Imagine being able to tap into the real conversations people are having about your brand or industry

Seeing what they hate, what annoys them, what grabs their attention or what they expect from a solution like yours.

It’s insights like these that can give you that killer headline for your landing page…

Tell you exactly what testimonials you need on your website,

Help you optimize your sales funnel, email outreach and even your actual product.

These kind of insights are what businesses pay a LOT of money for.

Thing is, there’s a simple and free way for you to access these ridiculously amazing conversations every single day using a little thing called: social listening. 

There are 2.46 Billion (!!) social media users worldwide.

These people are sharing the things they love and hate, their cravings, hesitations, concerns and the things that make them happy.

Many of these people are your target audience.

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C solution, almost everyone is on social media at some point of the day sharing, reading, retweeting, liking and commenting.

By listening to your audiences on social media, you can tap into the minds of the two types of people that matter most to your business: Your customers and your potential customers.

Today’s guest, Tara Robertson knows exactly how to do that using social listening.

Previously VP Marketing at HotJar and now Director of Marketing Strategy at Sprout Social, Tara has built award winning marketing teams and consulted hundreds of companies (making them **millions** of dollars) on marketing strategies and data driven results.

In this live training Tara showed us how to rid ourselves of the Social Media fluff and get to the hard core data that we should be using to optimize our landing pages, campaigns, emails and websites.

Watch the recording below:

Transcript, slides and notes available below:


As Talia mentioned my name is Tara. I work at Sprout Social. I’m Director of Marketing Strategy. Prior to Sprout, I was VP Marketing over at Hotjar, so I’m a little bit of a data junkie, absolutely love optimization, love data, and love really understanding what makes people tick. So Talia and I, I think, first met…gosh, I think a couple years ago and it’s been a really fun journey watching how we both kind of been building up these different worlds and talking about the emotion. And that’s something that, for me, I’m so, so, so passionate about and tying that to data.

What I’m most excited about with what we’re talking about today is as Talia mentioned, a lot of people don’t think of social media when it comes to data. They think of something a little bit more fluffy. So I’m kind of on a mission to spread the word on how you can analyze, and how you can use this to really bring ROI and how you can make great data as a whole. So that’s just a little bit about me. Other than being a data junkie, I’m a mom. I’ve got two kids, who are both out playing in the snow right now with our dog and live in the U.S. in Vermont.

Talia: That’s awesome. I love the way…also you mentioned how social media is usually perceived as fluff because I used to work in a social media agency, and I remember the frustration of working with clients that all they’d care about was the likes and the comments. And I keep asking them like, “Okay, but what about the leads? What about the sales? What are you seeing?” And they’re like, “We can’t track that. We don’t know how to do that or whatever,” so no one ever showed that interest. So I love that social media is definitely in that direction today and that companies that use social media correctly, well we know today, can make billions of, right?

Tara: Yeah. Such an awesome lead-in. I’m gonna talk so much about a lot of that today because we still see that a lot. We see with a lot of our agencies, they struggle with it day to day. Everyone’s so focused on their ROI, focused on the leads, and really look at it the wrong way. So I’m excited to dive into those topics.

Today we’re talking about data and how it plays a part in social but the reality is that a lot of people when they think about social media, they see this, a bunch of cats. Cat videos are awesome. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I love to watch cat videos. They make me laugh. I’ve got a cat myself.

But the challenge is is that when you are out there trying to promote social when you’re trying to work as a business, it’s really hard to get through the perception of people thinking about social as fluff. Thinking of social as a way to share a bunch of really funny YouTube cat videos, and actually realize that this is what you’re looking at. The world and the universe right now is so connected to data and so connected to the way that social media works, that it really is the biggest opportunity for us as marketers or us as business leaders to tap into what’s out there, what content can we be using, and what opportunities do we have that we can turn that into something that’s not just gonna bring us great results, but literally the best astounding ROI that we’re going to see.

But the challenge is is that when you are out there trying to promote social when you’re trying to work as a business, it’s really hard to get through the perception of people thinking about social as fluff. Thinking of social as a way to share a bunch of really funny YouTube cat videos, and actually realize that this is what you’re looking at. The world and the universe right now is so connected to data and so connected to the way that social media works, that it really is the biggest opportunity for us as marketers or us as business leaders to tap into what’s out there, what content can we be using, and what opportunities do we have that we can turn that into something that’s not just gonna bring us great results, but literally the best astounding ROI that we’re going to see.

