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How to Use Social Media Listening to Build Brand Loyalty

08/20/2013 08:38 am ET | Updated Oct 20, 2013

Acquiring customer feedback and understanding their wants and needs is an integral part of running nearly any business. Not only is it important for delivering the right products and services, but it plays a big role in establishing a loyal customer base and repeat sales.

Ever since the birth of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, it's been unprecedentedly easier for businesses to connect with their customers and gain valuable information about them. In turn, this has resulted in the rise of social media listening. According to SearchCRM, social media listening is "the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product or brand on the Internet." Let's discuss how this technique can be utilized by your business to improve brand loyalty, trust, and sales.

Learn What Consumers are Saying

In the pre-Internet world, companies were somewhat limited when it came to learning how consumers felt about their products or services. Feedback was available, but not like it is today. In modern times, social media has made it possible for just about anyone to publicize their opinion. Whether it's a comment on a Facebook business page, a hashtag on Twitter, or any other medium, consumers can voice their pleasure or displeasure in an instant. Consequently, this can be incredibly valuable for businesses when it comes to gaining a more thorough perspective.

If you recently launched a new product, social media listening is an effective way to determine what consumers are saying about it and what their overall experience has been. While there will probably be some people who absolutely love it and others who dislike it, observing social media feedback is a great way to make an initial assessment.

This data can help you pinpoint what you're doing right and what mistakes you're making. Knowing your business's strengths and weaknesses is critical for building brand equity and sticking around for the long haul.

"Listening to my audience helps me write content that they want to read," says Brittney Brombacher, founder & CEO of the video game blog BlondeNerd.com. "And that results in more targeted website traffic, social shares, and followers on my social media accounts."

Product or Service Improvement

Regardless of how great your products or services are, there's almost always room for improvement. Absorbing feedback and making key adjustments to keep customers coming back and spreading the word is what's made companies like Apple and Google so successful.

To grow a solid brand that stands the test of time, it's important to earn a reputation for quality and responsiveness. Social media listening helps achieve this because it offers a firsthand look at what actual consumers think about a product or service and their overall view of a brand. Basically, the feedback you receive through this technique is like getting input straight from the source. Once you spot issues, you can resolve them before bigger problems arise.

Stronger Customer Relationships

One benefit of gaining feedback is that it puts your business in a better position to keep customers happy. Whenever a customer has a major complaint, they may voice that complaint on social media channels. If you're listening, you can address the issue and seize the opportunity to show the world how great your customer service is, while also humanizing your brand.

In some cases, you can even turn a negative experience into a positive one. Regardless of the situation, most consumers will appreciate it when a company puts forth the effort to implement their feedback, which improves brand loyalty.

Reputation Management

Due to the speed at which information can be shared over the Internet, reputation management has become a serious concern for many businesses. Even if negative accusations aren't entirely true, a smear campaign from a few disgruntled customers or a rival competitor can quickly tarnish a company's image. Fortunately, social media listening can help you stay apprised of both positive and negative perceptions, and address them accordingly.

In terms of positive perceptions, be sure to reward and thank people who step up and say favorable things about your brand. This will encourage other customers to voice their positive support as well. When it comes to negative ones, social media listening allows you to identify and appropriately address concerns in a timely manner, allowing you to take actions to avert or minimize it.

Competition Analysis

Besides knowing what consumers are saying about your brand, social media listening is perfect for gaining intel on your competitors. If a competitor has implemented a new marketing technique that's proven successful, you can use this knowledge in your future marketing efforts. On the other hand, consistent complaints about their business practices can prevent your company from making the same mistakes.

Social Media Listening Software

Now that you understand the benefits of social media listening, let's talk about some popular software products that streamline the process. According to David Johnson, VP Agency Sales & Service at Marketwired, "Companies need to look beyond what they need today and select solutions that grow as they mature. Too often clients are focused on a single channel like Facebook. They need to choose a solution that has the depth, breadth and commitment to innovation so that they can capitalize on the markets where their clients/prospects will be."

This is one of the most well-known products on the market, and is trusted by many business owners.

Sendible

This tool is less well-known, but my personal favorite for social media listening because it includes more than just social media channels in its monitoring reports; it includes mentions anywhere across the Web.

This is another option that has gained popularity quickly, and is currently used by major companies like Nokia, Fender and Hyatt Regency. Some data that this software displays includes:

• Brand mentions
• Unique visitors
• Impressions
• New Facebook fans
• New Twitter followers
• Keyword tracking

One feature that's particularly interesting is the "Assign Tasks" feature. Whenever your business receives a customer inquiry, this will assign messages to the correct team member to ensure a fast response. This can be helpful for keeping customers happy and building rapport.

Conclusion

There are more ways than ever to monitor your business, and social media listening is becoming more important as the rise of social media continues to blossom. Whether it's the performance of a product or service or a brand's reputation, staying in touch with consumers is important to building brand equity, loyalty, and revenue.