5 steps to starting a social listening practice
by Nate Stedman on October 23, 2023
In today's digital age, businesses and brands are constantly seeking innovative ways to connect with their audiences and gain a competitive edge. One such powerful strategy is social listening. If your team is exploring ways to provide more value, and use data to make better decisions, starting a social listening practice can be a game-changer. In this guide, we'll explore the ins and outs of launching your social listening practice, from defining your goals to delivering actionable insights.
Step one: Quantify the impact of social listening
Before you dive into the world of social listening, it's essential to define your objectives and how they align with your company’s overall goals. Budgets today are heavily scrutinized, and being able to show your leadership the impact of social listening now and in the future will be instrumental in establishing and maintaining a healthy practice.
You can think about this as Time + Money = Impact. Regarding time, consider past projects where social data was collected manually along with turnaround times for other research methods like survey completion. Money can be the costs associated with hours worked, pitches lost, projects left unfinished, and/or the costs of larger research projects that could have been answered with social listening. Try to quantify these costs as much as possible.
This information will help identify your most important use cases for social listening, as well as how it impacts your business.
Here are some additional questions that can help quantify impact:
- What important decisions did you make this year as a business that could have been informed by social data?
- How often are you asked to provide some type of social listening or reporting?
- Do your stakeholders ask for any similar types of insights?
- How much time do you spend today doing this type of work by hand?
For more ideas on use cases and how social listening can add value, here are the top 10 ways we see clients using Infegy.
Step two: What social data matters most
Once you have a solid understanding of how social listening can impact your organization, it’s time to look at the potential data to analyze and what tools might make sense to help you be more effective.
Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought regarding the best way to use social data, which can be defined as “monitoring” and “listening”.
With a monitoring approach, you will need to know the topics, brands, industries, and accounts that you want to track before you begin collecting data. Monitoring is a great way to ensure that you see every single mention of your brand or handle for PR, community management, and crisis management. If your organization works in multiple industries or has several sub-brands and competitive sets to track, taking a monitoring approach can be frustrating and costly. Additionally, historical data for trend analysis with a monitoring tool is rare, because your monitors will be set up only from the moment you request them forward. You might also miss trends your audience organically creates where your brand is associated but not directly mentioned.
With the social listening approach, especially with a tool like Infegy Atlas, you have an all-you-can-eat approach with unlimited searches across multiple social channels and more flexibility to deliver highly specific insights. Common use cases include consumer and audience insights, trends, industry analysis, and competitive intelligence. If your organization intends to use social media data to make better business decisions, social listening is the best fit for you.
Step three: Select your toolset
Once you have a better understanding of your most important use cases and the data you will need to be effective, you can begin to consider what tools and resources will be most helpful.
As of October 2023, the user review site G2 lists 264 different software platforms within the social media analytics category, which includes both monitoring and listening tools. That’s a lot to research!
Sites like G2 can help you narrow down your search based on what market segment you’re in, the capabilities you’re looking for, and of course the user ratings. We’re pretty proud of ours here at Infegy!
Another avenue to help narrow down your search is to ask colleagues what they recommend. Most marketers, advertisers, and research pros will have experience working with social media data and can help by sharing their experience.
If you’re looking for more pointers on what to look for in a social listening platform - check this out.
Step four: Know the value of your social listening practice
Remember the impacts that we outlined in step one? If you weren’t able to quantify them during your initial business case, you’re not alone. Sadly, this is a common hiccup that can wind up stopping your practice in its tracks because of the perception that social listening is a cost-center. Make sure you set yourself up for long term success by tracking the effectiveness of your new program. Distilling the impact of social listening projects down to dollars and cents can make technology decisions easy and budget approvals stress-free.
Below we’ve outlined the most common ways our clients track success.
Tracking your social listening projects based on analyst hours billed/saved is a common practice in the agency and consulting space, because it allows you to protect your time. If you have the right social listening tool in place, you can automate many of your ongoing projects and reporting to increase revenue.
You can think about this both in terms of work hours saved with technology, as well as hourly revenue generated.
Usage or project based
This is a solid option for any type of business looking to incorporate social listening long term. The most common way to quantify this is to assign a percentage to each project in which social listening contributes.
For example, let's say you’re a marketing strategist and your social listening insights made up 50% of the reports delivered to your product & marketing team. Your work enabled better product decisions and targeting for the Gen Z audience, which saw a 5x growth in customer acquisition this year.
Calculating the value added across your annual projects can be eye-opening and help you make the case for growing your team or technology spend if needed.
If you have a large team of stakeholders that need real-time reports to keep them up to speed on trends and events, you can look at their engagement with the reports as a way to gauge impact. Most good social listening platforms will have the capability to look at user-based stats and show you how often your reports were viewed and interacted with throughout the year.
If your tool doesn’t generate reports like this, give us a shout. 😉
Did your social listening tools allow you to reduce spending with other more costly research and insights products like large surveys? How much time did you save yourself and others on your team? How much time did you save reducing project turnaround times?
Step five: Scaling your social listening practice
If you’ve made it this far, you’re likely looking at year two of social listening and the potential to grow even more. It is incredibly important to understand that the steps above should be repeated every year, because the world of social media is constantly evolving.
Use-cases that you thought were limited by last year could make a huge impact this year. New tools and technology could make your current processes even more efficient. Your data team may be interested in leveraging API data from your tools to improve their processes.
Now you can begin to consider things like hiring new staff to support the practice, seeking out industry events and workshops for ideas and PR opportunities, and further refining your methodology to support a wider group of employees or industries.
Launching a social listening practice is an exciting venture that can add tremendous value to your organization. By defining clear goals, choosing the right tools, and crafting a data-driven strategy, you can provide actionable insights that drive marketing success. Remember, social listening is an ongoing process, and staying committed to continuous growth and communication is key to long-term success in this field. Embrace the power of social listening, and watch your team thrive in the digital age.
If you are building out a social listening practice, make sure to schedule a demo with us to see Infegy Atlas.