So to frame that a little bit, I’m gonna throw out some stats that some might be known and some might be unknown to you. But this one is always a pretty huge one that’s glaring. When you think about the amount of people on Earth of 7.2 billion, 2.1 billion of them are active on social media. And breaking that down a little bit, social media is part of everyone’s, almost everyone’s, daily routine. So whether it’s personal or professional, roughly three-quarters of Facebook users and around six-in-ten Instagram users visit those sites at least once a day. As marketers, we do it way much more.

So it’s interesting to think about as yourself, and as a human, how many times…for everybody on the line, have you already logged into Facebook today? Have you logged into Instagram? Have you looked at Twitter? I know I have probably dozens of times, and some of them are business related. So with the rise of things like Facebook groups and with the rise of companies really connecting with each other, we’re starting to see this not just be something that we wanna do personally, but also something that we have to do professionally and a way that we’re now running our business.

Facebook users alone also watch 100 million hours of video every single day. So 100 million hours, that’s a lot of hours on video. And a lot of opportunities for you to then monetize with ways that you’re capturing attention. And in just one minute there are 4,166,000 Facebook users liking a post, 2.4 million Instagram users liking a post, and 347,000 tweets being sent, and that’s just in one minute. So think about the compounding nature of the amount of data that’s constantly being pushed, not just to your universe, but your business’ universe and the universes around you.

So Erik Qualman who’s an author of a great social book “Socialnomics” has this quote that I think is something that resonates really well with those businesses that are saying there is no ROI in social media, that the ROI of social isn’t necessarily always going to be what you get out of what you’re doing, which we will spend time on how to actually get results out of your campaigns. But it’s also that if you’re not social, your business might not exist in five years. There really is no opportunity to not be social anymore and to not have social be a part of your ecosystem in the way that you’re actually executing for marketing.


But in kind of correlation to that, the challenge is, is that 41% of companies, so almost half of companies actually admit that they have no idea whether or not their social media efforts are actually paying off. And that’s terrifying. So when we think about why a lot of businesses are rejecting or confused or concerned about the value that they’re bringing with social, it’s because they’re really struggling with the way that they can actually look at their results, look at the data and understand that what they’re doing is paying off, that the work that they’re doing by posting and focusing on all of this data that’s constantly consuming us is driving their results.

And the reason behind that, and this is a bold statement but a very solid statement is that it’s because they’re doing it wrong. So it’s something that you shouldn’t feel ashamed or worried or concerned if you’re not sure if social media efforts are paying off because a lot of people don’t talk about the data behind social and the ways that you can track your campaigns. But there are so many excellent ways that you can drive ROI and that you can understand the results that social is bringing. It’s just a matter of changing the way that we think about social, changing that perception of it being fluffy or of it being cats and more about all of the data that’s there and how do you now leverage this.

A great way that I like to explain the concept of social media and analytics is if you’re a pay per click marketer and you’re executing on a pay per click campaign, you would never actually launch something without knowing what your cost per click is, without knowing how big your audience is, without knowing what data you bring. Because then you’d end up spending an inordinate amount of money without results. And that’s kind of the same thing when you think about social media. If you don’t know what you’re posting is bringing you result and if you don’t know that what you’re working on or what your customers and consumers are talking about, then you’re really going at it completely blind. So we’ll talk about some tactics and how you can change that behavior.

Common objections that we hear a lot of the time:

  1. “My customers aren’t on social.”
  2. “We haven’t seen the ROI.”
  3. “We don’t have time to be on every platform.”
  4. “We aren’t sure the time is worth it.”
  5. “Social doesn’t drive sales,”
  6. “You have to invest in paid to get anything out of social.”

social media objections

These are things that we’ll hear time and time again, that I’m sure most people on the line have either heard, they felt. I know, even in my past, I felt it before we started to really understand how to drive all this data out of social and then tie it into results.

And the reality is, is that your customers are on social, but in the same way that you’ll think about any type of marketing endeavor, anything you’re working on, whether it be your website, or email, or a piece of content, your customers aren’t here ready to buy right away. And a lot of reasons that people struggle with social is they focus on these old school behaviors of, “Okay, if I throw out this piece of content or if I throw out a sale that we’re doing right now, people are immediately gonna drive results out of it, or they’re gonna buy, or it’s gonna be something that they take that step in.” And you have to think about it the same way you would any marketing activity, that being social is really about creating a relationship and driving that relationship and not asking somebody to take a sale before they’ve actually met you.

