What is social media listening, and why is that important?

What is social media listening?By Paula Wethington @WethingtonPaula

If you treat social media primarily as an opportunity to broadcast your message, you will miss the entire reason to have a social media account.

When you represent a personality, brand or organization on social media; you also are expected to follow and become part of the social media conversations. This includes answering customer service questions and replying to comments that come up, but goes beyond.

The detail that sets the experts apart in social media is joining in the conversations that other people lead or introduce.

You will notice those conversations only IF you lurk or watch what people say on channels that don’t directly involve you. In social media jargon, this is called “social listening.”

If your social media fans and followers show they are interested in something, even if it is not normally part of your content choices, take note. It may be a topic you can chime in on, or one where you can share a link. It may be one of the hashtag games that you can contribute a clever message to. For example, Opening Day of Baseball is a popular time for sports chatter.

But you also need to watch for the times when social media goes into “stand down” mode. This is like a moment of silence but it’s very grass roots. People express sympathies or are quiet on social media. They don’t like off topic chatter crowding out what they think the conversation should be.

The anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is one of those you can expect. Memorial Day and Mother’s Day also are among the occasions you can count on for social media conversations to be different than the routine.

Other situations will happen in response to the news of the day. For example, when I was paying attention to Twitter conversations during the school shootings in Newton CT, I saw numerous social media professionals warning each other to cancel “scheduled promotions.” The audience just wasn’t in the mood to hear it that day.

The point is: pay attention and take clues from what you see, read and notice. When the audience notices that you respect their side of the conversation, you’ll be taken more seriously.

I have a huge collection of social media tips and tricks on my Pinterest account.

This post was written in September 2015 and updated in May 2017.

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Author: Paula Wethington

Paula has over 10 years experience working in a variety of digital and social media formats on behalf of a newsroom; and over 25 years total working as a reporter at newspapers in Ohio and Michigan.

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