What is Social Listening?
Social listening is the process of monitoring particular keywords online in order to find out what people are saying about your product, market, and competitors.
It is also a method of marketing that allows you to "be in the right place at the right time" and contribute to the conversation in order to promote your business.
Why social listening is important for startups
Early stage startups most likely don't have much budget to spend on advertising to reach their customers. They also don't have a domain reputation that helps with being discovered through search engines. By jumping into relevant conversations in online communities, it's possible for startups to get in touch with potential customers, even if they don't have a product yet.
In the early stages of releasing a product, there is still a lot that a startup can learn about their market and customers. Reading and participating in conversations happening in online communities is an excellent way to learn about these critical parts of your business.
1:1 Connections with Customers
"Do things that don't scale" - @paulg
You'll work towards a scalable marketing strategy at some point, but there are plenty of benefits to initially having a 1:1 relationship with your target customers. When you jump into an online conversation related to your business, you will get a lot more signal than showing somebody an advertisement. This will often include feedback (positive or negative), which are both very useful to early-stage founders.
Common use-cases for social listening
Big brands monitor their brand name across all the internet to see what people think of them online, and also to hop in if someone is saying something really negative. By being there to engage in the conversation, they can intercept it as opposed to letting it run away at their expense.
Social listening can be a great lead generation tool if you monitor for keywords related to your product. For example, if you run a Wordpress hosting service and someone asks Twitter "Anyone know a good wordpress hosting service?" you can chime in and provide a link to your product.
When deciding which keywords to track via social listening, this is a good place to start. Think of the competitive high-intent keywords that you would love to rank #1 for in search engine results, and start monitoring them. Nice part about social listening is that unlike SEO, you don't need to wait several months to see results :)
Social Listening Techniques for Startups
The 2 social listening methods above are a great place to start. You probably won't get many hits on your brand name being mentioned, but there's no risk in setting it up anyway.
However, startup founders can expand on social listening in a way that provides them more exposure to both customer development intelligence and opportunities to promote their business online.
Obviously, you want to promote your business when people are asking for it, but expanding the scope of what you're listening to can help you learn more about your market and customer's needs.
Goals & Outcomes
In the Wordpress hosting service example above, it was pretty clear what keywords to monitor. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Sometimes your business doesn't have a clear category name, but your social listening efforts can include desired outcomes for your target customers.
Examples: "increase sales", "grow my twitter audience", "learn programming"
Monitoring mentions of other players in your space can give you some great intel on opportunities for you to improve on if there is an unmet need. Additionally, it's helpful to know what your target customers love about your competitors, so that you can consider what it'll take to win them over to your business.
Similarly to Goals & Outcomes, sometimes people don't know the solution they could use but are complaining about the pain they are currently experiencing. This is an excellent opportunity to step in and provide some assistance, either in the form of a thoughtful answer, or a link to your product if it can help with the problem.
I'm sure that by now you have a list of relevant keywords in mind that you'd like to monitor so that you can promote your product or business.
The great thing about social listening is that you can expand that scope to promote your content as well! You can watch for folks asking for resources that you've written blog posts about, and promote those blog posts. You'll get more readers, they will trust you if you have good content, and some will convert to customers!
I wrote a Twitter thread about how I use this technique to promote my content on Reddit. If you're on Twitter and want to learn more, give it a read!
Social Listening on Reddit
Reddit is a fantastic place to start social listening because it has a very active user base, seemingly a Subreddit for every topic, and people frequently come to Reddit to ask for recommendations or vent about problems.
If you're new to Reddit, give my startup founder's guide to Reddit a read.
A word of warning about Reddit. One of the things the platform is known for is that community members have a hatred for shameless self-promotion. If you are using social listening on Reddit in order to promote your business, I have a few recommendations for you:
- Make sure you're only promoting your product if the poster is asking for help
- Take the time to answer the question thoughtfully instead of just dropping your link
- If you are promoting your product, try to add some valuable insights first
- It'll be easier to promote your free resources (blog posts, free trial) than a paid product
- Give more to the community than you take! Participate in more discussions than just ones that benefit you
Among other useful customer development tools, GummySearch has a social listening feature! If you'd like to give it a try, you can sign up for a free trial.
Unlike other social listening tools, GummySearch allows for you to monitor in a very targeted manner. It cuts out the noise and gives you insights into the most useful conversations for your business.