Do You Really Need a Social Media Listening Tool?

When Carter Wilkerson asked Wendy’s, “How many retweets for a year of chicken nuggets?” they could’ve ignored it. Instead, they started a conversation that earned coverage for the brand and secured free nuggets for Wilkerson. By attending to and respecting their audience, the brand capital Wendy’s built through #NuggsForCarter far outweighed the cost of a year’s supply of chicken. At a glance, this success story looks like an accident. Some digital marketer just happened to see Wilkerson’s tweet and decided to reply. The result? A magic moment for the brand and the fan. However, a deeper look reveals the truth – they were really listening.

While not every brand can be quite as socially savage as Wendy’s, using an online social media marketing tool can improve your understanding of and communication with your audience. There are services like Hootsuite, Klout and even Google Alerts that can collect and classify coverage by source and sentiment. But before your brand invests the time and energy in choosing the right listening tool, you should first determine if you need one at all. If we were you, these are the questions we would be asking:

How broad is our audience?
If your online fan base numbers in the millions and you’re not using a listening tool, then your brand is a very special unicorn. However, for the companies still developing their social media following, the decision should start with evaluating audience complexity. Because the more intimately you know the who behind the blogging, posting and tweeting, the more effectively you can engage them. Consider how old they are, where they live and what they do for a living. The more varied the answers, the more complex your audience is.

Are we a multi-channel brand?
Not every company needs Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and YouTube. A sophisticated, marketing strategy that employs every popular platform requires a generous budget, a sizeable team and a certain kind of crazy. But even for the brand managing only two channels, a listening tool can simplify online brand management by collecting all the data you need in one central hub. So, if you’re working with influencers on Instagram, pitching stories to digital publications and sharing business updates on LinkedIn, it might be time to start actively listening to what the people are saying.

Do we really want to build brand loyalty?
On first read, you might think this is a trick question. But for a business built on purely economic transactions, investing in a tool to monitor your online brand community may not be the best use of marketing dollars. However, for those who know a top-shelf reputation is essential for a robust bottom line, the cost is well worth the benefit.

Listening to the Carter Wilkerson’s of the world is a recipe for brand success, but like most things that are worthwhile, it’s not easy. It requires an appetite for engaging with the eccentricities of your audience. It demands a vigilant ear for what people are saying. It takes the discernment to respond with creativity to peculiar questions. But with the right tool selected and the right team in place, your social voice can be both on-brand and audience-centric.