Although social media listening is a top trend, it should be part of every modern marketing strategy. Staying attuned to customers and competitors alike keeps brands ahead of the game.
This is one of Yuva Abdoulie Fula’s chief concerns. He founded The Plug, a digital marketing and music distribution agency. He keeps his ear on more than the latest hits, which he described during an Africa Tweet Chat.
“Social media listening is the process of monitoring digital conversations to understand what customers are saying about a brand and industry online,” Fula said.
“There’s often some confusion around what social media listening is, and it often gets mixed up with social media monitoring,” he said. “While they are somewhat similar and work best together, the two shouldn’t be used interchangeably.”
The object, as with all marketing, is to keep the customer in mind.
“Tracking mentions and notifications is key to an effective engagement strategy,” Fula said. “However, analyzing the context and larger trends around those conversations through social listening can give you valuable insight to better speak to and serve your target audience.”
At the same time, social media listening has drawbacks. Fula notes the most common pain points:
- Inaccurate sentiment analysis.
- Inability to analyze posts with access restrictions.
- Image monitoring.
- Pricing plans that cost an arm and a leg.
“I’m concerned about sentiment analysis,” Fula said. “It is still difficult for a vast majority of tools to precisely evaluate what truly is a negative, neutral and positive statement.
“I am not quite sure about the mechanics behind it, but at the moment it’s not advanced enough,” he said.
Analyzing posts with access restrictions also perplexes Fula.
“This is something many people would be against,” he said. “Businesses, on the other hand, would benefit from reaching such mentions, which would give them a clearer picture of how they are perceived by non-public groups and communities online.
“For most of the social media monitoring companies, though, it hasn’t become commonplace yet,” Fula said. “However, with images becoming the dominant kind of content online for the last couple of years, we’ll surely see social media monitoring tools implement solutions about it.”
As he explained, most monitoring tools work by crawling sites continuously and indexing them. Some are crawled in real time, such as Twitter. Other sites might be crawled less often — every 10 minutes, or every day if they are less important.
“Some tools, like us, do this crawling themselves,” Fula said. “Others use data providers. We’ll let you guess which of those options we think is better.”
He’s ambivalent about the ethics of social media monitoring.
“It can be argued as both ethical and unethical,” Fula said. “It all depends upon who is monitoring, why you are monitoring and how you are monitoring. If monitoring is used as a way to monitor what’s being said about the company or brand, that’s ethical.”
He offered simple steps to deal with negative feedback from clients:
- Listen carefully. Stopping a problem in its tracks — and building lasting relationships — starts with social listening.
- Be human, be transparent and never go negative.
- Respond publicly before moving to a private conversation.
- Know when to engage — and when not to.
Conversely, Fula has ways to respond if audience feedback is generally positive:
- Take advantage of free tools.
- Respond to strategic missteps in real time.
- Boost your competitor intelligence.
- Engage your biggest fans.