“Social listening combined with verbal communication skills,” says Brand24, “can make you an unstoppable force that’s capable of not only creating awesome social media content that converts but also providing an insightful and rewarding experience for your audience.”

If you’re a small business owner, you know how difficult it is to try and compete against the Targets and  Walmarts of the world. Wouldn’t you love to be an “unstoppable force” in capturing the attention and loyalty of more consumers? Social media can help you achieve that.

In fact, according to Small Business Trends44% of local businesses said they depend on social media to generate brand awareness, and 41% depend on it to drive revenue. Furthermore, at least 1 in 3 Internet users goes on to social networks when looking for more information about a brand or product.

As you can see, social listening is a key component of any business’s marketing strategy, especially now that people have the ability to broadcast their opinions on multiple channels for online commenting and conversation.

Small businesses who take advantage of social listening to connect with and engage both potential and current customers will be more successful at capturing the attention they want with the customers they need.

Here are 7 ways social listening can give small businesses a competitive advantage:

1. Discover What People Are Saying About Your Brand – Actively listening to what current and potential customers are saying will enable you to generate leads, strengthen relationships with your user base, manage your reputation and remedy crisis situations. You can build your brand’s credibility by promptly responding to queries, providing solutions to service problems and identifying business opportunities. Get started today by tracking mentions of your brand on Twitter (one of the most effective channels to monitor) and responding to tweets in a timely and relevant manner.

2. Spy On Your Competitors (and their customers too) –  Keeping a watchful eye on competitor mentions keeps you abreast of problems with their products and services and how they respond to potential prospects. Plus you’ll gain a better understanding of their value propositions, as well as learning of any new developments to their product lines.

3. Get Inspiration On How To Optimize Your Marketing Content – Why spend hours trying to come up with great content ideas when creative inspiration is just a few clicks away? Social listening is a time-saving tool that lets you tap into the thoughts of industry leaders, competitors, and even your target audience. Through social listening, you can learn about the latest buzzwords and trends, including the type of content your audience wants to read. Armed with this kind of knowledge, you’ll be able to generate content that’s highly relevant and shareable.

4. Identify and Engage Potential Customers Where They Like to “Hang Out” –  Let’s say you’re monitoring your mentions and notice that a consumer shared one of your blog posts on LinkedIn. You’ve just been presented with the perfect opportunity to reach out to them and continue the conversation. Social listening is a valuable way to identify potential customers and convert them into loyal fans. Just make sure your remarks are relevant to the conversation before reaching out.

5. Connect With Industry Leaders And Key Influencers – The great thing about connecting with influential thought leaders is that they usually already have a large following. So when you connect with them, you’re potentially gaining access to their followers as well. Because influencers often share their thoughts and opinions on products, engaging them could lead to them becoming and advocate for your brand. Additionally, following influencers will help you gain insight into your industry and provide you with an opportunity to join their conversations and offer relevant comments that might capture the attention of potential leads.

6. Build New Relationships & Nurture Current Ones – Using social listening to generate leads is a great idea, but what about nurturing relationships with customers who are already loyal to your brand?  Social listening provides you with opportunities to keep your current customers happy by thanking them, offering helpful tips, or spotlighting their content. Nothing is more important than keeping your repeat customers and making them feel valued. It’s okay to use social listening to attract new audiences but strengthening existing relationships will yield a bigger payoff in the end.

7. Improve Your Products Or Services – While you may offer a great product or service, there are always ways to make it better. By using social listening to monitor competitors, identify prospects, engage with new and old customers, and connect with influencers, you can gain valuable insights into how to make your offering even better. If someone tweets about a certain product they wished you carried in your store or makes a comment on a portion of your service that was lackluster, you can use this information to improve your products and processes and show customers that you value their insight and are willing to do what it takes to keep them happy.

Conclusion

It’s no longer enough to just have a website anymore. To be successful in 2017, and beyond, you’ll need to upgrade your online marketing strategy to stay ahead of the competition.

Elly Deutch of McDonald’s Corporation said, “Social listening is key to learning about your customers, campaigns, and initiatives.”

But remember, social listening isn’t just about monitoring mentions and tracking metrics. Social listening is a conversation that requires interaction. We like the way Jeremy Goldman put it:

“Listening is one of the most important things a brand can do online. If your brand is just broadcasting its own agenda, it isn’t truly engaging in conversation.”

Properly executed, social listening will give you genuine insights into what your potential leads and current customers want from you, so you know how to better address their needs.

 

About Author

Sherene Funk

Sherene Funk is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime (but that doesn't stop her from collecting more). A graduate of Brigham Young University, she has published several humorous non-fiction articles and worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current position as a writer on modern retailing at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with other small business owners through informative articles that address their unique needs.

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