Social Listening Meets Business Objectives: A Match Made in Marketing Heaven

Until recently, insights and information mined from social media rarely received the trust and validity they deserved—especially from CMOs. Rather, they have been dismissed as vanity metrics. As we move to a more mobile, app-based social society, social listening practitioners have beaten the drum loudly and long enough that marketing officers are starting to sway to the rhythm.

Written by Tim Brown
on 04.17.19

But what social listening metrics ladder up to which business objectives? Is it a straight line, or is a leap of faith required? What is the relationship between some very basic social listening capabilities and an organization’s KPIs and marketing goals?

Mentions & Brand Awareness

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Social Listening Metric: Mentions – Marketers are confused about the value of a social media mention. Without a business KPI to ladder up to, mentions can easily be viewed as a billboard (even if often misplaced), a whistle, or a rhinestone on a bedazzled Vegas showgirl costume. They all attract attention. But is it the proper kind and amount of attention?

What does it mean when a brand is mentioned in a social media post? That all depends on how the brand was mentioned.

If a Twitter handle or other social media account is explicitly included in the post, assume the writer is talking to the brand. If a hashtagged version of the brand’s name is used, that individual may not be talking directly to the brand, but they do know the brand can see the post. In real-world terms, this is like talking about the brand while standing close to them, ensuring the brand can hear. Finally, if a brand is simply mentioned with no hashtag or handle, the sender has no real expectation that the brand will see it. In other words, they are talking about the brand, not necessarily to them. To many social listening analysts, this is the purest form of a mention.

Business Objective: Brand Awareness – The mention metric is not a stand-alone data point. It needs to be compared to something, such as the competition within a branded social listening monitor, a historical snapshot against previous performance, or even as a share of voice in an unbranded, industry-wide conversation.

For example: How does Little Debbie stack up against Entenmann’s and Tastykake in a conversation that requires a brand to be explicitly mentioned? How is Little Debbie doing this year compared to last? How much of the conversation is Little Debbie earning in the generic online chatter about snack cakes?

Audience Analysis & Campaign Focus

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Social Listening Metric: Audience Analysis – Any social listening tool worth its salt will have some sort of audience or demographic analysis functionality. Some allow practitioners to monitor an entire online conversation that is taking place within a certain population of similar individuals. Others allow marketers to break down any conversation into demographic subsets.

In other words, social listening allows a brand or agency to monitor a Twitter conversation about the First Amendment—even going so far as to see only the conversation between participants with the word “lawyer” in their bio. Alternatively, one could see the age, gender, and geographic location of everyone engaging in any topical conversation in the social-sphere.

Business Objective: Campaign Focus – Either of the above approaches will help a brand determine whether their campaign is hitting the right notes with the proper audience.

Set up a social listening tool that allows you to construct a list of Twitter handles whose bios include words and phrases that echo the core values of a campaign you’re running. Sprinkle some keywords closely associated with that campaign into the tool and monitor that conversation to determine how well the campaign was received by what one would expect to be a very targeted audience.

Conversely, a brand could monitor its entire campaign through a social listening tool to determine which demographic segments the campaign most resonates with. You might even stumble on to a new age group or geographic area to put your energies toward in the future.

Engagement & Conversions

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Social Listening Metric: Engagement – It may be a bit of overstating the obvious here, but this section relates specifically to positive or neutral engagement—anything non-negative.

If a brand mention can serve as a virtual billboard, other engagement metrics can just as easily be considered customer testimonials of sorts. Comments show a level of trust and reciprocity between an audience and a brand. Total likes and follows provide a snapshot of brand devotees. Reviews serve as a conduit to the product design team, while social ad click-throughs scream intent.

Business Objective: Conversions – Unlike other social media and business objective relationships, this one is less concrete but no less legitimate. Rather than a ladder linking the two, consider it more of a series of boxes and other objects stacked in a way that lets you climb from one metric to the other.

All that trust that is built and groomed via on-page comments is a major component of the backbone of the customer-company relationship. The stronger that bond, the higher the expectation of conversions should be. A brand’s social media followers should be considered its universe of customers; create content that speaks to them, and increased conversions should follow. Product reviews are a passive way to move customers further down the purchase funnel. Finally, any click-through that doesn’t convert is an internal warning that the landing page may not be properly optimized for conversion.

Sentiment & Product Improvement

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Social Listening Metric: Sentiment – While product reviews and customer service teams can capture much of an audience’s thoughts on a brand’s offerings, those posts tend to be on the extreme ends of the spectrum—it’s all 1-star or 5-star reviews. For the nuance between those polar opposites, marketers turn to social listening.

All the better social listening tools allow the practitioner to drill down on the drivers of sentiment and emotion. A simple filter can separate the negative chatter about a brand or its product or service. Conversely, the positive posts in the conversation can be pulled out for further analysis, as well.

Business Objective: Product Improvement – With all the sentiment and emotion drivers gathered into one convenient spot, a brand can sift through the posts to see where their products fall short in the eyes of their customers, how they stack up against their competitors (if the social posts and forms contain that info), and what they need to do to improve their efforts.

Likewise, a brand can gain an understanding about what they are doing right. Perhaps they learn something they can take to a different area of their organization or improve a completely different product or service.

Even better, they may discover a net-new insight to send the brand on a new, more profitable direction.


Now that you’ve learned how we play matchmaker between social conversation metrics and their corresponding business objectives, how can we use these capabilities to help you? Reach out and let us know how PACIFIC can use our social listening savvy to enhance and solidify your organization.

Read more by Tim Brown

Check out Tim’s comprehensive study on utilizing social listening to measure the impact of prominent brand campaigns, corporate scandals, and viral events.  Download the whitepaper here.