Voice of Customer

How I Use Social Listening For CX

Ash Bhoopathy
CEO at Harmonize


Social Listening means actively attending to and understanding the online (and offline) conversations that your customers are having about your company, products and brand(s).

Or to put it another way, it’s what companies do if they want to hear the Voice Of The Customer.

Social listening is hard -- the target space is vast online and increasingly spans the Earthly globe, too.

But there are increasingly sophisticated social listening techniques companies can use to gather and analyze this data.

Understanding what customers everywhere are talking about, thinking, and even how they feel and what they need from the business.

In this post I'll show you how I approach social listening strategy.

And share a few things I've learned.

Value Of Social Listening

There are a few different ways to think about this:

As a customer research tool:

To understand what customers want/need from you and where there might be gaps in your current offerings.

Social listening can help businesses understand what customers want and need from them.

It can also help businesses understand where there might be gaps in their current offerings.

Additionally, social listening can help businesses understand how their customers feel about them and what they need from the business.

As a marketing tool:

To create more targeted content and ads as well as to track the performance of your marketing campaigns in real-time.

Social listening enables you to create better content yourself.


Because you're now using the exact words customers in your space are using.

On your website. Blog posts. Your social media marketing channels.

And in turn, you'll be able to see what topics are being talked about the most, what content is being shared the most, and even which influencers are talking about you.

There's almost nothing better for social media marketing than the ability to listen.

As a customer service tool:

To quickly identify and address customer satisfaction issues before they turn into PR disasters.

I like to think of social listening as an invaluable feedback loop for businesses to improve customer loyalty.

Collect enough data and you can even make some judgments about customer satisfaction levels.

That is, if your customers are hanging out on social. (Which they are.)

It allows you to take the pulse of your customer base (or potential customers) at any given moment and make changes to the customer experience accordingly.

Social listening is a great way to get unfiltered feedback from your customers.

Oftentimes improving customer loyalty is as simple as hearing it in their words.

This can help you create a superior customer experience by giving them what they want and need.

Pitfalls To Avoid

Before we dive into how I use social listening, there are a few pitfalls to avoid.

Jumping To Conclusions

Just because you see a negative sentiment score doesn't mean you should immediately sound the alarm and go into crisis mode.

It's important to take a step back and look at the data as a whole to get context.

Are there other factors at play that could be skewing the data?

Is this a one-off incident or part of a larger trend?

These are all important questions to consider before taking any action.

Relying Too Heavily On Automation

Yes, there are some great social listening tools out there that can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

But it's important to never forget that humans are still the best judges of human behavior.

So always be sure to have a human (or team of humans) monitoring your social listening data and take action accordingly.

Failing To Take Action

Just because you're aware of what's being said about your company, doesn't mean you're doing anything about it.

The whole point of social listening is to use the data to improve your business.

So if you're not using the data to make changes, then what's the point?

Recent Social Listening Trends

Now that we've gone over the basics, let's take a look at some of the recent industry trends.

Private Groups

One trend that's been getting a lot of attention lately is the rise of private groups.

Slack groups and members-only Facebook groups are just a tiny fraction of what Chris Walker coined as "dark social."

As Facebook algorithms continue to favor personal connections over brands and businesses, more and more people are turning to private groups for their news and information.

This presents a challenge for companies who want to listen in on conversations by customers and potential customers.

But there are some workarounds, like using group member lists to target ads or partnering with influencers who are members of these groups.

The Rise Of Visual Content

With the popularity of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, it's no surprise that visual content is on the rise.

This presents a challenge for companies who want to track the performance of their visual content.

But there are some great tools out there that can help with that.

So keep an eye on those trends as you build your social listening strategy.

A Few Types Of Social Listening Data

Now that we've gone over some of the basics and recent trends, let's take a look at a few types of social listening data.

Sentiment Analysis

This is the process of analyzing emotions expressed in online content.

It can be used to understand how people feel about a particular brand, product, or issue.

There are a few different ways to do sentiment analysis, but one of the most popular is through the use of natural language processing (NLP).

NLP is a type of artificial intelligence that can analyze and interpret human language.

It's often used for things like chatbots and virtual assistants.

Geolocation Data

This is data that tracks the location of social media users.

It can be used to understand where people are talking about a particular topic or brand.

It can also be used to track the spread of rumors or news stories.

Social Media Engagement

This is data that tracks the engagement (likes, shares, comments, etc.) on social media posts.

It can be used to understand which topics are resonating with people and which ones aren't.

It can also be used to track the performance of your social media campaigns.

So those are just a few examples of the different types of social listening data that you might encounter.

How I Approach Social Listening For Customer Experience (CX)

When it comes to social listening, I like to take a two-pronged approach:

  1. Use social listening tools to gather data about what customers are saying online about your company/products.
  2. Monitor relevant keywords and hashtags to get a sense of the larger conversation around your industry/brand(s).

I’ll briefly walk you through each step.

Step 1: Collect Data With Social Listening Tools

There are a number of different social listening tools out there, but I prefer using Sprout Social and Hootsuite.