The next thing that I want to call out is that when you think about all of these different common objectives and the fact that we’re really trying to nurture relationships, understand the emotion between why people are acting the way that they do is that just like everything else, there are no best practices in social. I hate the phrase best practice because it’s kind of like the Achilles heel of marketing, is that if you try to execute something that someone says, do this it will work, then it’s likely going to be something that you’re struggling with or you’ll have a challenge with. Again, very similar to the way that we think of optimization and CRO. There’s themes, there’s things that we know can help, but at the same time, everything that you work on for yourself and your business is going to be unique to your business.

So with social, there used to be these best practices in thinking about the 30-60-90 rule, meaning 30% of the time you can do lead generation, 60% of the time you post your own content, 90% of the time you post thought leadership content. And that’s the algorithm that should be used in order to get the right results on social. And the reality with that now is that that really means nothing. It’s not about how many times you post. It’s about who you are and how you’re posting and what you’re putting in front of your audience. So instead of thinking about best practices, the first theme I wanna bring is to realize that while there are no best practices, there are themes in social media. Those themes being, listen, engage, authenticity, and learning. And that’s what we’ll dive into a little bit more.

social media themes

So applying those themes into business is to first think about applying those themes to real life. So if I was sitting at a table with a bunch of people right now trying to explain anything, you almost think about it like you would this guy on the screen where we live in a world of curated content where everybody is constantly looking at their phones and constantly trying to understand what’s going on, or what’s happening on Facebook, or what email did I just get. And aside from working and paying attention to the webinar, I would say put your phone down and let’s have a conversation, and let’s talk about how you and I are gonna interact and build our relationship together.

Social Media Listening

So the first one with the theme being listening is I initially went out and Googled like, “Okay. What do people think of listening?” And came up with this one terrible graphic. But I really loved the words that came out of it, is when you think of listening and what that actually means is think about it in your relationships. Think about it in the ways that we interact with our husbands, with our partners, with our children, with our coworkers. It’s never just us talking to them. It’s always a two-way relationship. So if your partner isn’t listening to you, if the person you’re interacting with isn’t listening to you, you’re gonna feel slighted in that conversation. And the same thing goes for how we interact with other people. If we’re sitting here and just talking and yabbying and not taking in what people are saying back to us, then we’re not really doing a good job of being that second part in the conversation or being that person that’s really spending time getting to know who we’re talking about.

social media data

So again, putting yourself at that dinner table or putting yourself at that roundtable where we’re putting our phone down, we’re making eye contact, we’re listening to what each other says, and we’re really pulling that in. So these numbers are kind of arbitrary where it’s like 60% the minimum, 80% the maximum. If you don’t listen at least 20%, it’s not a two-way relationship. So aside from thinking about the arbitrary aspect of the numbers, it’s really kind of a guideline to go by, that if you’re in a one-way relationship and if your social is in a one-way relationship right now where you’re just posting, posting, posting and not really taking the time to read what else is being said, then you’re in that one-way relationship that isn’t going to drive you a meaningful relationship in your life. And Stephen Covey who writes a lot of excellent business books had a quote where, “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand, we listen to respond.”

So a big takeaway for the audience and for people in general when it comes to social is that we’re not listening to respond, we’re actually listening to understand. So look at the conversations that hopefully, you’ll start trying to drive from this presentation and from your social strategy as a whole, as listening is really just at its bottom line, a way for you to understand how people are interacting, how they’re working, and what their day to day struggles and challenges are. Again, getting into the emotion, which Talia spends a lot of time talking about. That is the most important thing, is really understanding that bottom line of what’s driving someone and what pains they’re having. And that’s what’s gonna feed the engine to what’s gonna bring you success.

Engaging on Social Media

The second one is to engage. So aside from listening, obviously, if you just sit there and you listen and you don’t say anything back, then it’s a kind of awkward conversation. So I added a picture here of one of our team calls. And as I mentioned, I work in rural Vermont in the States, which is literally in the middle of a mountain. And most of my team is remote, aside from a few people that work at our main office in Chicago. But this is a video conference. We have daily stand-ups. And every day outside of just running our stand up call, we get a chance to turn on our video and engage with each other. And it’s not always engaging in what are we working on today, but what did we do last night. We’ve got fun times where we talk about fun facts and things that happened. And these are the kinds of conversations that aren’t conversations that you might necessarily have to have in a business setting, but you kind of have to have them in a business setting. Because it’s what creates the relationships with the people that we have that makes us really enjoy working together, or living together, or being in each other’s lives.

