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What Is Social Listening?

Many prominent companies rely on social listening as an effective model for audience research, customer service and customer relationship development. Social listening focuses on solving problems and building relationships by recognizing that customer interactions and conversations can reveal the bigger picture of what’s happening with a brand, its competitors and market trends. This understanding enables businesses to fine-tune activities like customer service, marketing and even product development to be more responsive, personalized and effective.

Simply put, social listening is a specific way of paying attention. It entails hearing, speaking and responding to customers in a more nuanced fashion that reflects their own ideas, concerns and interests. It is also about understanding customer sentiment toward a brand and how that may influence their positive or negative relationship with the brand.

Social listening is among the many marketing tactics and strategies aspiring professionals can study in a quality Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. Northwest Missouri State University (Northwest) offers a specialized, 100% online MBA in Marketing program for working professionals interested in developing expertise in social listening and other forms of advanced marketing communication and strategy. Students can complete Northwest’s marketing MBA in as few as 12-18 months, helping them put the skills and knowledge they gain to work as quickly as possible.

Listening Is Good for Business

Social listening is most commonly practiced on social media. Given the number of negative customer service incidents that go viral online each year, it’s clear that many businesses are still learning how to listen. Unfortunately, they often learn the hard way. Social media multiplies the impact of all types of customer interactions, and businesses that are active listeners are better prepared to respond to complaints and sustain brand loyalty.

Social listening is more proactive than reactive, however. It often involves tracking online conversations around a brand, issue or industry — even down to the words, phrases, expressions and hashtags people use to communicate with each other — to get a bird’s-eye view of brand health or satisfaction. Plus, conversational analytics and vast datasets of customer information are more accessible than ever in the era of AI innovation, as are the tools marketing professionals can use to connect with customers and personalize the customer experience.

The targeted use of software rooted in AI technologies like natural language processing and machine learning can help professionals magnify their ability to listen across social media platforms for trending keywords, topics related to a brand or the types of information fans of the brand share and retweet. Coupling this wealth of aggregated information and advanced analysis with personal connections and deeper-level communication can help businesses stay ahead of the curve as they develop and market new products or services to meet emerging demand.

Here are some other examples of how companies are using social listening:

  • To gain insight on what consumers like or dislike about a brand
  • To seize opportunities for sharing user-generated content that features or relates to the brand
  • To engage with potential influencers or brand ambassadors
  • To assess and analyze common pain points for the brand’s audience
  • To gauge audience interest in or sentiment toward the competition
  • To evaluate consumer interest in new products or a product line expansion
  • To anticipate future customer needs and wants
  • To establish a bond with customers based on their location or cultural touchstones
  • To provide timely responses to hot topics or trending issues
  • To enable quick turnaround on customer service issues
  • To collect ideas for marketing campaigns

Relationships Matter: Marketing and Customer Service Strategies

When a business de-prioritizes the essential work of listening to the customer on social media or otherwise, it loses sight of its most important relationship and asset. Social listening can serve as a form of collaboration between businesses and their customers.

Social listening and AI-powered chatbots can also alleviate the need to delegate listening and response functions to the customer service escalation chain of the call center model. AI-powered chatbots can expedite what used to be painfully slow customer service experiences, providing immediate answers to simple questions while directing the customer rapidly to representatives who can address more complex inquiries with expertise. This combination of AI- and people-powered social listening and communication can augment and enhance the customer service experience.

The information social listening provides can also give businesses a competitive edge in building customer loyalty. A business that’s truly listening can reflect back the care and attention a brand receives from its audience by communicating with customers on their own terms, even in their own language. In an age where consumers increasingly demand quick and professional customer service delivered via Facebook, Instagram, Threads and X (formerly known as Twitter), the ability to personalize these interactions can make the difference between a customer for now and a customer forever.

Learn more about Northwest’s online MBA in Marketing program.

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