Social media is more than just a place to promote your business. It’s also where your customers come together to have conversations, ask questions and voice their opinions.

If you’re not utilizing social media listening tools to acknowledge and respond to these customers, you’re missing out on a lot of potential growth and revenue. Listening to relevant conversations about your brand can help you in multiple ways, from improving products to informing content strategy to identifying new partnership opportunities.

Social listening is the tracking of specific keywords and phrases relevant to your brand. It involves using specialized tools to monitor data with a bird’s-eye view and then analyzing it to create strategies that help improve your business.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the value of social listening on Twitter, how to perform social listening on Twitter and how to take advantage of Twitter listening insights.

Value of social listening on Twitter

Twitter is one of the best platforms for social listening. Its users are active, socially aware and aren’t afraid to speak up when they have a question or are unhappy with a business.

More importantly, Twitter is a community-based platform. This means its users love to expand their networks, and follow and engage with content they’re interested in together.

Consumers preferred channel for sharing feedback

In the Sprout Social Index, Edition XVII: Accelerate, we found that social media was consumers’ most preferred channel for leaving feedback about a product or service and reaching out with an issue or question.

We also found that 88% of customers are likely to purchase from a brand after reading reviews from other customers on social media.

For businesses, social listening on Twitter offers valuable insight into what their customers feel, think and question about their company and products. This helps those businesses create better marketing and product strategies that align with their customers’ needs.

The result? More sales and loyal customers who recommend your brand within their circles.

Actions brands can take to get consumers to buy from them

Our research shows that the number one action that brands can take to get consumers to buy from them over a competitor is to promptly respond to customer service questions.

But what about those who don’t mention the brands at all or are merely discussing general trends in the industry? Social listening picks up on these trends and informs your company’s next steps.

Brand Chart

Listening is not limited to only your brand. It includes everything from your competitors to trending topics and hashtags on Twitter.

For example, your hotel might need to drive up interest in a certain city. By listening in on geographic micro-influencer conversations, you’ll glean tips on the best new restaurants and shops nearby. You’ll also be able to use listening to find new influencers.

One thing to keep in mind as you explore social listening is that each network is different and that social listening is only a slice of the overall listening pie. Other listening channel options include tracking press articles, forum discussions and review sites.

As you begin listening, you’ll learn how your customers and competitors utilize each network. Twitter may be used more for customer service while Facebook is for recommendations.

But you won’t know for sure if you don’t put your social listening strategy in place.

In this section, we’ll walk you through five easy steps to performing social listening on Twitter:

  1. Identify goals for Twitter listening
  2. Choose a Twitter listening tool
  3. Search for specific keywords
  4. Analyze your reports
  5. Respond quickly to brand mentions

1. Identify goals for Twitter listening

Before you start listening to customer conversations, you need to know what you hope to achieve out of your social listening activities.

Why is this important? So you know which specific keywords and topics to look out for, how to analyze and make sense of your findings, and how to use that information to improve your business.

Below are five goals brands usually have for Twitter listening:

  • Attracting leads: By keeping track of trending topics and conversations in your niche, you’re able to not only find prospects easily but also craft more compelling messages and valuable offers that attract the right people. Better yet, you can join the conversation to expand your reach and get more eyeballs on your brand.
  • Obtaining feedback: Keeping track of brand mentions, reviews and conversations allows you to better understand what customers think about your company and products. You’re also able to uncover their pain points, challenges and frustrations as well as what customers love about your brand.
  • Identifying influencers or brand advocates: Find out who’s leading the conversation, who has the most impact or influence and who’s spreading the word about your brand. This helps you partner with the right influencers and learn more about your most loyal customers.
  • Improving customer service: Setting up alerts for brand mentions helps you respond to questions, issues and concerns as soon as they arise. The quicker you’re able to solve problems for your customers, the happier they’ll be with your brand.
  • Analyzing the competition: Don’t just track mentions of your own brand. Make sure you’re also listening to conversations about your competitors. Pay attention to what customers are saying about them, what they like and dislike, and how those brands are responding.

Once you’ve identified your goals for Twitter listening, it’s time to choose the perfect tool to help you look for relevant topics, keywords and phrases.

2. Choose a Twitter listening tool

When it comes to Twitter listening tools, you have several options to choose from. For starters, you could use Twitter’s own advanced search features, which let you filter the results by date range, language, author, location and more.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive social listening tool, Sprout’s social listening features can help you out. With a tool like Sprout, you can stay on top of customer feedback, trends, sentiment and more.

After choosing a social listening tool, it’s time to set up your queries — specific keywords, phrases and topics to look out for.

3. Search for specific keywords

To perform Twitter listening at a basic level, you need to identify the keywords and terms you want to search Tweets for.

However, it can be difficult to keep track of searches for every term you need to follow. This is where a tool like Sprout can help you out.

Imagine you own and run a restaurant. Let’s say that it’s in Chicago and, unsurprisingly, is focused on selling pizza. With Sprout’s social listening suite, you can create queries that will track almost every variation of Chicago pizza.

Below is a simple query that will start to pull these insights for you.

example of a listening query built around coffee

Instead of individually searching each term, you can keep a pulse on conversations, sentiment and trending themes around:

  • Chicago pizza
  • Chi-town pizza
  • Chicago deep dish

4. Analyze your reports

Once you’ve set up your social listening query, you can start uncovering new trends. Going back to the Chicago-based pizzeria example above, you’ll be better equipped to answer questions like:

  • Are there new flavors Chicagoans crave?
  • Where are there under-served locations we can branch out to?
  • Are Chicago slices really better than New York slices?

Sprout will automatically compile and analyze this data for you. In one report, you’ll find what your brand sentiment is on Twitter while another one will tell you what type of content is resonating with your audience.

