Table of Contents
- Social listening refers to monitoring your social media for customer feedback and industry trends.
- It can help companies learn about customer grievances and inspire products.
- Social listening isn’t easy, but small-business founders say it’s worth your time.
- This article is part of “Marketing for Small Business,” a series exploring the basics of marketing strategy for SBOs to earn new customers and grow their business.
When Ash Sharma cofounded the travel-gear brand Cincha Travel in 2019, she devised a formula to grow the company: invest time in building a social-media following, create compelling content, and interact with the community. In short, the company committed to social listening.
“We made sure that when we launched the brand we had a place where people could connect with us,” Sharma told Insider.
Social listening refers to monitoring your company’s social-media channels for customer feedback, brand mentions, and conversations revolving around keywords, topics, or industries.
The practice has helped the Oakland, California, company build an identity, increase sales and exposure, keep up with trends, learn about customer issues, and innovate their products.
“We are listening to what our customers want, what they’re saying, what they’re complaining about, what they’re happy about, and we answer every direct message,” Sharma said.
She handles social listening with the help of the company’s social-media coordinator and a part-time customer-service person.
This level of engagement often leaves a lasting impression. According to the 2023 Sprout Social Index, half of the most memorable brands on social media respond to customers, and more than one in four highlight the stories of their audiences over their own products and services.
Here, two small-business owners explain how social listening benefits their companies.
Track customer sentiment
Since its founding in 2021, the women’s underwear company Bloomers Intimates has relied on social listening as part of its paid and organic social-media strategy, Noa Arias, its cofounder and CEO, told Insider. The goal is to reach new customers, grow its follower count, and expand brand awareness.
Paying attention to social-media comments helps the New York City company stay on top of customer-service issues, she said.
“That gives us a chance to turn a negative customer experience into something positive because we’re being so proactive and looking out for what our customers are saying,” Arias said.
The company also asks customers what types of content they’re most interested in seeing on its social-media channels. Those posts get some of the highest engagement from followers, Arias said.
Keep tabs on industry trends
Social listening, which involves tracking branded or industry-specific hashtags and monitoring competitors’ pages, helps Cincha Travel keep up with larger industry trends.
The company plans to launch its own holiday gift sets after Sharma noticed other travel and luggage brands offering them last year.
“We’re learning from the guys who are bigger than us to see what they do and what their customers are saying in their comments and implementing some of those learnings for our business,” she said.
Drive product innovation
Small businesses often don’t have designated product-development teams. Cincha Travel taps its customers for ideas.
“It’s really important to listen to what your customers are saying because they might be the ones who help create your next million-dollar idea,” Sharma said.
Cincha Travel, which launched with only black travel belts, added more colors after social-media followers requested them. The company also learned that many customers thought the buckles on its belts were too heavy, so it tweaked the product.
“They’re the travelers out there using the product every day, so making sure we listen to their wants and needs is crucial as we continue to grow our business,” Sharma said.
Get out what you put in
Social listening is a low-cost way to track customer sentiment and industry trends, but it takes time. Sharma and Arias handle most of the social listening for their companies, with help from their small teams and the tools available within social platforms.
“It’s very manual,” Arias said, adding that her customer-care consultant helped with day-to-day social listening and responding to comments and DMs.
Companies such as Sprout Social and Hootsuite, as well as marketing and social-media agencies, can conduct social listening for you, but Arias said hiring outside help could be costly.
When you’re bootstrapping your company, social listening is a worthwhile investment, Sharma said: “That validation or not validation that you’re getting from your customers is super important.”