Most business understand that social media marketing is no longer optional. For others, it’s the only option. But what’s all the fuss about social media management, monitoring, and listening?
Imagine for a minute that you could tune in to all of the public conversations related to your brand or industry online. Not just those happening on your social profiles.
Imagine what that kind of intel could help you do.
Tuning in to your customers’ public conversations (social media monitoring) and drawing insights from all that data (social listening) can catapult your social media marketing strategy into the stratosphere. But it’s not easy.
That’s because you have tons of data to analyze. Essentially, you can find out everything from how customers feel about your brand to how well a particular campaign resonated with your audience. But you need the know-how.
That’s why this article will tell you:
- How to choose keywords for social media monitoring purposes.
- How to use social listening to analyze the data you gather online.
- How to track brand awareness, sentiment, and influencers.
What is social media monitoring?
Social media monitoring is the first step in most social media management strategies. Social media monitoring is the act of compiling all mentions about a keyword, brand name, or topic that you want to track for the sake of listening to conversations related to your chosen words.
But before you can start monitoring social media you have to make a few strategic decisions.
First, where do you want to listen? Here’s a list of 15 possible social media platforms and other social forums where people may talk about your brand or keyword:
- Travel Advisor
Next, you will need to choose your keywords. Ask yourself:
- Do I want to know what people are saying about my brand?
- Do I want to know what people are saying about my product?
- Do I want to know what people are saying about a particular topic?
One more thing to take into consideration is what social media monitoring tools you’re going to use. And that’s where things get tricky. There are a ton of tools for managing social media mentions, and finding the right fit for your brand is difficult if you don’t know what you need beforehand.
That’s why it’s important to identify which platforms you want to monitor and how you will manage your keyword strategy.
What is social media management again? Want to brush up on the basics of social media management? Check out our guide – Social Media Management: Examples and Tips
Choosing keywords to monitor on social media is more difficult than it sounds. You may want to monitor mentions that contain your brand name or phrases related to a particular topic. And your choice will all depend on your end game.
Monitoring your brand name has the benefit of allowing you to:
- Track brand awareness and sentiment toward your brand.
- Calculate the success or failure of campaigns and content.
- Find ways to improve customer satisfaction with your brand.
Monitoring a particular phrase or topic allows you to:
- Create or curate content that will engage your audience.
- Give you ideas for marketing campaigns that will resonate in your niche.
- Translate the needs and wants of consumers into a better product.
Let’s start with how to use your brand name as a keyword for social media monitoring. When you’re monitoring mentions about your brand, you only use your brand name as your main keyword, right? Not so fast. Here are a couple of other things you will want to remember:
- Variations of Your Brand Name
For example, our company is Unamo. We use two variations of our name for our software – Unamo SEO and Unamo Social. Using “unamo” as a keyword will guarantee that we find all mentions containing the word “unamo.”
At the same time, we may want to monitor the variations separately to see what people are saying about our individual products. We may also want to use the variations as a way to exclude other mentions referring to the Star Wars character of the same name.
So, to monitor our brand we would choose the following keywords:
Unamo SEO and Unamo Social
Paying attention to variations becomes more important when you have many brands with variations under the umbrella of a single parent company. Good examples are food and beverage or FMCG companies.
Let’s take Nestlé as an example. Nestlé is responsible for more than 2,000 brands. Without narrowing things down, you may find it difficult to tell if a person mentioning Nestlé is talking about Gerber baby food or Purina dog food.
And then there are variations within brands. Butterfinger variations include Butterfinger Cups, Butterfinger Bites, and Butterfinger Crisp. You may want to monitor everything together, or run separate monitoring campaigns for each variation.
When a person writes your brand name, how do they spell it? Chick Filet or Chick-Fil-A? McDonald’s, McDonalds, or MacDonalds?
What was your favorite breakfast cereal when you were a kid? Was it Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, or Fruity Pebbles? How about Froot Loops. That’s right – Froot Loops not Fruit Loops. For anyone monitoring the Froot Loops brand it would be worth it to check out mentions of Fruit Loops as well.
Pro Tip: What if your brand name is easy to spell? Do keyword research for your brand name to find out how users search for you in Google. Often, various misspellings of the main keyword will show up in your research, and you’ll have an idea of what to monitor.
- Your Slogan
Let’s go back to McDonald’s. The burger chain has had various slogans over the years stretching back decades.
In recent memory, the 90’s gave us – “Did somebody say McDonald’s?” The early 2000’s was – “We love to see you smile.” And now we have – “I’m lovin’ it.”
A quick search shows that there were only six mentions with the 90’s phrase:
But what happens when we search for the current McDonald’s catchphrase? Social media users mentioned the phrase almost 3,000 times in public posts within the last month.
