Gathering customer feedback is essential to building stronger relationships with your customers. One important feedback avenue to consider is social listening, where you monitor online conversations to understand what customers are saying about your company and products or services.
Not only is social listening cost-effective when done well, but outlets like Twitter and Facebook are where customers engage with each other to share and talk through their brand experiences. Even if you offer customer surveys or have a contact us form, social listening offers up more unique and detailed information simply because online is where customers feel the most comfortable being open and honest.
You don’t need a strong social presence—or even profiles in some cases—to reap many of the benefits of social listening. You do, however, need to know where and how to start listening in order to gather feedback.
Review your @mentions
If you have social media profiles, @mentions are your most direct online customer feedback. This is when someone uses the “@” symbol followed by a user handle. @mentions are now used across all major social media platforms. Think of @mentions as active feedback and hashtags more as passive feedback.
Many customers will use hashtags to vent about frustrating experiences, but if someone @mentions you, it’s a clear sign that they’re serious about getting heard. If you don’t have a handle, look at the results for your top competitors and learn from their successes and mistakes.
If you use a social dashboard like HootSuite or TweetDeck, you’ll want to set up a stream for just your @mentions. This will make the research process easier to manage, especially if you get dozens of @mentions a day or don’t have a dedicated social media manager.
Follow the hashtags
A hashtag is any word or phrase with the “#” symbol in front of it—no spaces. The “#” converts the phrase into a link, creating a digital conversation or thread. Any post containing the hashtag will be pulled into that corresponding thread.
The downside to hashtags is that unless they’re paired with an @mention or they’re using your company name as the hashtag itself, you’re left sifting through potentially hundreds of tweets and posts to find that one about you. Instead, use hashtags to understand what’s on the top of all customers’ minds right now. Compare their frustrations and kudos with your service model and figure out where you stand.
Start with common phrases that your customers are most likely to use like #customerservice, #callcenter, #badcustomerservice, and the popular #onholdwith. You might be tempted to invest time checking out ones like #cx, but it’s less likely that enough consumers know those terms to make monitoring them useful.
Ask for the feedback you need
Twitter and Facebook offer polling options for posts, allowing you to ask for direct feedback on items that really matter to you. Many B2C companies leverage polling to ask about preferred colors and insights on new products, often prior to launch. The same can be done for customer service. You could ask customers if they prefer chat or text options, giving you insight on how to best spend your dollars and what you can expect for usage to staff that channel accordingly.
Stay alert with Google
Google Alerts, setting up email notifications for when new results for selected words or phrases show up in Google Search, are not a new concept. Yet, I’m always surprised when companies either aren’t using them at all or aren’t using the capability fully.
Many companies will set up an alert for their company name, but customers don’t always refer to your business by name. Consider setting up Google alerts for your brand’s acronyms, CEO, product names, and in some cases even your tagline or website domain. Also consider customer misspellings of your brand name, which you can easily find in Google Analytics under Acquisition and Organic Search.
Don’t forget about social recruiting platforms
When we think of social media, the usual suspects come to mind: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Yelp if you’re in the food or hospitality industry. Usually overlooked are recruitment platforms like Glassdoor. What your employees have to say about your company can help make sense of customer feedback and shine light on issues from those with an insider perspective.
Social listening opens additional feedback channels with engaged, vocal customers. Whether you’re active on social media or not, you can still leverage the technology to glean customer insights about your customer service, products, or more to deliver more powerful and meaningful customer experiences.