When it comes to brands on social media, one of the most common mistakes made is not listening to their social following. Many brands choose to promote content and chat via these channels, without having a strong understanding of what their audience’s preferences and interests actually are.

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In short, social listening is a way brands can monitor conversations being held on social channels, in order to identify opportunities to develop, promote and participate in the discussions through engagement.

KLM airlines are a great example of a company that has successfully tapped into social listening. The Dutch airlines success through social media was brought about through the volcanic cloud crisis back in 2010. Many stranded travellers took to Twitter and Facebook at the time of the ash cloud and KLM jumped at the opportunity to listen and answer any relevant queries.

Viktor van der Wijk, director of Air France KLM, has being quoted stating that KLM can now identify passengers’ experiences at check in, in the lounge and when they are collecting bags. Any issues with these areas are then immediately dealt with using social channels.

To enable this form of customer engagement, brands must be able to identify specific keywords and phrases relevant to their business. For example, with Pepsi, keywords would consist of “soda, fizzy drink, soft drink etc. Likewise, if you were a service offering company, you may want to monitor conversations surrounding the area your service is in; consequently allowing you to provide your expert input and reach out to the individuals in need of help or advice.

The second part of social listening is influencer identification and connection. Brands must identify people in their industry that hold a lot of influence. Accordingly, reaching out to these people opens up your brand to maximum exposure on social channels.

Using Hootsuite for Conversational Listening

Hootsuite is a great tool for tapping into and monitoring topical conversations on social media feeds. Below I will demonstrate an easy guide on how you can set up your own streams of keywords and phrases.

  1. Identify the specific search terms that you feel are relevant to your industry and ultimately your brand.
  2. Open up a new tab in Hootsuite and name it something like “Conversations”.

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  1. Create separate streams for each search term or phrase you would like to monitor.
  2. Click on “add stream” in your new tab. You can then select which social network you would like to monitor. I would suggest monitoring either twitter or google+ as these channels will bring up the entirety of search results, not just people you had previous connections with.
  3. Once on the page displayed below, enter keywords that you would like to monitor. As you can see, I have used the Pepsi example again. To search for a specific phrase that is more than one word, enter the term in speech marks to ensure the exact results show up.

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  1. Click “add stream” and you will now have a flow of conversation and mentions surrounding the keywords you have chosen.
  2. You can also use the “quick search” feature (displayed below) in the top right corner of the dashboard to search for specific terms; once you have identified a certain term, you can click “save as stream” and this will save the specific term into your existing stream.

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Once you have the stream set up, you can refine the results based on an abundance of factors such as location and Klout score.

Influencer Search

As mentioned previously, it is just as important to monitor and connect with your influencers as it is your customers. Connecting with influencers is a great way of establishing business relationships, gaining industry insight and increasing your own exposure.

Using the same “quick search” method as previously mentioned, but changing the search filter to “twitter users”, you can type in an influencer’s name, open up their bio and see if they are worth adding to your lists or stream. Alternatively, you can search for topical debates and evaluate who seems to be of importance and add them to your stream that way.

Once you have a separate stream full of industry influencers, I would recommend starting to focus on relationship building. Comment on their posts, recommend content to them and start debates, as these are great ways to get noticed and establish a relationship with an influencer.

Don’t wait for a crisis to start monitoring your social feeds. Make sure you are checking your streams on a regular basis and are keeping up to date with industry conversation and customer preferences.

One last point to mention; remember you don’t just have to use this search for industry keywords or influencers; you can also enter your own agency name into the search terms, in order to see who is talking about you. This will bring up anything that has mentioned your name in a tweet, not just when your twitter handle has been used, making the customer service element of your organisation much more efficient.