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Content Marketing The Key to Social Media Marketing is Social Listening

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Debi Davis

July 4, 2019

Working with small businesses that are trying to figure out how to use social media to their advantage, I am repeatedly asked about ROI. Everyone wants to know how using social media is going to help them do business and generate sales. To this I say, “It’s not about making money, but about creating value.”

Of course, I’m not so naïve that I don’t understand that we’re all in business to make money. However, there seems to be a misconception that social media was created and designed to give marketers an easy answer to generating sales. This is when I want to scream, “Hey, it’s called SOCIAL media, not MARKETING media.”

But businesses and marketers still want to criticize social media channels, saying that there seems to be an awful lot of talking but not very many people listening.

First of all, I would argue that, in fact, there seems to be a whole lot of listening going on. For example, who goes a day without Googling something? That’s a form of listening. Then, there’s Twitter Search, which is quite popular with almost anyone who actively uses Twitter. This, too, is a form of listening. When I look at my Facebook newsfeed, I see all kinds of comments in response to status updates. You can’t comment if you haven’t listened. So, apparently there’s a lot of listening going on there, too.

Secondly, the perception that people aren’t listening may be because there isn’t a direct, track-able link between social media and a “buy” button. Marketers – who seem to be the biggest social media critics — are still hanging onto traditional methods for measuring ROI. They want to measure impressions and distribution and hits, and relate them to dollars and sales. They want to use social media as a sales tool.

But social media was never meant to be a sales tool. It’s a social tool. As a social tool, consumers are using it to have conversations. In other words, they’re talking AND they’re listening. They’re listening to each other. These conversations among consumers are what is shifting the playing field and putting the consumer in control.

Social media and social networking are thriving. Conversation is the driver. Therein lies the key, and thus, my advice to marketers.

If marketers want to use social media to reach their audience, ironically, they have to get a whole lot better at social listening. They can’t effectively use new media for business while relying on old tactics of broadcasting. Broadcasting on social networks sounds a lot like shouting. If you shout too loud (or too often) you can (and will) be unfriended, unfollowed, filtered and even reported as a spammer.

This does not mean marketers aren’t invited to join the conversation. But they need to create new dialogues. They need to make some adjustments in their approach.  This is where it’s valuable to understand that social media is driven by anthropology and sociology.

For marketers to successfully engage their audiences through social networks, insight, research, observation and forethought are required. None of this can be achieved without social listening.