Listening is an important part of social strategy. It is important to know what’s being said about your brand where and by whom. I would argue that it is more important to listen to the conversations in your category or industry. In the past, I have called this delineation listening to respond (branded listening) and listening to understand (category listening). And here’s the big problem, when you are listening to just your brand, all you can hear is the echo of your own voice. Brands are creating more and more content each day and this content is being shared on their social channels and it is not following the 80/20 rule, so, the conversation is usually about you. And when you listen to respond, you will see your word clouds be, well, all about YOU. Which doesn’t tell you a whole heaping lot about the conversation. You might see that your brand or product is being mentioned frequently in social channels. And you might be cheering about that, until you see that the mentions are coming from YOU.
The problem with this is that it is so frequently a social echo you are hearing. It’s your content over and over again. Some of it is engaged with and shared, but, mostly, it’s just the information you are putting out about you. And that’s solely what most brands are listening to. And it’s an echo. It is you listening to you talk about you. Which is monolog…not dialog and not what we should be doing to engage our fans, followers, customers and prospects. So, what do we do about it? Well, I have a few ideas, and here they are:
How loud is the echo anyway?
Remember that 80-95% of the social conversation is “unbranded” meaning that people are talking about jeans and watches and cereal, not Levis and Suunto and Cocoa Puffs (ummm, Cocoa Puffs!) Therefore, you are missing out on the biggest chunk of the conversation and the learnings therein. And if you aren’t looking at unbranded conversations you have no idea if you are starting to make a dent in the conversation. So, the first step is to see how loud your echo is. Are you creating all of the content and conversation happening around your brand and product? Or are others talking about your brand and product. What you can look at is this: Of the content that you created, what resonated most in terms of shares and comments. This is the kind of information that your audience is interested in learning more about. And this content should make up the 20% of the content that is about you.
Re-focus your listening
When you listen to respond, you should be focused on two things: To whom should we be responding to and how? So, you’ll need a response model to do that (read about that, here). Second, as mentioned above, you can figure out what content is taking off and meaningful to your fans and followers. I would recommend that listening to respond is a consistent activity, but one that should not be the driver of your strategy. You should be spending more time dissecting the category conversation. Dig into that data. What matters to this crowd? How are they talking about your category? Is it a passionate conversation? Are the confused about the category? Are they looking to their social networks for guidance on purchase? How frequently are people talking about this category?
Eyes on the prize
Here is where you can find ways to engage the audience in a conversation about the category. Answer their questions and become a trusted resource. You can also advocate for customers based on listening internally to make your products and services stronger and more appealing to the audience based on what they want or are talking about. You might actually find some white space for your company’s products AND messaging. But you cannot do this if all you are doing is listening to your own voice.
When you stop listening to you talking about you, you might find ways to add value to people who don’t know you yet. But, it will require you to change the way you listen and monitor social and your brand and category. It is important to listen to your brand to respond and know what’s resonating. But, you have to cut out the echo of the conversation because social is about dialog. You must look at the broader conversation if you are to drive real results from social.
A shout out to Caleb Gallifant for inspiring this post. It is great to get gifts like blog post inspiration from client calls! Thanks Caleb – you get 100% credit for the “Social Echos” term.