Sprout’s Listening suite provides a variety of insights to give you feedback from keyword monitoring to your Listening Topics. The Twitter Keyword Report will take your search parameters and give you insight into how your brand is being discussed. Additionally, you can also use Sprout’s Smart Inbox to quickly review and respond to brand mentions and brand keywords.

Sprout can uncover social trends to help you optimize your content strategy

In the Twitter Trends Report, you’ll find topics and hashtags that are frequently mentioned with your brand on Twitter. This report is used to identify what’s most commonly said about your company.

If you’re managing Twitter for a coffee shop, you may have seen a few mentions that included words like “great service” or “oat milk.” But without tracking the number of times these appear together with your brand, you won’t know if they’re actionable insights – such as clear requests for new menu items – or just one-off mentions.

listening topic performance overview

The Twitter Keyword Report takes the Trends report a step further by tracking individual keywords and their corresponding volume, days and influential Tweets.

You’ll be able to see when certain keywords are most popular and identify the influencer accounts that are discussing them.

Sprout Social Listening active topics

If you want to delve even deeper into listening insights, Sprout’s advanced listening features are designed with you in mind. Here, you can set up both basic and advanced queries to distill the information you want the most. Each query comes with toggles per network.

building a query in advanced listening

Being able to filter via network is important because you’ll learn what customers on each one discuss the most. Maybe customers on Twitter are more into social customer care while those on Instagram are interested in product promotions. Without this filter, you won’t know these deeper insights.

5. Respond quickly to brand mentions

Customer service is one of the biggest reasons why both customers and brands come together on Twitter. Your customers are expecting a timely response to their questions and frustrations, and your brand needs to give it to them.

But here’s the thing. To really benefit from social listening, go beyond just answering questions and addressing negative reviews. Respond just as quickly to praise and neutral Tweets about your brand. Customers love recognition and will appreciate that you acknowledged their opinion — whether it’s good or bad.

Another way to join the conversation is to also respond quickly to questions and Tweets that don’t mention your brand but are still relevant to your business.

For example, if you’re selling smart watches and someone is asking for smart watch recommendations on Twitter, you could respond (in a non-salesy way) by highlighting the features or value of your product. You can even throw in a special discount for good measure.

Taking action from Twitter listening

Now that you’ve set up your search parameters and queries, and have your reports in front of you, the next question is “what now?” What do you do with all this new data?

There are several ways businesses can take advantage of the valuable insights obtained from social listening. Below are a few ideas:

Improve your products

Depending on your search parameters and social listening goals, you may have results that include product-specific customer feedback, feature requests and some brand sentiment.

Use this data to understand how to improve your product and identify new use cases for it.

sample tweet showing an idea for product development and improvement

For example, a new yoga tank top you just released can be tracked to reveal how people feel about it. If people are Tweeting about a flaw in the design, quickly respond before the criticism becomes unmanageable.

Monitor industry trends

It’s likely that you’re already following the top influential brands in your industry or that you’re one of those brands. But discussions move fast on Twitter and monitoring what other industry voices are talking about will help inform your business strategies.

example tweet showing opportunity to track audience trends

Tweets surrounding a local or national industry conference is an easy way of tracking what’s an emerging trend.

example tweet showing industry news impacting your audience

Tweets that discuss a scandal might affect your sales strategy in a region. For example, if a product reseller was involved in an event that directly conflicts with your brand values, social listening will identify this conversation point.

The number of people talking about it will tell you how important it is to respond immediately. Without social listening, your sales team might not be aware of the scandal for days. But by incorporating social listening, you’ll know within hours and give your sales team a heads up.

Inform content strategy & campaigns

There are many ways to use social listening to inform your content strategy. The first is to use your Twitter analytics reports to see what type of content is resonating with your audience. Perhaps your audience engages more with questions that you Tweet, or more frequently re-shares educational content.

Sprout competitor report for Twitter

The second step is to look at what your competitors are putting out and what’s resonating with their audience. Is it worth it to imitate what’s working for them? Where and why are they failing so you can fill that need? Are you dominating the conversation topic in your industry more than your competitor?

And finally, social listening reports can drive your next campaign. What are customers talking about the most online? Identify their needs and create a campaign around those topics. You can use the listening results from one campaign to inform your next one, ensuring you precisely meet your customers’ needs.

Identify new partnerships

When you put social monitoring and listening into place, you’ll often find yourself surrounded by new marketing opportunities. These could be new influencers for your product and co-marketing partners for your next campaign.

review your Twitter engagement in Sprout's report

The Engagement widget of your Listening topic in Sprout will help you out here. Those who are interacting with your Tweets through Replies, Shares and Likes are those who are more likely to be interested in being an influencer.

In addition to identifying the influencers, listening will also help you focus on hot topics in those spaces. Is there a trend of coffee bars in boutique hotels? As a travel company, you can ask your influencers to push that discussion point more.

Practice Twitter listening to uncover business opportunities

Including social listening in your marketing efforts will improve your overall brand strategy. Utilizing Twitter’s search parameters with a robust social listening tool helps you distill information into actionable items.

To execute social listening well, you need to first understand its value for your brand, identify specific goals, and then set up a powerful listening tool. Finally, you need to look at the overall data, analyze reports and utilize this information to improve your business and products.

Social listening does not happen overnight. It’s an ongoing process that requires active tweaking of parameters and an analytical mind. Twitter is a great source of real-time reactions that allows brands to see how new product campaigns are performing as well as track what the hottest industry topics are.

Learn more about how to set up social monitoring, especially on Twitter, with the help of our social listening cheat sheet.

How do you use social listening on Twitter for your brand? Tweet us @SproutSocial with your ideas!