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What Are You Really Trying to Hear With Social Listening?

By: Chad Berndtson, Palo Alto Networks

October 25, 2017

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At Palo Alto Networks, our mission is to protect the digital way of life by preventing successful cyberattacks. Everything we do, whether in marketing or any other facet of our business, has to be outcomes-driven and forward-thinking, and that includes our focus on social media and social listening.

Top-notch social listening in this kind of environment isn’t just a we’ll-get-there-when-we-get-there proposition wherein we run some numbers and suggest that “someday we’ll figure out what all these heat maps mean!” Social listening is crucial to how we do business, how we respond in challenging situations and how we proactively manage our brand and reputation in an arena loaded with fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Awhile back, we sought to look at all of the things we could do with social listening—let alone move beyond monitoring into a true listening stance, with proactive escalation and next steps—and home in on what really matters. Here are the top five areas we’re focusing on in our social listening efforts:

Proactive escalation to field teams, sales and customer service and support. Interactions occur around our brand every minute of every day. Can we quickly separate the good-to-knows from the need-to-knows and escalate them to the right people in a timely manner? This is so important to the use of social media as customer service.

Staying ahead of churn and crisis situations. Many potential crisis situations, especially involving product, begin with chatter on social media and forums such as Reddit. In addition, the way in which customers or partners talk about products or services using their social handles can signal potential churn.

Identifying new fans and influencers. Your advocates and influencers can include employees, customers, partners, industry analysts, members of the press and other key opinion leaders. Social listening is one way to find where and how they engage.

Using customer and prospect activities as field intelligence. Your customers, partners, prospects, champions and naysayers are telling you things, and sometimes within their tone, the choices they make and the things they share, they’re giving you feedback, signals and ideas about what they really care about. Do you listen all the way down to the account level?

Gauging message stickiness. There’s a lot of messaging competing for airtime and eyeballs, and that’s not just in your industry—everything you put out there competes with everything everyone else is putting out there. How do people talk about your brand on social media? Are they using the words and positioning you want to hear? Do you have clear and memorable positioning?


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Any successful corporate social listening program also requires the following:

Palo Alto Networks, director of content marketing, Chad Berndtson

Chad Berndtson, Director of Content Marketing & Social Media, Palo Alto Networks

Tools: Selection of the right listening tools to help with monitoring and escalation, and being mindful that the most expensive software packages out there aren’t often or always the best fit for your program. If you’re just starting out with proactive listening, for example, there are many solid free, freemium or low cost tools that can help you establish basic listening prowess. Hootsuite, Buzzsumo and Keyhole are good intermediate options.

Ownership and Process: Is there someone in your organization who owns social listening? Why not? Do they have a tiered escalation process in place for whom to involve and when, based on what kind of notification the scanning of social interactions is producing? Why not?

Goals: What are you looking to do with social listening? Understand where your influencers hang out? Understand what your customers are posting, sharing and commenting on? Working with your customer support team to tighten your escalation and case deflection? Most likely, it’s all of the above, but it’s important to state, measure and benchmark those goals.

Buy-in: Do you have senior-level team members who can articulate the social listening strategy as well as you can and connect the dots between its importance and other facets of the business?

Social listening can be an indispensable tool for organizations of any size and scope, but like any tool, it’s only as good as the way it’s used. So, before you dive in, identify exactly how you’ll listen, why you’re listening and what you’re listening for.

 

Chad Berndtson is the director of content marketing and social media at cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks, which he joined in 2013 after serving as a content and social media strategist at Cisco Systems. 

Follow Chad: @Cberndtson

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