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Social Listening & Why It's Important

July 21, 2021.
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Social listening has become a valuable tool for brands to gather rich insights on their customers, competitors, and even themselves. Due to the increasing intelligence and efficiency of online tools, social listening is a process which provides the data used to inform your brand strategy or service offering.

What is social listening and why is it important?

Social listening monitors social media activity, mentions and sentiment. By using social listening, you can easily act on customer interactions with direct contact or by adjusting products or services to reduce brand ‘friction’ in the social media sphere. Social media has become a crucial tool for networking and online discussions. Brands are able to use their online platforms to communicate with customers, track competitor activity and provide responsive customer service. It is, therefore, one of the most useful marketing research tools of the modern day.

The key benefit of social listening is the ability to directly communicate with your customers. A key aim of this is to allow your audience to feel like their views are taken on board. This not only provides valuable insight and feedback for your business, but can also improve customer perceptions of your brand. There is a wide range of digital platforms that are designed to help strategically manage your social listening.

Mobile phone social media notification

What social listening tools are there?

There are a vast number of tools which can help you manage your social listening coherently. Hootsuite allows you to monitor your brands' mentions, conversations and keywords directly as streams which can all be conveniently accessed in one place. However, if you are seeking to gather richer data, Hootsuite Insights delves deeper. Sprout Social offers a comprehensive solution with a unified social inbox. This includes capabilities to uncover trends, brand mentions, keyword tracking and competitor tracking. Synthesio is another social listening tool which delves into finer details by allowing you to flag mentions by demographics, language, mentions and engagements.

What is sentiment analysis?

A particularly useful system to introduce to your social media toolkit is sentiment analysis. This processes natural language to gauge whether the content is positive, neutral or negative. It is also an especially efficient method for analysing customer feedback and reviews.

A key component of sentiment analysis is natural language processing (NLP). This is a variant of artificial intelligence which reads, deciphers and comprehends how humans naturally communicate. Sentiment analysis combines NLP and machine learning to analyse aspects of a sentence such as its emotion, tone and topic.

Despite sentiment analysis facing challenges imposed by the nuances of language, with examples of these being sarcasm, irony, slang and cultural variations. These tools are improving all the time and can be ‘trained’ to identify these grey areas. Sentiment analysis breaks text down into topic chunks, assigning a sentiment score to each on a pre-set scale. This data then provides an overall customer opinion on a set topic, product, service or brand.

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How is sentiment analysis useful for businesses?

Sentiment analysis is useful for being able to help businesses to gauge how their customers feel quickly. This is done by automatically looking through reviews and online conversations and providing you with the data in seconds.

This also benefits your competitor research by providing insight into how customers view other leading businesses in your sector. With grounded insight sourced directly from your audience, you are able to take more informed actions to improve your customer experience.

Popular sentiment analysis tools include Brandwatch, MonkeyLearn and Lexalytics. However, there is a great variety of other options to choose from, catering to specific needs and functions.

Sentiment Analysis Real Life Examples

KFC

Feeling that they needed to reinvent themselves for the modern day, rather than trying to follow what their competitors were doing, KFC used pop culture to drive the brand forward. Their 2019 advertising campaign was centred around RoboCop, even featuring the actor Peter Weller himself.

Due to the nature of the advertisement, KFC saw traction which led to more online customer interaction with the brand, as well as their products. KFC had to ensure that they were monitoring and engaging with customers, as well as analysing their responses to the campaign. Ultimately, the outcome of the campaign produced the results the brand was looking for.

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Expedia Canada

On the contrary, Expedia Canada sought to make amends after receiving a negative response to their infamous winter campaign. The advertisement featured a man browsing winter accessories to the sound of violin-based background music. This was deemed to be unpleasant by viewers and led to a negative response on social media and blogs. As a result of their sentiment analysis, Expedia Canada were able to respond quickly and take the advert down.

Expedia Canada made amends by releasing follow up content displaying the abused violin - this included the original actor breaking the violin. One of the Twitter users who responded negatively was also shown breaking one, enhancing the humorous tone adopted by the brand. What Expedia Canada’s response shows is the ability to take customer feedback onboard and react in a humorous manner to defuse the situation.

Summary

Social listening is an important method for gathering customer insight, particularly when introducing tools such as sentiment analysis to accurately identify how your audience is responding to your brand.

Keeping a watchful eye on your customer base and competitors can help you mitigate situations before they intensify, equipping you to adopt an agile approach in pursuit of an excellent customer experience.

If you are looking for support with your customer research or social media campaigns, please email our customer services team at customerservice@mackman.co.uk.

Dr Gemma Mackman

Dr Gemma Mackman

Research Director

Dr Gemma Mackman is co-founder and Research Director of the Mackman Group. Her professional career has given her a broad knowledge of business practices, an appreciation of good customer service and experience of a diverse range of sectors. Gemma is also a member of the Market Research Society and has completed research training provided by the Economic and Social Research Council.

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