But as you can see, the slogan has become a popular catchphrase to discuss all sorts of things. Like a good movie quote, “I’m lovin’ it,” no longer has much to do with McDonald’s. At the same time, McDonald’s is one of those omnipresent brands. People don’t need to talk about it much. But if you’re not McDonald’s try throwing your slogan into the mix to see what surfaces.
- Specific Campaigns or Current Events
After your brand name(s) and your slogan another thing to keep your eye on are current campaigns and events related to your brand. A great example in two words? Szechuan Sauce.
If you’re unaware of the current Szechuan Sauce debacle, let me give you the short version. When Disney’s Mulan came out in 1998, McDonald’s created a temporary teriyaki-based chicken nugget dipping sauce – Szechuan Sauce.
The sauce was removed from the menu at the end of the promotion. That was the one and only time Hot Mustard Sauce was dethroned as the best nugget sauce at McDonald’s.
Fast forward to 2017. Szechuan Sauce is referenced in the popular, adult cartoon show Rick and Morty. Rick becomes temporarily obsessed with finding a way to try the sauce one last time. The episode created a Szechuan Sauce storm on social media.
Now, Mcdonald’s was listening. At the end of July, the creator of Rick and Morty tweeted that he received a bottle of Szechuan Sauce from McDonald’s. Then, McDonald’s tweeted that the sauce would reappear in select restaurants for one day in October 2017 creating another peak in online discussions.
The entire exchange is a great example of what social media listening looks like in action. Yet, McDonald’s miscalculated its response by underestimating the demand for the sauce and the ability of an online fandom to turn into an angry mob over packets of retro Mulan sauce:
— Ian Sikes (@ianjsikes) October 7, 2017
- Real-world Equivalents
One other thing to watch out for when using your brand name as a keyword is real-world equivalents of your brand. A great example is Apple.
To weed out millions of social mentions about fruit, you will need to either include or exclude various words until you’re left with mentions of your brand only. For Apple, they may want to set their keywords so that the word “iPhone” must show up in mentions containing the word “Apple.”
Amazon is another great example. There’s the Amazon Rainforest, the Amazon River, and the Amazons. How can you make sure you gather social mentions about Amazon the e-retailer instead of Amazons the mythical female warriors?
Exclude the word “warriors.” You would also want to exclude the phrases “Amazon Rainforest,” “Amazon River,” and the plural form of Amazon.
Here’s an example of what it looks like to exclude key phrases using Unamo Social:
Pro Tip: Once you’ve seen what sort of social media mentions your keywords targeted, refine your search for more precise results. Don’t be afraid to play around with excluding and including various keywords until you feel you’re getting the correct mentions.
Here’s where things may get a bit more difficult. Monitoring a proper noun like a brand name is easier than monitoring a more general product or service.
How can you monitor “red dresses” or “paper cups” and know that they’re your red dresses and paper cups and not those of another brand? In such cases, you can always add your brand name. For example “Zara red dresses” or “Dior red dresses.”
But monitoring for a product or service works best when what you sell has a definitive, standalone name. For example, Starbucks can monitor for its brand name “Starbucks.” But it could also monitor for “pumpkin spice latte,” one of its best selling products.
McDonald’s could monitor “Big Mac,” “chicken nuggets,” and “McFlurry,” among other things. Apple would do best to monitor by product, using keywords like “iPhone 8” or “MacBook Air.”
The important thing to keep in mind is that every brand will have to tailor its strategy to meet its needs. There is no one-size-fits-all social media management strategy. It takes planning and a lot of trial and error before you can find a strategy that gets you the best results.
Pro Tip: You can also monitor the names of leading individuals in your company. You may find that a person represents your brand more than a product or keyword. For example, Tesla may find it useful to monitor Elon Musk’s name alongside “Tesla” as a brand keyword.
Once you’ve collected all the mentions out there related to your keywords, it’s time to listen.
So, what is social media listening?
Social media listening is looking at all the social media mentions you’ve gathered as a whole. It’s at this point where you stop monitoring individual posts like you do when you conduct customer service online.
Instead, you start analyzing all the posts for trends and patterns that can help you make bigger moves.That’s the difference between social media listening and social media monitoring.
Think of it like this. A long, long time ago you were in high school. During breaks, a student or teacher stood in the hall monitoring students for bad behavior – the student version was known as a “hall monitor.”
When the hall monitor noticed that Johnny’s shoes were untied or that Karen pushed Diane, she took action. Johnny was told to tie his shoes and Karen got detention. That’s social media monitoring – handling mentions on a case-by-case basis. But what would happen if our hall monitor started listening to the students?
Every day Karen gossiped with Heather, Tina, and Crystal about Diane and other girls. Our hall monitor listened to various conversations and found out that the mean girls had created a clique called the Denim Tigers. The Tigers spent most of their time harassing Diane’s group.
Suddenly, the hall monitor realized that she uncovered a bigger problem than that one push in the hallway. She decided to tackle the problem with a more enduring solution than giving Karen detention. The end. That’s social media listening – analyzing all mentions to get a holistic vision.
