ol’ fashioned salt had more detractors.
Wendy’s took that information to heart and revitalized its fries, unveiling the new menu item to the delight of fans everywhere, despite the fact the “upgraded” fries actually contained more sodium.
The Takeaway: Positive conversations may not mention a company name directly, but they can still prove beneficial. Through social listening, you can discover sentiment around related topics and long tail keywords, which can turn into growth opportunities for your brand.
Starbucks becomes more photogenic
If your product has a strong visual component to it, you may be featured in pictures across the web. Some social listening tools have image recognition technology, giving them the ability to identify brand logos. Up to 80 percent of images don’t mention the brand in text, so this is a great way to capture mentions you may have otherwise missed.
For example, Talkwalker keeps track of Starbucks visual mentions.
Companies like Starbucks can capture image data from online, social, television, and print sources. That intel allows them to keep tabs on both themselves and their closest competitors, identifying trends and sentiment around their products.
The Takeaway: Text doesn’t always tell the whole story. Brands making use of image recognition can receive an added boost in their social listening efforts.
Tylenol discovers an unknown audience
Typically, pharmaceutical brands know that most people using its products are doing so because of some kind of pain or symptom they’re looking to treat. One of the main uses of Tylenol is to ease the pain and discomfort of migraines.
Through its social listening research, Tylenol found that a surprisingly large number of knitters were complaining of migraines. Migraine treatments were also a common subject on knitting messaging boards and forums. While the hobby provides comfort, it also produces strain on people’s eyes, resulting in migraines after prolonged knitting time.
Tylenol took these results to heart, adjusting its SEO and marketing strategies to include this newfound audience group. It led to an increase in website traffic, introducing more eyes to the company’s products and benefits.
The Takeaway: Social listening can show you trends in conversations can lead you to new audience segments. One blip may be a coincidence, but continuous chatter on forums and across social media is often a sign of a group you should be monitoring and engaging.