So when it comes to engaging, make sure you’re thinking about engagement, not just as engagement as a business, it’s like, “Oh, hey. You have this problem. You should read this piece of content that fixes that problem that we created,” or, “you should buy this piece of software that fixes this problem you have.” It’s really about, “Can you tell me that? Let’s engage. Let’s have a meaningful conversation. Let’s build a relationship together,” so you can then build that trust and build those wonderful smiles. So thinking about that, like, making your stuff is great. I’m sure everybody that’s on this webinar or listening to it afterwards has something awesome that you’re either making or that you’re promoting or that you’re working on. That’s why we’re in business, that’s what we do. But in order to get people to see that awesomeness and to see want you’re working on, making connections is more important. Getting trust and gaining relationships and having those two-way conversations and engaging with them is what’s gonna get you to be able to promote your stuff. So that’s a really important thing to think about when it comes to your personal life, and then how that correlates then to social.

Social Media Authenticity

The third one is authenticity and this is kind of an embarrassing slide, but a funny one nonetheless for myself. When I first started out in my career, you’ll see…I’ll let you guys kinda pick which one you think was the first headshot that I used. I had this vision for what it meant to be a business professional, what it meant to be somebody that I had to be in order to be a successful woman building my career. And so I wore business suits. I had your, like, clear-cut short haircut, exactly like…went to Banana Republic, bought all my outfits, which for some people is amazing and you look beautiful. For me, wasn’t authentically me. And so I tried to fit myself into this mold of who I thought I should be, versus who I actually was. And as I’ve kind of grown in my career and grown into my own skin, you’ll see I kind of shifted into the person that I am personally.

So I’d go to work and I’d be wearing the suit and feel all uncomfortable in high heels and weird. And then I’d go home and I throw my hat on be like, “Okay, now I’m comfortable and in my own skin. So as I’ve kind of grown in my own authenticity, I’ve learned who I am and that that’s okay. And that’s something that…when I think about that and I think about what it means for businesses and social, it’s kind of an interesting way to correlate it together. Because on social media so many times we try to be that person on the left, we try to be who we think our business is supposed to be or who we think that the person on the other end wants us to be. And people see through that. They absolutely know that like, “Okay, well this sounds to businessy. This sounds too formal. This sounds too awkward.” And it just doesn’t feel right.

So being your authentic self, whether it be you know, taking off your business suit in this case, or just not having to use that verbiage that you use in a social presence will make an impact to your bottom line. Because people are gonna have that authentic message where they meet and connect with you and again, engage with you in a way that feels meaningful. Doesn’t necessarily feel like you’re trying to be somebody that you’re not or you’re trying your business to be someone that they’re not.

Learning from Social Listening

And then the last one when you’re thinking about applying these themes into real life is to learn. So my final story is this picture of my son Zain, who this year has taken to snowboarding. And my story here isn’t that I’m proud of my son because that would be silly to talk about, but more so that my little guy is probably one of the most stubborn kids I know.

But he did not want to ski. And I wanted him to ski because I thought that he could do it or that it would be safer. His instructor said that he couldn’t learn how to snowboard because he was too little and that his muscles wouldn’t be able to do it the right way. But he was just adamant about it. So we’re like, “All right, dude. Go for it.” By the end of this year he was ripping it up on the mountain and it was amazing. And so as parents, I think us forcing him to try to do something he didn’t wanna do, we weren’t really listening to him, but then also from a learning perspective, we learned that patience and working with him and spending time listening and spending time working together, allowed him to do what he wanted to do.

And so when we think about the people that we work with and the customers that we’re working with, most of the time when they’re coming to you or they’re engaging with you and you are doing a good job listening to them, it’s not our job to show them what they have to do, it’s our job to help them do what they want to do. It’s our job to help them become more successful. And in helping them and in getting them to learn on their own and getting us to learn alongside with them, is what’s gonna drive the success of someone that is going to become a retained customer. So enough about personal stuff and how you can apply that to your personal life. Let’s talk about how you can apply the same approach to social media and business. And I want you guys to think about also what personal stories do you have and these four themes, that you can think, “Oh, okay. That’s what I should be doing.”

