Why Social Listening Needs To Be Integrated Across Departments

Social listening should not be owned solely by your marketing function. Key parts of an organization need to share this gold mine.

Before I get into the details of how social listening can benefit across departments, let us first tell you why businesses need to listen.

If you work in corporate, the chances are you’ve sat in an Aeron chair before. They’re everywhere now and the most iconic office chairs in human history. But did you know that they almost decided to call this product off?

People hated Aeron chairs during early test phases. If they did what their customers said during their focus group research, Aeron Chairs might have never seen the light.

So… are customers are wrong?

No. Not exactly. But the process of traditional marketing isn’t as straightforward as it used to be.

Don’t ask customers what they want, because they don’t know what they want.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

Not sure if Henry Ford said it, but it parallels his ideas.

More recently, Malcolm Gladwell echoes Ford’s thoughts in his Ted Talk, where he uses coffee as an example to show the gap between what customers think they want, and what they want. 

If I asked all of you, for example, in this room, what you want in a coffee, you know what you’d say? Every one of you would say ‘I want a dark, rich, hearty roast.’ It’s what people always say when you ask them what they want in a coffee. What do you like? Dark, rich, hearty roast! What percentage of you actually like a dark, rich, hearty roast? According to Howard, somewhere between 25 and 27 percent of you. Most of you like milky, weak coffee. But you will never, ever say to someone who asks you what you want – that ‘I want a milky, weak coffee.

So what should brands do?

You don’t ask them. You listen to them. Social listening does this for brands.

Unsure what social listening is? Read the Brand’s Definitive Guide to Social Listening.

The biggest misconception brands have today to believe that social listening only feeds back into marketing or worse yet, only social media marketing.

Pioneering social listeners like Cisco, have shown that social listening is, in fact, an integral support function that goes far beyond marketing.

“A lot of companies have social listening sitting in their corporate communications team but does this data ever make it outside of that department? Social listening needs to sit across the company as a whole. Everyone from all departments should be taking advantage of the insights that social listening offers,” says Lisa Barnett, social media services director at Emoderation said at an interview with Neil Davey.

Social listening can provide invaluable insights for your Marketing, Sales, R&D, Human Resources, and Public Relations departments.

Social media data derived from reports, can be analyzed and fed into different departments. Social data analysis can be leveraged by each department’s strategy team to acquire actionable strategies.

This is a cyclical workflow that can help brands minimize cost, optimize, and find opportunities in areas unseen previously, which ultimately increases revenue.

Below, I’ll illustrate how each department can leverage social listening in more detail.

Let’s start with the obvious… 


Social listening can aid in the following functions for marketing…

  1. Keyword development for SEO, SEM, PPC, and Social
  2. Developing personas and respective content
  3. Social media campaigns for brand awareness
  4. In-bound marketing to nudge buyers in middle and bottom funnel
  5. Understanding pain-points of customers’ buying journey
  6. Customer sentiment analysis

Dulux’s Visualizer App Derived From Customer Insights Identified Through Social Listening

Dulux used online monitoring and analysis to understand discussions around painting and house decorations. They realized that one of the biggest pain-points of their buyers was that they didn’t know which color to buy.

“People are always looking for specific colours they see around them and matching colours to go with them.” With this insight, they were able to create a mobile application that enable consumers to match real life colours with the brand’s own paint references. 

“Already downloaded more than a million times, the award-winning Visualizer app has been launched in over 40 countries and is compatible with both Android and iOS devices. It allows people around the world to experiment with color and make their choices with confidence.” – AkzoNobel Report 2014

Another example is Nike. Through social listening on Japan’s recreational running, they realized one of their biggest pain-point was a lack of time for exercising.

Nike took this insight and leveraged as strategic marketing by providing a space in the middle of Tokyo equipped with lockers and showers, for inner-city runners. You can read more about it here.

Social listening tools enable companies to monitor purchase signals and identify what triggers big purchasers to buy products.

Customer Service: Doing it Well vs. Doing it Correctly 

When I say customer service, we aren’t talking about using social media as a platform for customer service. It’s using data to do customer service correctly.