What are you supposed to do with all that data once you’ve got it all in one place? Well, that’s the million dollar question.
One of the first things you will notice when you start to monitor keywords with a social media management tool, is that the tool comes with built in analytics. The analytics will differ depending on the tool you use, but most will help you track some of the following data:
- The volume of mentions containing your keywords over a set period of time.
- The demographics of the people making the comments – gender, age, location, etc…
- The source of the mentions – limited to the social media platforms the tool targets.
- Who the lead influencers are for your given keywords or topics.
- A calculation of ad spend for reaching the same amount of people.
Social listening is all about looking at this data and deciding how best to engage with your audience based on your findings. Let’s take a closer look at how to use social listening to track brand awareness and sentiment and to identify influencers in your niche.
How to Track Brand Awareness and Sentiment
Entering your brand name into a social media management tool is one way to quickly gauge just how aware consumers are of your brand. The higher the volume, the more people are talking about you. When you aren’t a massive household name, that’s not bad information to have.
Plus, a lot of tools will also show you where the chatter about your brand is happening. Knowing the source of the mentions can help you do two things. First, you can continue to push what’s working on platforms where you’re already popular. Second, you can start to generate brand awareness on target platforms where there’s no activity.
Another cool feature is sentiment analysis. A lot of social media management tools will show you the overall “sentiment” expressed toward the keyword or topic you’re monitoring.
That way you can find out if people are happy about your brand, product, or service. You can also find out how they feel about different topics related to your brand or industry so you know what content to feed them.
There’s only one drawback to sentiment analysis. It’s just as difficult for machines as it is for humans to understand some sentiment. Sarcasm and irony are good examples. At times it’s best to monitor several individual posts to see what’s driving the sentiment. Here’s an example:
Notice that almost 50% of the sentiment here is “neutral.” Do you believe that most people felt “neutral” about Hurricane Irma? Well, that’s doubtful. But a neutral ranking comes from ambiguous language used to express grief and support.
Pro Tip: You can conduct sentiment analysis on both the listening and the monitoring level. Listen to the sentiment directed toward a topic or your brand to adjust your campaigns or strategies. Monitor the sentiment of individual posts to handle direct customer service issues.
Want to find out how to analyze sentiment to better understand your audience? Not sure how it all works? Check out our guide on social media sentiment analysis: Understanding Sentiment Analysis in Social Media Monitoring
Identifying Influencers for a Keyword or Topic
Influencers are the new marketing channel for a lot of brands. More companies are making an effort to find influencers who can act as brand ambassadors or “It Girls” for their brand.
One example is Kim Kardashian-West posting an image of her stay in an Airbnb penthouse on Instagram. She also added a hashtag, giving a shout out to the brand for the stay:
The interesting point here is that while Kim Kardashian is a celebrity, her Instagram post falls into the category of influencer marketing instead of celebrity endorsement. The idea is that Kim’s followers will think that Kim uses Airbnb because she likes it, not because she was paid.
Now, it’s obvious that recruiting Kim Kardashian as an influencer is out of reach for most brands. And it’s important to point out that having an influencer who is authentic and deeply connected to your niche is much better than connecting with a random celebrity anyway.
That’s where social listening comes in – you can often find out who is already an influencer for a target topic through social listening. Let’s use the keyword “Zara dress” to find influencers.
Fiona Frills is a beauty and fashion Youtuber with almost 500,000 subscribers and her own website. In her bio, she states that her favorite shops are Forever21 and Zara. In her videos, Fiona reviews different kinds of makeup and clothing that she picks up from trips to the mall.
She’s the perfect example of an influencer that a beauty or fashion brand might reach out to in an effort to build an influencer/brand relationship. Some brands may even find her too big of an influencer to reach out to, preferring influencers with smaller, more dedicated followings.
Now, one thing to keep in mind is that engaging with an influencer is about creating an authentic relationship with that person. Once you pay for an influencer to engage with your brand, you’ve bought an endorsement. Disguising endorsements as influencer relationships is illegal.
Pro Tip: Let’s say your social media management tool has estimated ad spend as a feature. That’s a good way to calculate how much you save when engaging with an influencer instead of putting money toward an ad campaign or endorsement.
Still hungry for more? Want to know how to use social media to conduct market research? Check out our guide: 7 Tips on How to Use Social Media for Market Research
Social media management is how you as a brand can take your social media marketing strategy to the next level. It’s no longer enough to have a dedicated customer service Twitter profile and a branded Facebook page.
No, you need to use social listening to analyze all the conversations happening online about your brand. Otherwise, you’re missing out on all sorts of opportunities to discover what your customers want and how to improve the way your brand engages with your audience.
Did we miss anything? Still confused about how to choose keywords for your social media monitoring campaign? Not sure how to use social listening to analyze your data? Let us know in the comments and we’ll get back to you!