What to Avoid on Social Media

social media mistakes

  1. First and foremost, getting stuck in vanity metrics. Vanity metrics for social media are one of the most challenging things that people will run up against, which is how many likes you have, how many people are following you. All those things that really don’t make an impact to your bottom line.
  2. You don’t wanna post for the sake of posting, don’t just post content. Every piece of content that you wanna post it needs to be something that is meaningful, that aligns to those different themes we talked about.
  3. Not measuring the effectiveness of your content, and I’ll spend some time talking about how you can do that.
  4. Using the same content across platforms. That’s a really terrible thing to do in the sense that people see through that if they see that you’re posting the same content in many, many different sites. People will engage with you different on each individual social sites. So the way I talk on Twitter is very different than the way I talk on Facebook, is very different than the way I’ll talk on LinkedIn, or on Instagram because the people I have in those different networks will engage in a different way. So spend the time to use the content in the right way.
  5. Not engaging with your audience. So if you are posting make sure that you’re also paying attention to what people are responding to, make sure you’re paying attention to what people are posting to and you’re tracking that.
  6. Not evolving your strategies, so we’ll spend time talking about that, and not checking your work.
  7. So the picture here is probably one of my favorite stories this year in where McDonald’s, unfortunately, posted something that went viral where that poor social media manager hadn’t finished their post. So it said “Black Friday…need copy and link.” And Wendy’s who is well known for their amazing social media presence retweeted that as “When the tweets are as broken as the ice cream machine.” So make sure you take the time to check your work also because the worst thing that you can do or the last thing you wanna do is put all this time and attention into understanding the data and understanding your customers, and then post something that is gonna, unfortunately, affect you the wrong way.

So let’s look at some companies that are doing it right. I’m first gonna start with a case study that I absolutely love that we have internal with this company, Adore Me. Adore Me is an online lingerie company who was really, really struggling. They were challenged with getting a lot of customer complaints online. They were trying to figure out the best way to go up against their competition online. It is a very cluttered market. So rather than trying to come up with something on their own and to come up with a campaign on their own on to go after, they took a step back to say, “Okay, well let’s actually listen. Let’s focus on understanding of people that are Victoria’s Secret followers or True & Co followers, what are they saying? What are the themes that keep coming up? And what are things that we can see from people that are unhappy with us are saying consistently?

And one thing that kept coming up is that there were all of these women that kept talking about wanting to have model opportunities or modeling opportunities with these companies. And not only modeling opportunities but also the opportunity to show a real women, and not just you know, the angels that you see or these incredibly skinny amazing beautiful women. But women that we can’t put ourselves into and identify with. So by identifying these different trends, they took action and created a contest called #selflovenote. And the idea of that was to have women go out, post themselves to Instagram with the #selflovenote, lip syncing to a love song. And the winner would then become the next face of Adore Me. It would be a real woman who won a modeling contract, would be somebody that she would get flown to New York City, and it worked out astonishingly for them.

So they have more than 500 different submissions. Here’s some pictures of the different submissions where you’ll see these women talking about themselves, and how much they love their bodies, their real bodies and the type of responses and views that they were getting in general. Further campaign result they saw, which was awesome, was a 3,377% increase in Facebook click-through rates. They saw 460% increase in Facebook engagement, and finally, a 7% decrease in the reply thread size. And what means really is on the reply thread size, they’ve struggled a lot with people coming in and giving them negative complaints, but because they’re sentiment became so much stronger and because they started connecting with their partners on this emotional real level, they started to see people were seeing them in a better way. So they were no longer getting the same negative replies, and people were starting to talk at them and with them a lot more positively. So that’s one way that I’ve seen you know, Adore Me kind of take listening and take data and turn it into an excellent campaign that they can run.