Leveraging social media as a customer service is no longer novel. Acquiring a customer is 500% more expensive than retention, so the immediacy social media provides for customer service management is central.

Zappos, Virgin, and Bluehosts are great examples if you want to see an example of social media customer service done well.

That’s the execution part, but the part many companies don’t use data to strategize on doing it correctly. Instead of only using social media as a tool for customer service, data from social media needs to be used to monitor service breaks, sentiments, drive predictive analysis to prevent customers from coming for help in the first place.

Let me give you an example on using social data that challenged how customer service is done.

Companies often believe that the correct way to do customer service is to delight the customers. Sounds reasonable, right?

But what if I told you customers don’t want to be delighted, but simply expect their problems to be solved thoroughly, and that in fact, spending hours trying to make that one customer feel like a VIP is wasting your resources?

“Recent research, detailed in the book The Effortless Experience by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman and Rich DeLisi, shows that striving to delight customers is more likely to do your business harm than good. In the vast majority of cases, customers don’t want red carpets, Dom Perignon and caviar. They just want you to resolve their issue and get out of the way, so they can get on with whatever they were trying to accomplish in the first place.”

HBR study also supports this and makes a clear data-driven case that the key for customer service isn’t to pamper them but to get the job (solve their problem) done as soon as possible – perfectly. 

There’s a catch, though. Social listening data showed that it’s not just important to help customers easily solve the problem. “They need to genuinely feel it was easy for them.” For example, it needs to be effortless for them to reach your call center services.

Few actionable insights that The Effortless Experience gives:

  • Anticipate likely future questions. For example, don’t just answer the question about where to find the “reports” feature — explain where the customer can find out how to export reports to Excel as well.
  • Close the feedback loop. Make sure relevant customer problems make their way back to product or engineering teams. Harness the combined wisdom of your customers to make your product better.
  • Stamp out dumb contacts. These are conversations that are of little value to you or your customers (e.g., if you keep getting questions about resetting passwords, maybe you need to make it more obvious how to do that in the product. This way you can focus your time on more meaningful conversations).

Jeff Gardner Director, Customer Success, Intercom

Social listening data from more advanced tools like IBM’s Cognos can provide predictive analysis and’ “voting record” – the digital footprints of customers’ decisions. Data derived from social listening tools needs to be leveraged to optimize and improve the entire Customers Management System. 

Product Development

Social listening can provide trend analysis, customer feedback from past products, and insights into the current pain points of customers – all of which are data your product development teams are aching for.

Let me give you examples to show how companies used social listening for their product development.

Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese

In the graph above, negative sentiment soars for Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese product in the conversation about food dye.

The company has promised to remove the artificial dyes from its products in the U.S.

This kind of social insight can shorten the research & development process of new products. Tying this information together with traditional market research can minimize reduce the risk involved in bringing new products to market.

Another example,

3M ‘s plunge into “Leader’s Innovation” project, which leveraged listening data further supports how listening can bring paramount value to an organization. The results speak for themselves: 

User-lead innovations had an average revenue of $146 million dollars in 5 years while internally generated innovations had an average revenue of $18 million. If you want to learn more about 3M User Lead Innovation strategy, check out their SlideShare here.

Human Resources

The more known way of using social listening for HR is profiling your candidates online. But that’s a given. The trend we see is that companies are using social listening as an integral strategy for employer branding and talent acquisition and you should too. Use social media as a tool, but go beyond and leverage its data to optimize. Let me use the words of Oracle:

“Your company may recognize the potential for social recruiting or may already be using the tools, but a social recruiting strategy needs to be part of the company’s overall goals and objectives to deliver true return on investment (ROI)”
Oracle, Whitepaper on “Social Recruiting Guide: How to Effectively Use Social Networks.”

Inga Boesecke, Meltwater HR Director- Europe agrees – “Social listening and engagement allows us to identify potential recruits who are seeking employment but perhaps haven’t considered or heard of Meltwater. We are then able to connect with them directly and give real insight into Meltwater as an employer of choice”.

Nathaniel from the Socializers also attests to using social as a means for recruitment.

