Social media listening and its importance to your firm

Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram

Customers are seeking support via social media platforms. Smart companies are keen to capture customer insights from these everyday conversations.

Photo credit: Lionel Bonaventure | AFP

What are our customers saying across the different social media platforms? Are we listening?

Over the last decade, customer interactions through social media have grown exponentially. Many of them use multiple social media outlets to interact with brands before, during, and after a purchase.

Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, media sharing platforms such as YouTube, review sites such as TripAdvisor, and discussion forums such as Quora and our local Wazua are all part of networks.

Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp are the top three most used social platforms globally. Hootsuite, a social media management platform, analyses the social media platforms' active users and their reach.

According to Hootsuite, for example, Facebook has 2.9 billion monthly active users, WhatsApp has two billion, and YouTube has a 2.515 billion global reach. In Kenya, social media usage has tripled in the last nine years, from 3.6 million to 11.8 million, according to Statista.com.

Thousands of customers are interacting via social media networks. They are talking both publicly and within closed groups. These customers are having conversations with one another, and they are also sharing their thoughts and concerns directly with businesses.

Customer insights

Customers are seeking support via social media platforms. Some customers express delight, while others express disgruntlement online. Smart companies are keen to capture customer insights from these everyday conversations. Some have social media listening strategies and special tools.

Is your business interacting directly with customers via social media platforms? Are you monitoring mentions and sentiments? Are responses to marketing campaigns followed through? Both marketers and customer experience professionals are keen on social media listening. 

While marketers may go beyond the business to industry mentions and conversations relating to competitors and marketing campaign outcomes, customer experience professionals are keener on insights that relate to existing or potential customers.

Most experience management platforms and some customer relationship management systems have customer feedback analytics capabilities that include social media listening. Stand-alone tools can be integrated into social media sites to analyse the conversations.

Social media listening helps us gain a deeper and better understanding of how our customers think and feel. Both as market research and a customer experience strategy, social media listening or social media sentiment analysis is a must-have for businesses that have an online presence. It is not enough to know how many mentions a business has.

What is even more important is the tone of the mentions and the reactions to gauge the customers' emotions. Real-time social media listening makes businesses aware of emerging issues and helps them take action before a potential crisis.

For example, if there is an increase in engagement and the mentions are largely negative, a root cause analysis can help determine the action to be taken immediately and the messaging to go out.

By embracing social media listening, smart companies are better positioned to win in the marketplace.

Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy

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