How Embracing Social Listening Can Optimize the Customer Experience

By Allison Roy, Content Strategy Manager, Digital Marketing at Capgemini North America

The pandemic brought unprecedented change and disruption to businesses across all industries — and if there was one major takeaway brands learned from it, it was that listening matters. The events of last year forced many retail companies to reevaluate their messaging, planned social content, and even the diversity of their boardrooms. While some retailers were slow to join national conversations, others jumped in too hastily, leaving customers with messaging that felt rushed, insincere, or poorly thought through. The difference between these companies and the ones that successfully — and thoughtfully — connected with their customers is the practice of social listening.

The use of social listening tools to track conversations about a brand is not new to the marketplace; however, the increasing trend of consumers expecting companies to be socially conscious and agile in their response to public feedback has positioned social listening as a top digital marketing priority for companies this year. According to the recent Hootsuite Social Trends survey, 66% of respondents said social listening has increased in value for their organization over the past 12 months.

At its most basic level, social listening is a useful method for brands to track their popularity, conversations about their competitors, feedback about products, and the response to social media campaigns. When used skillfully, social listening can empower companies to make better decisions, deliver a best-in-class customer experience, and ultimately drive the growth of their business through improved content creation, segmentation, and personalization.

Here are three ways social listening can help brands better connect with their audiences and drive lasting loyalty.

Create Content that Resonates

In order to successfully connect with customers, brands must learn to speak their language. Social listening helps reveal what topics matter most to a company’s target audience and encourages brands to reference industry or pop culture trends to create content that’s tailor-made for their consumers. Through the use of AI, marketers can track mentions, keywords, and topics to better predict customers’ behaviors and interests. Dig a little deeper into the data, and marketers can discover where these conversations are happening, determine the best social platforms to invest their media budget, and even develop products based on qualitative insights.

When lockdown forced many people to stay at home, a leading cosmetics company used social listening tools to analyze consumer conversations and discovered that while their customers’ interest in makeup had subsided, it was replaced by a focus on skincare. To cater to customer interest and nurture content engagement, the brand chose to scrap its previously planned, color-cosmetics-oriented content and developed a new social advertising strategy that focused on highlighting skincare deals that would appeal to budget-minded customers. Their nimble approach to implementing social listening insights rewarded them with a quarterly increase of 30,000 website visits, a low cost per click, and click-through rates above their benchmark.

For the best possible outcome, marketing departments should split social listening activities between two teams: one dedicated to real-time listening that focuses on everyday conversations about the brand and a second-team that leverages deep listening techniques to better understand topics of consumer interest that don’t involve the brand, including viral trends and current events. This dual approach will help companies stay on top of consumers’ immediate, brand-related needs and create relatable content that holds their audience’s attention.

Address CX Gaps and Improve Customer Service

Understanding and improving the customer experience (CX) is at the heart of social listening. CX drives more than two-thirds of customer loyalty, which means a brand should deliver a consistent and positive experience across all touchpoints spanning from social media to individual customer service interactions.

Consumers spend a considerable amount of time on social media where they often discuss their experiences with a company — and it’s not always positive. Social listening tools help brands quickly find and address customer issues, whether or not that person directly tagged the company in their post, and address gaps in the customer experience. This is especially important since answering a complaint on social media can increase customer advocacy by 25%.

A company can further optimize its customer service by running its social listening and Voice of the Customer (VoC) solutions in tandem, ensuring that the company delivers a consistent message and experience across all touchpoints. To avoid the common mistake of allowing customer service and marketing teams to operate in silos, companies should apply social listening insights to its customer service scripts across all channels.

Form Personal, Long-Lasting Connections with Customers

While social listening tools are excellent for understanding consumers through qualitative data and quickly responding to complaints, they can also be used to create powerful, personal interactions with customers.

For example, a popular greeting card company drew inspiration for a Mother’s Day commercial from a customer who posted a personal story on Facebook — a story that surfaced during the brand’s social listening analysis. In her post, the customer expressed that not all motherhood experiences look the same, but should be celebrated nevertheless. In a public statement, the CMO even stressed the importance of engaging in conversations and always listening to its customers.

The need for brands to stay agile and alert when it comes to consumer conversations will remain crucial beyond the pandemic as organizations and their customers continue to evolve within the new normal. When a company is able to connect conversational intelligence to strategy and KPIs, their social content transforms into powerful touchpoints that lock in customer loyalty and brand authority — making social listening a smart investment for any digital marketing program.

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Allison Roy is the Content Strategy Manager, Digital Marketing at Capgemini North America. She helps brands tell impactful stories through digital media and expand their reach through influencer marketing. Allison has provided strategic content marketing advice to B2C brands like Intermix, Havaianas, True Religion, Wilton, Radio Flyer and more.

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