“For example, the HR department can save money by discovering candidates through social listening. If I find, for example, an official Twitter list/account of SAP users in the UK, then look deeply at the people who follow this account, I may find excellent candidates for a payroll position.

Within one day, I can find hundreds of excellent candidates for HR in this way – for any position the corporation seeks to fill. And, as a result, I have saved the business tens of thousands of dollars in headhunting/recruiting fees.”
Nathaniel from interview with Brandwatch

Some key social data metrics that HR departments should look at are:

  • Top channels of application
  • Top sources of hire
  • Time with most application

To effectively implement social listening in HR strategies, companies often utilize specialized HR software designed for social media analytics. These tools help HR departments analyze social data metrics such as top channels of application, top sources of hire, and time with most applications.

While there are options available in the market, it’s essential to choose the best HR software that aligns with your company’s specific requirements and objectives.

Oracle's Guide to Using SML for Recruitment

By leveraging social media data, your HR department can re-evaluate their current strategy and increase productivity and ROI for their HR initiatives.

Public Relations

There are many ways PR can use social listening, such as tracking Share of Voice, Awareness, Recognition, sentiments, etc, but most crucially, social media’s immediacy give you the earliest red-flag alerts for any good or bad events around your brand.

For this reason, social listening should be your PR firm’s best friend for crisis-management.  

Caroline Skipsey, managing partner at Igniyte says, “A crisis usually occurs when an abnormal number of negative social comments are made – if this is then shared by users with a large number of followers, or if the press picks up the activity.”

Let’s look through examples of companies that used social media to manage a crisis.

Greggs & Google

Greggs, a bakery, fell victim to Google’s update in their algorithm – for a while, users who googled “Greggs” got directed to a logo that reads, “Greggs. Providing shit to scum for over 70 years.”

According to Chris Ward, Editor of mycustomer.com, “the said logo had been sat on the Wiki-alternative site Uncyclopedia for years and had only fed through due to an algorithmic quirk caused by Google’s page ranking system.”

Gregg's bakery PR crisis mitigated from Social Media Listening

Fortunately, Gregg’s were on top of their social listening.

Hey @GoogleUK, fix it and they’re yours!!! #FixGreggs pic.twitter.com/d5Ub7qtrLG

— Greggs (@GreggsOfficial) August 19, 2014

Sorry @GreggstheBakers, we’re on it. Throw in a sausage roll and we’ll get it done ASAP. #fixgreggs pic.twitter.com/THXuMubrQq

— Google UK (@GoogleUK) August 19, 2014

Gregg’s even gained positive PR from this!

The tweets between @GoogleUK and @GreggstheBakers yesterday have been cracking me up! #SocialDoneRight pic.twitter.com/01vQhaN2kB — George Eiloart (@GeorgeEiloart) August 20, 2014

A Less Fortunate Example from Domino’s:

Some employees at Domino’s posted this video:

Disgusting Dominos Peopleby lhiartr

There were 280 views per minute during the first 24 hours, and Dominos took three full days to respond. This was because Domino’s found out about their video via third-party (Really? Really).

This was their response:

A study by BrandIndex in the days following the Domino’s crisis found that overall, national perceptions of the chain’s quality fell from +5 positive to -2.8 positive.

If you learn anything from this example, it’s that it is crucial for PR departments of big brands to set alerts for their brand mentions. Social listening can prevent millions of dollars lost. 

Set alerts for keywords that indicate negative sentiment such as  “brand name” + “sucks” to prevent your company from PR disaster. 

Next Steps..

“The deployment, data capture configuration and analysis of social listening data requires a certain level of technical understanding, as well as a broad understanding of social listening data capture methods, The web and the myriad of touchpoints and behaviours that come with it. With this in mind, an analyst or researcher must also have some of the qualities/skills belonging to a specialist in web analytics. This combination of skills is relativity rare. The specialist requires a grasp of human and social behaviour combined with a good knowledge of data, how to process text and, at a very high level, statistics.”

Ben Saunders, Senior Measurement Consultant at Seren, interview with Neil Davey.

Keyhole is a real-time conversation tracker that provides keyword and hashtag analytics. Get started for free and conduct social listening for your brand.

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