The second one is Yoplait ran this campaign called “Mom on,” which if those of you on the line or listening afterwards have not seen this, if you are moms or if you aren’t, this is kind of hilarious to watch. But they focused on this concept that you keep seeing coming up over and over and over again on social, where moms feel judged. We feel judged. They feel like they’re working against each other. Are you a stay at home mom? Are you a full-time working mom? Do you breastfeed? Do you bottlefeed? Regardless of what it was the concept was judgment takes a toll on moms. So they spent a lot of time listening and understanding what was coming up. And one thing that kept coming up is that moms receive a lot of unsolicited advice. So by seeing this unsolicited advice theme coming up over and over again on social of parents talking about it, they created this actual real working hotline called “1-833-MOM-TIPS” where you can go and give your unsolicited mom advice to someone that will listen that isn’t a mom. So if you have advice to give to a mom go to this website, give them your advice, and then they’ll be saving all the other moms in the world that are feeling judged by that unsolicited advice.

So the campaign results is they were focussing on mom shaming. They targeted where moms were on social. So they found that a lot of moms were interacting on YouTube looking for parenting tips. They were interacting on Pinterest. So they went to the specific social sites that moms were engaging and talking more about these challenges in. And in general, they saw a 1,461% increase in brand engagement. So a lot of these…again, these are two campaigns that focused more on fuelling the themes that they had coming up by looking at the data and understanding what was happening, versus coming up with a campaign idea that they thought would happen. They knew it happen because it was something that already connected with these two different networks in different levels.

yoplait social media campaign

And the final one is Make A Wish Foundation. And this is a different case study story where this is really more about just understanding the data and how to make that data stronger. So the challenge that Make A Wish had is they had 33,000 volunteers. 34 minutes is the amount of time it takes between new wishes being granted and 285,000 total wishes granted. They were doing all of this manually when it came to the way that they were tracking their data. So looking at their different social apps natively, trying to pull it together, aggregating feedback into spreadsheets. And what they found in this quote here is that they’d lose out on data because what they didn’t have or what they didn’t anticipate needing, they did need. So anything like tracking hashtags, tracking their name, tracking their sentiment was pretty much impossible for them to see. And so for them, it was really challenging to go up against. And one proved the ROI. So you know, is this person, Jennifer Parsons, doing a good job at what she’s doing by trying to get more volunteers, by trying to get more people behind the foundation? Or is everything that they’re working on not happening?

Social Listening Analysis

So really answering that question of, what is the ROI to social? What are we doing that’s actually granting us success? So the ways they looked at it was first getting into data analysis, so first pulling their data manually together was impossible and they knew they needed a better way to look at data. And so they set up a lot of conversion tracking, as well as content labeling. Conversion tracking being understanding what different content was being posted on different social sites, how people were responding to that, being able to use that then analyze how quickly you need to respond back and engage back. And one really interesting thing that they found is that their earned post, so the posts that people were posting with them or sharing with them or talking about them, was actually converting at a higher level than their owned posts, so the posts that they were putting out there. So it actually helps them change their strategy to focus more on advocacy and to focus more on earning media versus them trying to post their own media because that was bringing them better results. So digging into the data, they saw some immediate results in just changing that strategy slightly based on what they saw with conversion tracking.

Content labeling as well, by labeling their content, they can track and analyze in real-time what was working and to make rapid iterations. So previously, they weren’t able to really look at their content and say, “Ooh, this is working great,” or, “Ooh, this really sucks. I should change this.” So being able to see that right away and tracking that and having a good view into labeling their content, they can now make rapid iterations to then boost what’s working well, get better results to what’s not working and continue to grow. So for them, just by focusing on data and not manually looking at how everything was working on their social sites, they saw 41.5% increase in their social engagement. And a lot of this really drilled down to the conversion tracking piece, understanding how people were working with you, what you were getting the best results for, and modifying your strategies, so you’re working smarter and not harder and not just constantly trying to put content out there hoping something will stick.

The Social Listening Journey

So knowing that there’s these companies that are doing great things with social, I wanna talk a little bit about how to put practice into action, and then, of course, leave some time for questions. So the first one is to think about from your perspective what your social journey should look like. And this really drills down into these five different categories of understanding your brand, reviewing your category, knowing where you stand, making sure you analyze your competitors, analyze your trending topics, and then always, always, always, viewing your results and iterating. So the same way we might look at optimizing a web page, think about optimizing your social. So we would never change the way a web page looks, or the location of something on a web page, without looking at heat maps, without looking at a recording, or a session, and understanding how people are using that site. And that’s the same way to think about social and the journey you go through, is we wanna understand the data we’re looking at, and then make calculated decisions based on the way people are moving, how they’re interacting across the entire ecosystem.

