Once upon a time a marketing and communication strategist had to look outwards to try to figure out what their customers were thinking, feeling or believing about their brand. As our environment became more digital, social media allowed us not only to open more communication channels, but to understand our audience’s perceptions and values by doing something as simple as listening.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that social listening has a certain level of complexity, but learning how to do it delivers valuable insights about our market, competitors, audience, and the performance of our content. It also improves our capabilities to prevent incidents or crises that could damage the reputation of our brand.

It is possible to know the pulse of the conversations around our brand in real- time, in addition to the the impact of our owned, paid, and earned media, to discover which concepts or companies have a shared interest with us, and even understand the needs we haven’t met  by listening to what our audiences have to say.  They are constantly leaving hints through their digital behaviour, and we must incorporate tools to analyze the conversations and translate them into actions. 

There are several options in the market, from free tools to sophisticated software with AI. Choosing the best for you depends on the maturity level of your company, the purpose, and the metrics that will be considered. My recommendation, based on personal experience, and the data presented by Statista, is to have more than one listening solution. 

According to a survey carried out by Statista in 2019, 56% of responding public relations professionals from Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela said they used more than one social listening tool, because the tools used different data sources and tested different capabilities.

Beyond monitoring the performance of your digital campaigns, listening tools can contribute to the decision making process of the leadership team, it doesn’t matter if you are a designer who is building a new brand or an international fashion company, it is important to know what is happening outside your chamber of echo.   

How to Add Value to Your Social Listening Habits:

  •  Find Insights

Trend analysis on emerging themes is the most used feature for PR professionals in Latin America. According to Statista’s survey, this information by itself might not make a difference, but with the proper analysis creates a broader spectrum of possibilities, and also challenges your messaging, actions and plans. There are signs preceding every major change or emerging issue, the opportunity relies on those who take the time to notice them. 

These insights have a much deeper impact than just adjusting your social media strategy, they might help you reset your business strategy, alliances or even expansion plans. 

For example, Socialbakers’ report Retail In Latin America, shows that retail is the category with more Facebook interactions in the region, similarly, on Instagram we find that fashion, e-commerce, and retail are the top three categories. The same report finds that on both platforms,live videos are the type of content with more organic engagement. If we consider an additional layer of data, such as  the most used words in your category or sentiment, we start to dig deeper and create new links. 

  • Protect and Enhance Reputation. 

Reputation is one of the most valuable assets for a company, it doesn’t matter if it’s a luxury company or an independent custom-made brand. It takes a lot of time, consistency, and intention to create a good reputation, and only one mishandled crisis to tear it down. 

Social listening is crucial to prevent incidents, since it sets alerts for controversial conversations and crisis management in times when it’s crucial to communicate, contain, and counteract. I remember several cases in Mexico, where  retail brands were in the middle of a crisis that could have been handled better if they had a preventive approach to listening. 

In times where controversy and trolling are part of our daily occurrence, it’s also important to be able to identify if the negative conversations come from real profiles or if it’s part of some sort of campaign. This sets the tone of the messaging strategy, resolution plan, and future actions. 

  • Create Better Connections

Do you remember Mel Gibson’s movie What a Girl Wants? The main character creates an extraordinary ad campaign after getting the super power of reading female minds. Making a pretty basic analogy, we might consider social listening to be the transformation of that super power into a technological solution.

Our success depends on how much we create valuable connections with our audience. They want to hear from us, but they want us to be socially aware, to have consistent values, to give back to the community, to become agents of change. How do I know that? By listening to what their conversations, shares, likes, are saying to me. 

Industry reports are quite helpful, however, if you set up a daily, weekly or monthly habit of analyzing the valuable information inside the listening platforms of your choice, you don’t have to wait until they are published.  Set up the keywords, accounts, topics,and time frame you are interested in and start doing the next best thing to reading minds.