Social listening has led to some of the biggest successes for companies, allowing them to identify opportunities for improving their customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, and their bottom line. And yet, there are still so many companies that don’t do it. A 2019 survey found that only 48% of companies say they gather feedback from online reviews and social media posts, so it’s little wonder that only 12% of people believe it when brands say, “We put our customers first.”
What is it about social listening that builds brand loyalty? There isn’t just one thing—social listening affects different customers in different ways (which is one of its biggest benefits).
For a primer on what social listening is and what it can be used for, get the rundown here: What’s the Big Deal with Social Listening?
The Effects of Social Listening that Contribute to Customer Loyalty
A Feeling of Connection
When a company engages in a solid social listening strategy, their customers should feel it. The whole point of social listening is to be able to respond to customers’ concerns and address them quickly while also gathering insights to provide an overall better experience for customers. A brand builds loyalty on the idea that they have a personal investment in the customer’s life and values. This can manifest in many different ways--it might be a Tweet that gets replied to, a question that gets answered, a problem that gets solved. In short, it is the company taking a personal interest in the person on the other end of the internet connection.
A good example of this is JetBlue, who makes a point of reaching out to people on social media who not only @mention them, but who also mention the company by name without the @ tag (which isn’t picked up by native platforms). This means that JetBlue is actively searching the Internet–most likely through social listening–for places where their name pops up and taking action based on those posts.
Maybe a customer is unhappy with the handling of a piece of luggage or a flight delay; by monitoring social media to see those comments and sentiments, the company is able to stop problems before they get too big to solve. A good comparison would be United Airlines, who made the news in 2009 for refusing to listen to a customer who then wrote the song “United Breaks Guitars” and posted it on social media. After the song had 150,000 views, United tried to reach out to the singer, but the damage was done. In the next four weeks (and millions of views) the brand’s stock value dropped by 10%.
By reaching out and making a connection upfront, you’re able to make the customer feel a connection with you, and you’ll be able to stop these PR disasters when they’re only little problems and not headline-making YouTube videos.
A Sense of Value
When a company engages in social listening, their customers gain a feeling that they matter to the company. Everyone likes to feel valued, and a one-on-one interaction with a company might be the glue that’s needed to connect the company to the customer and foster customer loyalty.
One company that makes a point of showing this value to customers is Bose. As makers of high-end audio equipment, they know that their customers spent a lot of money to use their product, which often means that the customers tend to have high expectations. So when Bose’s Twitter account sees problems, they fix them quickly.
In a recent interaction on the platform, a customer's dog had torn apart a pair of $350 headphones. The upset customer posted a photo of the shredded equipment on Twitter, and the company replied almost instantly with condolences and a private message offering to replace the ear cushions for free. The customer proudly announced later, “Bose has made a customer for life!”
Social listening is about more than just responding to each and every customer complaint, or sending every customer a free product. It’s also about looking at the big picture: trying to see what the customers are saying as a group. What do the little things build up to as a whole?
For example, you may not need to respond to every review of your product, but if you notice that the overall rating in those reviews has started to decline, you’re going to want to figure out what’s causing the drop. And just like a drop in product rating may be due to poor manufacturing or bad production, there’s a less-tangible rating that is also dropping with review ratings: your brand’s reputation in the eyes of the consumer. Just as you’d want to drill down into those product reviews to find the flaw, you’re going to want to drill down into your brand reputation to find the source of the damage.
This is done through bigger means than just looking at a product review. Monitoring the broad spectrum of influencers and users and news and everything else that affects the way people see you will help you uncover the cause of changes in your brand’s reputation. This has to be done on a macro level, not a micro one.
Customer Loyalty is a Result of Positive Experiences
When you’re building customer loyalty, you need to remember that the brand lives only in the mind of your customer. With each interaction you have with your customer, you are provided with an opportunity to satisfy and delight them and build a lasting relationship. When you’re taking full advantage of social listening tools, you’re getting a snapshot of the mind of your entire customer base. Social listening lets you hear what your customers are thinking, feel what they’re feeling, and relate to their motivations.