social listening journey

#1 Understand your brand

So the first one is understanding your brand. And I used the example here of Tide because I think this really showcases how if we’re not digging into the results and reading your results, it’s very easy to see the wrong result. So in this example, you can see kind of on this left side the Tide brand word cloud. If I was like, “Hey, I wanna understand what people are saying about my brand,” there’s a lot of different tools or systems out there that are both free or paid that’ll spit out a word cloud at you and tell you what people are saying, right? And in this case, you can see that love is coming up in kind of these bigger letters, and it seems like, “Oh, people love Tide. Cool. So if I make a decision just based off of that, just based off of that one example, then I might go off and say like, “We’re in good shape. People love Tode. Maybe we need to focus on this one other word here, or maybe we should do more videos because that’s coming up.”

But the reality is as you start to dig in and read the results and read the content of how people are talking about you, you’ll see that things like what you see on the right here are actually what’s happening where people aren’t necessarily saying, “I love you Tide,” but it’s like like, “Hey, we love your detergent. But I hate the delivery system.” And so this is actually a negative sentiment to how people are interacting with Tide, but it’s showing up as a positive sentiment. So really, really important that when you try to understand your brand, don’t just take results that you see at face value or an analysis or a word cloud. Make sure you spend the time getting in and reading those results and understanding what the data actually says. So dig into that data, read the data, look at the sentiment, understand not just what people are saying, but how they’re saying it. And it’ll help you connect with your users on a much more personal level.

So outside of the customer care and being able to respond Stacy and have a conversation with her, we can also understand is this is a theme that’s coming up in the way that people talk about our brand? Do we need to look at packaging? You know, what words are they using? What challenges are they having? What common themes are they running into? That can help drive into understanding the way that we’re gonna then promote our content, or promote our brand in the market.

social media branding

#2 Review Your Category

The next one is reviewing your category. And so kind of sticking with that yogurt theme here’s another example of the way that people might be talking about yogurt on social media that you might not be thinking about. So when you review your category, the things you wanna think about are what associations do people have with your category. Are they brand agnostic? What’s being said when they are brand agnostic?

So an example on the right here is talking about non-GMO ingredients and how GMO and yogurt are being tied together, you know, you’ll see that tagline, “Dirty Dairy is in Panic Mode.” So could Danone or Yoplait or Chobani or whomever, create some kind of a campaign to then mitigate the risk based on what they’re seeing if GMO is consistently coming up. Or are there any trends or hashtags that emerge. So similar to what you saw with Adore Me selflovenote, they kept seeing this trend coming up in their category that was telling them these women wanna see real women. How can we capitalize on this? So when you get into the data, it’s not just analyzing how people are talking about you, and this is the big answer to the question of, “Well, my customers aren’t on social.” There are a lot of people on social willing to tell the story and talk about what is happening in your category. And even if they’re not your customers, they’re someone else’s customer but they’re still talking about it. So you wanna review that category and really read that data and analyze further.

Rachel down here has said, “Cold and salty yogurt drink? Yes, please.” So does that mean that someone should come up with a cold and salty yogurt drink? So really great ways to know how people are talking about it.

social media category research

#3 Analyze Competitors

The next one is to analyze competitors, and this shouldn’t be anything new to marketers, but it is a great way that you can utilize social media to your advantage. So if you’re not analyzing your competitors or have key terms or hashtags set up to really understand how people are spending time with your competitors, definitely do that. That’s gonna help you out tremendously, not only to see the way that they’re connecting with their users but see the way that they’re talking about their brand. But also to look at yourself against them. How are you stacking up against your competitors? What are the things that people are talking about? What is your share of voice? And also how do you work from a customer care perspective?

So thinking about the Make A Wish Foundation, they don’t have nearly as many likes or followers as they do some of their competitors out there, but they have three times the amount of engagement. So aside from us you know, really getting a lot of customers, everyone wants a lot of customers, the more important part is to keep those customers. And so if we’re keeping our customers, we’re engaging with them, you will win time and time again. So it’s great to compare yourself to them but also know what they’re doing. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are the sentiments around their brand? And a lot of things that you can really just do to understand what’s happening out there. And are there ways that you can either work in tandem or are there things that you can do that’s gonna drive getting the attention from some of those customers that you might want of your competitors?

social media competitor research

#4 Analyze Trending Topics

Analyzing trending topics and categories. This is probably one of my favorite things to do when it comes to social and one of the best things you can do to looking at new ways to build campaigns. When I used to work at an agency, we always had these questions of like, “Okay, what campaign is next?” Or constantly pushing campaigns out the door and trying to come up with new ideas or new things that are gonna gain interest, gain momentum. And one of the first places that you should always be looking is social. So spending the time to analyze trending topics and categories within an area that you’re either trying to break into or that you’re already there but is kind of you know, really, really convoluted, getting in and understanding the data is gonna help you create something that will set yourself apart from the rest.

