When some marketers talk about social media, they’re focused more on what they’re saying than what audiences want to hear. The point of social media is to have a conversation, not a monologue – and for smart marketers, sometimes the best choice is to stop talking and start listening. Database-driven marketing relies on more than demographic and firmographic data alone; it also needs behavioral and contextual input to get a clear picture of prospects. With skillful social listening, your database marketing team and you will gain some surprising audience insights from social media.
What Is Social Listening?
Social listening draws important behavioral data from social media channels, monitoring mentions of and messages about a company. It’s a bit like what anthropologists aim for when they study cultures without introducing their own biases or what naturalists do when studying species in their native habitats. If you’re a Star Trek fan, you might even see shades of the Prime Directive in the way database marketing companies listen and respond to social signals. If broadcasting and amplifying an advertising message represents a net flow of information from the company to its audience, social listening is concerned with the influx of knowledge into the marketing database.
Social Listening Skills
In any conversation, listening is an active skill, not simply a passive silence or a pause in your own train of thought. Good listeners pay attention to their partner’s conversational cues, both verbal and non-verbal, and learn a great deal about the person speaking with them. Social listening is also a learned skill, but in this case, it’s one backed up with technology. Data-driven marketing takes full advantage of technological advances to look in on social media activity and relate it to solid data. Being able to connect the dots between what your potential customers talk about and what they do gives you a significant edge in an increasingly data-centric marketplace.
The Unexplored Power of Social Listening
Too many companies are still stuck in the mindset of social media as an outgoing channel for information, not an incoming one. Others view incoming data as confirmation of their existing ideas of who their customers are instead of using social listening to gain true insight into their audience’s needs. Still others only listen to social media when alarm bells go off, seeing it as a sort of early detection system for problems. While all of these are viable uses for social media, they don’t result in much deeper customer knowledge than these businesses had before prioritizing social channels.
For the companies that do know how to link social listening with database services, that’s excellent news; the more emphasis their competitors place on managing outgoing social media content instead of listening to incoming data, the greater these skilled listeners’ advantage becomes.
Social media data becomes more valuable as marketers move beyond seeing social channels as platforms for advertising or branding and start seeing them as vital tributaries to the mighty river of data that flows into the modern marketing department. Marketing database managers help turn businesses into active listeners working in real time to deliver what customers want and even anticipate their needs.
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