If you ended up here, chances are you’ve thought about social listening. Whether you’re at the beginning stages of your research or actively trying to make the case to invest resources in it, social listening has found its way onto your radar.
When I started putting together this post, I poked around my own memories and notes trying to pinpoint the instance I first caught wind of social listening. Instead, I realized that it had always been a part of my toolkit and most likely part of yours, too.
- Searched and/or followed a hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.
- Set up an IFTTT (If This, Then That) recipe to track when certain keywords are used together in a post.
- Dug into a topic relevant to your brand to see what people were talking about.
You’ve at least toyed with social listening to help you achieve better outcomes.
I may not have always known what it was called (I still affectionately call it “lurking”) or had tools specifically designed to accomplish it, but it was there. I always make sure being social is an integral part of my strategy. This means paying attention, monitoring, and listening to what is said about my organization and its tangential spaces.
At my institution, I was the Office of Communication’s first full-time staff member whose job was entirely dedicated to social media. My position, in part, was established because communicators everywhere were realizing the rapidly developing influence of social and how it could be used to preserve and measure reputation.
I came on board nearly four years ago and, as current events demonstrated; social has only grown more powerful. Communities can be mobilized and information—accurate or inaccurate—efficiently disseminated globally with little to no resistance or correction.
An often overlooked (in my experience) benefit to implementing social listening software is self-care. Seriously.
Think about it—even with the best strategies and workflows, the internet remains a vast and untamed space. Expectations and boundaries are constantly shifting as platforms evolve. It can be challenging to feel confident that you’re paying enough attention in all the right spaces to catch an emerging crisis, identify a fleeting but wonderful moment, or connect with someone who is reaching out for help. We’re in the middle of a long-overdue reconciliation of what we can truly be expected to capture, monitor, and analyze. And that is stressful.
Investing resources into a thoughtful social listening strategy and set up can not only help clearly define those expectations but also translate the true influence of these moments and interactions into far more actionable and tangible ways.
But how do you get the buy in?
1. Arm yourself with research.
Part of the job (even though it never feels like we have enough time for it) is to stay on top of emerging trends and always move forward. Find examples and case studies. Ask vendors for references and how their tool has changed their work.
2. Speaking of vendors, do demos.
Be upfront with vendors and let them know you’re making the case for investing in a tool; ask them for materials that will wow your leadership. I found most will give you a taste of what they can offer and produce reports to share. Open your presentation or pitch with a few slides of how your institution stacks up against a few competitors and you’ve got the floor. Make sure to also get package details so when your stakeholders inevitably ask how much something like this costs, you’re prepared to answer.
3. Keep track of when social listening is useful.
Keep a running list of times you’re asked to look into or monitor a situation that social listening is perfect for. If possible, keep track of the amount of time you spend on each instance. Build out a case using examples from your own organization and make the connections easy for your leadership to grasp.
4. Identify potential partners and invite them to the table.
Include relevant examples of how potential partners could use and benefit from the tool. If it makes sense, include them on your demo calls and presentations. Or, bring them in to look over a few top options. Just make sure they’re a true part of the process and not just a bank.
5. Choose what you share wisely.
Don’t oversaturate the people you need to convince. Be targeted. Organize your research and align it with messaging and goals you know are important to them and your organization.
6. Be persistent.
It can take some time to get buy in but don’t fret. An ongoing conversation keeps the door open and lets you continue to highlight opportunities when a social listening tool would come in handy.
Finally, I can’t in good conscious end this post without mentioning that while a social listening tool can vastly improve and simplify your life as a social media manager or digital communicator—it’s not a silver bullet.
Money isn’t the only resource you’ll need to find. A listening tool is only useful if you can afford the time needed to set up, maintain, and use it strategically. Before you start convincing your stakeholders to invest, make sure you have the infrastructure to make it a success.
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