One of the keys to a successful social media presence for businesses is real-time engagement and quick response times. “Social listening” can help businesses tap into consumer sentiment in order to engage with their audience effectively and to elevate their brands.

What is social listening?

Social listening constitutes tracking conversations on social media that mention particular words, phrases, or brand names in order to connect with the people involved and to leverage those communications in order to promote a brand or business. One part of social listening is monitoring particular instances – a hashtag, an @mention, a Facebook tag, etc. – and the other, arguably more important, part is analyzing those instances to understand the conversation and context.

Why should brands care about social listening?

Studies have shown that more than 70% of Twitter users expect a response when they engage with a brand, and 53% expect that response to come within an hour. But, about 30% of “tweets” don’t include the company’s Twitter handle and only 9% of tweets are actually directed at the brand. As a result, companies must monitor more than official communications to learn what people are saying about their experiences with the companies and their brands.

Once a company has identified what is being said about its brand and who is saying it (or at least the onscreen identity of the speaker), it can address issues or acknowledge praise by joining the conversation. This company action can take a variety of different forms, from offering a dissatisfied customer a replacement product, to thanking happy customers for their positive comments, or even just joining a pop culture conversation.

What are the main concerns with social listening?

Although social listening can be a powerful tool for strengthening customer loyalty, attracting new customers, and promoting brands, there are some concerns of which businesses should be wary before responding to every tweet or Facebook message. A primary concern is maintaining privacy. It is possible that a social media user didn’t include a Twitter handle or use a tag on Facebook because the user did not want to directly engage with the company. With the wide variety of tools that companies can use to monitor social media and the Internet in general, it is important that companies sift through and carefully analyze the large quantity of information to hone in on the best opportunities to engage. Acting hastily to every comment can risk losing customer trust. Another concern is over-engaging or engaging before fully understanding the conversation.  More people are becoming active on social media (Facebook has more than 1 billion active daily users and Twitter sees about 6,000 tweets per second), any company wanting to promote or protect itself and its brand should carefully consider and implement some form of social listening.

Article originally published on Norton Rose Fulbright’s Social Media Law Bulletin.