by Lisa Zone

September 24, 2020

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably felt like you were in a planning (or re-planning) mode since about March. And while we’re living in what often feels like a week-by-week reactive approach to marketing this year, it’s still important to be as strategic and thoughtful as possible heading into 2021.

But how can you think about 2021 when it feels like the world is changing at every turn?

I’d suggest conducting a social media listening audit to help you identify the best ways to reach and engage with your customers and other stakeholders. Social listening is more than simply social media monitoring (which is more like hearing – not truly listening) – it takes things a step further by really analyzing social conversations to develop insights that can inform the strategic business decisions you make.

According to a July study published by eMarketer, there are a few reasons social listening is back in vogue:

  • People are spending way more time on social media because face-to-face conversations are limited
  • Social listening allows brands to track real-time sentiment and make quick shifts
  • Social listening allows brands to demonstrate empathy and let customers know you hear them – because, quite literally, you are listening to them

With that in mind, why should you consider putting a social listening program in place? Here are three places social listening can inform your 2021 plans:

  1. Messaging. This one is the most straightforward – what do your customers care about? This goes beyond looking at which pieces of your social content garner the most engagement (though that is certainly one data point to consider). But social listening takes it a step further to help you look at what your customers are talking about – what matters to them and how they are feeling. This, in turn, should inform your messaging – not only what you say, but how you say it. The first step here is understanding what your customers care about (not what you want them to care about). The next step is finding a way to make your brand relevant to that information—then adjusting your 2021 messaging to fit the bill.
  2. Creative Development. Here again, social listening, and the resulting insights, will help you determine how your creative should shift to meet customers where they are (or want to be). This goes beyond messaging and includes imagery, graphics, videos and more. For example, if your social listening program identifies that customers have grown tired of talking about mask mandates and are yearning for some sense of “normalcy,” running commercial spots or social ads featuring talent wearing masks could be off-putting. Or perhaps a large contingent of your target audience is talking about how they’ve downloaded TikTok to pass the time while they’ve been stuck at home, this could signal a need for your brand to develop a creative strategy for the TikTok platform. For creative especially, the “between the lines” insights you can glean from a social listening program could provide meaningful inputs as you think about your creative development process for 2021.
  3. Product Development or Launches. There is perhaps no better focus group than a large group of your target audience being stuck at home talking to each other on social media. A sophisticated social listening audit could provide valuable insights that could lead to the development of new products or services for your brand. One example of how this might work: You could select a hashtag that a sub-set of your target audience tends to use a lot on social media. Then look at the conversations happening tangential to that hashtag, as well as what other things the audience who uses that hashtag talk about on social media. (Do they all watch the same TV shows? Do they enjoy the same leisure activities?) This could provide valuable intel to help you determine whether there’s a hole in the market that your brand can fill—addressing a need among an audience you already care about. This could allow you to develop, launch or expedite products or services that you may have never identified a market need for on your own.

Certainly, there are probably at least a dozen other ways social listening could inform your 2021 marketing efforts. The point is that there’s a rich universe of social media data that’s readily available to you – if you’ll only take the time to listen.

Have another idea for how social listening can help brands stay ahead? Drop me a line or read more about our perspectives about social media.