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When social media burst onto the scene a few shorts years ago, its potential was clear but unproven. Could paying attention to this constant stream of consumer data make a difference to brands and marketers? Absolutely. Here are three ways social listening is changing the world.

1. Finding and reaching your audience

“Back in the day,” as it were, identifying the best target audience for your marketing efforts took a lot of work. Demographics were the go-to, but of course could only take brands so far.

Throwing a bunch of weight behind marketing efforts to reach, for example, all males between a certain age range, in a certain geographic area, might mean you reach a few people who care about your product – while alienating those who have no interest in it.

At the same time, any outliers to your demographic target would be missed – i.e., men who were older or younger, women, etc.

Now social listening lets brands easily capture psychographic information. This look at consumer attitudes, feelings and behaviors is far more telling, and lets marketers create distinct audience segments to target.

Using social listening tools and sentiment analysis to identify the subjects consumers are most passionate about, gives brands an authentic way into the conversation that doesn’t feel like marketing – but is equally effective, if not more so.

Not to mention, creating brand awareness and sharing product info is that much easier, and less expensive. Smaller brands that couldn’t affordably compete with global brand budgets can now challenge those brands using social media – especially with the help of influencers, the most positively passionate members of your audience.

Note to the majors: Don’t assume your share of voice is safe from smaller competitors. Social listening has evened the playing field.

2. Delighting consumers at every turn

Finding your audience is only half the battle, of course. Good customer experience management means offering up what they want at every turn. That means marketing, yes, but also products and customer service – the whole enchilada.

In the past, focus groups and surveys were the best way to find out what consumers liked and disliked about your brand – but it wasn’t a very quick process, and far from comprehensive.

Fast forward to the social age, where brands have access to a 24-7-365 focus group online. Consumers share about the good, the bad, and the ugly of their interactions with brands – and it all happens in real-time.

Introducing a new product? You’ll know pretty immediately if it’s a welcome change or a flop. Smart brands use social listening to find out in advance whether a new product will work – a huge advantage any brand with a failed product launch in the past would envy.

Even better, you can improve on the offerings of competitors by monitoring consumer posts in your category overall. What does their audience love? What do they hate? Understanding both means you can compete more effectively, and even convert some of their fans to yours.

Think of it as an extension of your social customer service to help customers you don’t even have yet – and you soon will.

3. Protecting brand health

Customer service is a must on social. It’s the easiest channel for consumers to post a complaint – and when they do, everyone sees it. They also see how you manage it, so remember to respond quickly, and take complicated issues off social – via DM, email or phone.

This is just one way social listening keeps your brand healthy and safe online, but it’s not the only way. The ability to monitor social in real-time, and even set up alerts for troublesome keywords, means you know at the earliest possible moment when there’s a crisis brewing.

Early intervention is the best way to keep your brand safe when things go awry, so be proactive with your monitoring and response to even the smallest problems – because things can blow up and go viral very quickly.

There’s not much social listening can’t do to make your brand more effective, when used properly. From inspiring consumer loyalty, to innovating new products, social data powers brand strategy and protects brand health with relative ease. If only changing the world in other ways was as easy.

Ready to change your brand’s world? Reach out for a demo of our social listening tools.

Image from Aaron Escobar

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