So you’ll see the picture I have here is an example of Nabisco started to see this trend coming up when every time they talked about Oreos, their people wanted recipes, or they wanted to talk about ways that they can start using Oreos in different things. So they created this entire amazing campaign around do it yourself Oreo that’s then getting people to think about ways that Oreos is more than just a cookie. And it’s a great way to correlate their brand to what’s talking in the market. So think about and start to understand what trends or hashtags are emerging. And again, there’s lots of free tools. There’s also paid tools you can use to look at that. But a lot of tools, if you have your social follower list in there, will then spit out at you what trending tags or hashtags they’re starting to see that people are constantly talking about. So you don’t wanna do this at a very kind of micro-level, where you’re trying to do it yourself, definitely lean on the support of what’s in there. But then again, read what you’re seeing. Don’t just rely on what something spits out at you. Make sure you spend the time to understand the data.

What topics are your consumers talking about? How can you leverage this to deliver data-informed campaigns, content, or media? Are you measuring the same trends against your competitors? So make sure you’re looking at your trends and looking at your competitors’ trends and comparing them against each other. One of my favorite things also is to use the words that they use in your own copy. It’s one of the best copywriting tricks, especially in a conversion copy world is that when you have people talking about things that you want to then talk about and create a campaign, you can actually come up with headlines. You can come up with content and great ways based on the words that are being fed to you. So it’s a great trick and a great way to make sure that you’re using the words that you know will resonate. And again, this comes back to that authenticity. Don’t use the words you wanna use, use the words that your customers are using because that’s what will resonate. And always read, analyze, and repeat.

#5 View Results and Iterate

Viewing results and iterating. This is an obvious one to any optimizer, but never just launch something for the sake of launching it. But when it comes to social, something I wanted to point out on this slide is that aside from just viewing your results and knowing what’s working, when you’re trying to prove the value of your social media campaigns…this is a great example of Tide during the Super Bowl, and a lot of us have probably seen their commercials. If not, they’re great. But something that they saw that didn’t just get to like, “Oh, look at how many people looked at our Suber Bowl ad campaign during the Super Bowl. That was great.” But the things that they also saw that started to happen on social is the sentiment. So if you look at the sentiment a week before the Super Bowl ad, 13.3% was negative when it came to Tide. A week later, they had a 7.1% negative sentiment. So they almost halved the sentiment in the way that people were talking about their detergent, which in the long-term view, it might not be that people immediately are buying Tide. But if people are talking about your brand in a positive way and you’re halving your sentiment, that is something that absolutely anyone should be cheering about, and a brilliant aha moment. Because that’s helping you get a strong word on social because people buy based off of word of mouth.

So getting into key takeaways and then we can open it up for questions. The first one, I would say, is always, always, always stop talking, start listening. Make sure you spend the time…if you’re spending time on social, more of the time you spend should be in the data listening to what’s happening so that the time that you actually spend talking and the time that you actually spend posting is spent very, very strategically in the way that you work with your customers. Be socially data-informed. So in the same way that we look at any other marketing activity, rather than thinking about social as you know, this fluff cat video thing, everything we do in social should be data-informed to a certain degree. And that’s when we’re thinking about business and the way that we’re working with our customers and our consumers. Be strategic in what you do. So don’t just do something for the sake of having to do it, make sure that it’s something that you know you’ll get results on, and that you know will be a great, great work and ROI.

And then finally, be authentic, be yourself. I think that’s most important thing in social. It’s really, really hard to build a connection with someone when you’re not looking them in the eyes. So authenticity is probably the most important thing you do because all the work that you put into data and understanding and listening if you can’t execute that in an authentic way, people will immediately see right through it. You don’t have that opportunity to look them in the eyes and be like, “No. I’m real. I swear.” So it’s really important that you bring your true authentic self or who your authentic brand needs to be. 

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