They both have robust features that allow you to track conversations happening in real-time as well as analyze them historically.

Here are a few things I look for when monitoring social media:

  • Sentiment (positive, negative, neutral)
  • Volume of conversation (total number of mentions)
  • Topics/keywords being discussed
  • Geographical location of conversations

Step 2: Monitor Relevant Keywords and Hashtags

Once you have a sense of what customers are saying about your company/products online, it’s important to monitor the larger conversation around your industry/brand(s).

This can be done by tracking relevant keywords and hashtags on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

It’s important to keep in mind that the conversation will be constantly evolving, so you’ll need to update your keywords and hashtags regularly.

What To Do With Your Social Listening Data

Once you have all this data, the next question is: what do you do with it?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Use sentiment data to create targeted content and ads.
  • Use topic data to create new products/features.
  • Monitor competitor activity and adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • Respond to customer complaints in real-time.
  • Analyze customer feedback to improve your customer experience.

The possibilities are endless.

And this is where I really think the future of social listening is.

Analyzing, interpreting, and giving an actionable so-what to humans.

Social listening can be a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes.

But the sheer amount of data analysts must crunch through today makes it unaffordable for most companies.

Social Listening, Natural Language Processing, And Machine Learning

Enter social listening tools with machine learning capabilities and AI.

These tools are able to automatically analyze and interpret social media data, giving you actionable insights in real-time.

In the future, businesses will be able to use social media data to improve their customer experience in real-time.

So what does this mean for your business?

It means that you no longer have to rely on humans to analyze and give meaning to social media data.

Social listening tools with machine learning capabilities can do that for you.

This is the future of social listening.

And it's a future that I'm very excited about.

How You Can Do Social Listening For Free/Cheap

If you're on a tight budget, there are a few ways you can do social listening for free or cheap.

  • Use a free social listening tool like Google Alerts, SocialMention and Talkwalker.
  • Monitor relevant keywords and hashtags on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.
  • Analyze customer feedback to improve your customer experience.

The possibilities are endless.

And honestly the tools don't really matter as long as you can get the data.

Analyzing, interpreting, and giving an actionable so-what to humans is where the real value lies.

Social listening can be a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes.

But the sheer amount of data analysts must crunch through today makes it unaffordable for most companies.

My Unpopular View Of Social Listening Companies

I've been working on customer listening for a while now, and I've seen first-hand the power of social listening.

I've also seen the power of social listening companies.

Social listening companies are those that offer to do all the hard work of analyzing and interpreting social media data for you.

They promise to give you insights that will help improve your customer experience.

Sounds great, right?

Well, not everyone thinks so.

Glorified Data Entry

I've heard some people say that social listening companies are nothing more than glorified data entry clerks.

That they simply copy and paste data from one place to another without adding any value.

I don't agree with this view, but I understand where it's coming from.

The truth is, social listening companies DO add value.

They provide a valuable service that helps businesses of all sizes improve their customer experience.

But, and this is a big but, they are not the be-all and end-all of customer experience.

They are not the silver bullet that will fix all your customer experience problems.

I see social listening companies as one piece of the customer experience puzzle.

They can help you gather data and give you insights into what your customers are saying about you.

But they can't do everything.

Don't Forget The Real Task At Hand

You still need to have a great product or service.

You still need to have happy employees who are passionate about their work.

You still need to deliver on your promises.

Social listening companies can help you with all of this, but they are not the end-all and be-all.

So, if you're thinking about using a social listening company, go ahead.

But don't forget the other pieces of the puzzle that are just as important.

One Thing Missing From Social Monitoring Today

Context is key: you need to grasp the surrounding context in which your customers are or aren’t becoming avid followers of your brand.

What else are they talking or thinking about in the same conversations?

Who else (ie. your competitors, or a substitute)?

Advanced research technologies exist that let businesses "listen" to their customers’ entire (non-private) Customer Journey with their brand, every phrase and emoji, instantaneously.

Pair this data "scraped" from public sources with the business’s private information about the customers themselves.

Then apply newly developed Sentiment Analysis techniques to attach an emotional tone or feeling-state to these data-sets.

I believe this is a whole new level of social listening. Many companies must now decide how and where to begin.

The Future Of Social Listening And Conclusion

Social Listening in this new phase will mean parsing the phrases, memes and subcultural slang of your customers and their groups.

This includes their context of use and domains of daily life, then deciding which of these are relevant to your business, and how.

Parsing all of this is a daunting task, even for well-resourced firms.

Yet but it enables a company to create massive new value in the marketplace, provide customers life-enhancing product experiences, and leave a legacy of unforgettable brands images and messages.

These high points then stand out all the more for being peaks in a landscape of smoothly functioning, stuff-just-works product/service delivery landscape.

Activities which were able streamlined using the same research.

Thanks for reading.

Ash Bhoopathy
This is the most obvious creative techniques and endless whiteboard is just perfect for it. The basis of brainstorming is a generating ideas in a group situation based on the principle of suspending judgment – a principle which scientific research has proved to be highly productive in individual effort as well as group effort.

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