They’re talking about you.

Whether or not you know it or not, people are talking about your brand, your organization, your church, your books, your stuff. And like it or not, most users are not going to take the time to find out your @unique_twitter_handle to make sure you see them talking about you.

Why does it matter? The many jobs that social media can help accomplish are always changing, always expanding. One of the most prominent shifts in social media in the past 3-5 years is the realization that people expect brands (authors, churches, pastors) to listen and respond to them on social media.

Not participating in the two-way conversation is not very “social” in a virtual world that has social in its very name. Not paying attention, or simply deciding to only have a one-way conversation with your audience says something about your intent on social media. Silence can say more about your brand than you might think.  

This is where social listening comes in. What exactly is social listening? It’s intentionally setting up mechanisms to discover customers and potential customers talking about you and/or keywords relevant to your industry or ministry.

Here are some practical examples of why you might want to use social listening:

  • You’re a church who has a desire to be connected to your community. Being able to minister to the physical community might begin by being a part of the virtual community. Set up search terms related to your city or county, set up lists of prominent community leaders and organizations, and intentionally engage with them. Show that you are invested in your community in the virtual world, and opportunities will appear in the real world.
  • You’re a business who wants to improve your customer service. You realize that customers might have needs related to your business that they vent about through social media. You can set up search terms related to your brand and product names, and monitor these feeds on a regular basis, even enabling push notifications to make sure you don’t miss a critical customer need.
  • You’re an author or personality who wants to build loyalty among your fans. Instead of waiting for your fans to find you, you could set up search terms to find people talking about your products. You’ll get opportunities to answer questions they may have, respond to potentially negative backlash before it gets out of hand, or maybe just thank them for being a fan. The opportunities that listening with intent can offer are many.

Due to privacy settings of many people’s posts on Facebook and Instagram, most social listening is done on Twitter. Twitter seems to be a tool that has naturally moved toward a platform for engaging with businesses and personalities, and where customer service is expected. Pinterest is another tool where social listening may be of benefit to you, depending on your brand and your audience.

Where to start? If you’re already using a social media management tool (like HootSuite or Sprout Social), they offer social listening features in their tools that you might not be aware of. Contacting a representative from their company will get you started down the right path.

If you don’t have one of these tools, start with search.twitter.com, or pull your Twitter account into TweetDeck. You can set up rich search terms, create columns to monitor in an easy-to-use interface, and begin being intentional about listening to your audiences.

Like you’ve always heard, you’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason. The same is true in social media.

Happy listening!

Kyle Brogdon
Kyle is an experienced marketing and communications strategist; having developed and managed social strategy at an Atlanta-area hospital, a state university, and several churches and ministry organizations. He is the senior integrated digital marketing strategist at LifeWay.