When people talk, brands should listen: Social listening during a pandemic.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of our lives have changed, both major (health, employment, interpersonal interactions) and minor (what color sweatpants will I wear today?). With widespread stay-at-home orders, it comes as no surprise that people are now, more than ever, taking to social media to share how they are feeling about this difficult situation, how they are behaving as a result of it, and what information they are digesting to help them make sense of it all.

During this ever-changing and uncertain time, brands must now inject an extra dose of self-awareness, research, and scrutiny into their communication efforts. It has become essential for companies across all industries to stay informed about not only what is impacting their space, but also what is keeping their customers and stakeholders up at night.

 

Enter social listening.

Social listening is a form of secondary research that can help brands gauge consumer sentiment and feedback by monitoring public conversations on social media and housing the information in a centralized location. By reading, analyzing, and understanding these conversations, brands can uncover actionable insights, which can help them better understand how they measure up within this new landscape and better navigate how to move forward.

 

But what types of conversations should brands zero in on?

  1. Big conversations, like industry updates.
    Across all industries, companies and organizations of all sizes may be feeling like they’re on a never-ending roller coaster ride of news updates and changing regulations. Because of the direct impact that these changes might have on a business and its customers, it is imperative for companies to stay informed in real-time about the general state of the country and the industry regulations in place.The banking and financial industries, for example, are greatly impacted by layoffs, nonessential worker policies, and stock market fluctuations, just to name a few. Broad industry conversations are usually focused on suspended fees, deferred payments, and small business loans. Conducting a social listening analysis can help a financial institution stay up to date on these large-scale conversation trends so they can take action and mitigate potential confusion (or crisis) before it occurs.
  2.  Small conversations, like individual customer concerns.
    Yes, we’ve seen the generous amounts of coronavirus-related memes online, but we are also seeing people voice their concerns and questions to companies on an unprecedented level. People are using social media to directly ask companies what they are doing and how they plan to handle all the changes and ensuing uncertainties. By listening to these questions and concerns, companies can identify new sets of customer needs, and ensure that those needs are being addressed and met.Grocery shopping – a previously mundane errand – now elicits fears and concerns that never existed before, and many are taking to social media to voice them. One concern that became popular on social media was the request for different grocery store chains to enforce senior hours so that elderly patrons could shop in a less-crowded, safer environment. After these posts picked up steam, many chains began enforcing variations of these policies. Regardless of whether the idea stemmed from social media conversation or the conversation fueled the fire, when brands respond to customer ideas and opinions, it allows customers to feel heard and can have an impact on their loyalty.

By keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s being discussed on those macro and micro levels, a brand can pivot messaging effectively.

Instead of out-of-touch, potentially tone-deaf communications that miss the mark, a brand can listen to its customers’ situations, then clearly propose solutions that ease customer anxiety and offer guidance. This can range from simply acknowledging new challenges during this uncertain time, to directly thanking employees or customers for their loyalty, to providing resources and information that solve any issues at hand. In short, using social media as a consistent source of information while the world weathers this storm shows customers you are listening and acting to provide appropriate and thoughtful solutions.

Social listening has become a valuable tool for many of our clients, during this pandemic and beyond. If your brand needs help in this arena, we’d love to hear from you.

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