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L.I.S.T.E.N. Up to Level Up Your Marketing: A Social Listening Framework

Today’s marketers are often faced with a catch-22 when forging connections with consumers. On one hand, privacy concerns, data scandals and overall distrust have led customers to further scrutinize the information brands have on them — meaning we, representing the brands, have to jump through more hoops, laws and API restrictions to effectively collect first-party data. On the other hand, consumers still crave authentic connections and personalization: 80 percent are more likely to shop with brands that show they understand their needs by sending relevant offers (Redpoint Global), and two-thirds of consumers want to see ads that are personalized to their interests (Boston Consulting Group).

Listen Better

One way marketers can learn more about their target audience is to develop more compelling and relevant campaigns. This means social listening: the aggregating and analyzing of social media conversations and trends happening not just around your brand, but around your industry as a whole. With the right listening tools and processes, you can better understand your target audiences, including how your brands, products or messaging are being perceived by those audiences — and then use those insights to make better marketing decisions.

The real-time nature of social listening data allows us to be agile and adjust strategies as needed; we can use consumer insights to fine-tune campaigns, improve marketing outcomes, improve customer experiences and refine products and services.

We’ve written about the basics of social listening before, and there are a myriad number of reasons why listening should be a tool in your arsenal, from improving your content ideation to identifying audience insights to preventing a small issue from exploding into a full-blown social media crisis. Today, we’re taking a deeper look at how exactly you can put listening into practice using the L.I.S.T.E.N. framework adapted from Sprout Social.

L.I.S.T.E.N. Social Learning Framework Chart.

Download the L.I.S.T.E.N. Framework


Stage 1: Listen to Learn

Social listening is all about learning. To set yourself up for success, however, you need to home in on what exactly you’re trying to learn. Cast too wide a net and you’ll have a hell of a time getting any actionable insights. Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. List the questions you currently have regarding your brand, such as:
    • How are we perceived by the target audience?
    • What are the main questions or concerns posted by customers or prospective customers?
    • What channels are used by our audience when discussing our brand?
  2. Dig into some of the existing conversations about your brand and related topics. This can help you identify what you already know and what questions you still have.

In the Learn stage, you can gain insights or measure metrics like:

  • Keyword volume and spikes
  • Sentiment
  • Top conversation topics, hashtags and engaged posts (on owned and non-owned pages)


Stage 2: Identifying a Direction

Once you’ve settled on what you want to learn, it’s time to identify what your audience is looking for and how that connects to your brand. In this stage, the aim is to connect consumer, industry and cultural insights in social conversations to your brand offering. Here’s how:

  1. List the major conversation drivers (including specific people, influencers and channels) and topics for your audience and (more broadly), industry.
  2. Map each driver to your core audience needs.
  3. Map each need to your brand’s value proposition or content.

In the Identify stage, you’ll want to keep an eye on the following metrics and insights:

  • Top conversation drivers and topics
  • Macro and micro influencers


Stage 3: Segmentation

With more information about your audience and relevant conversation drivers, you’re ready to better segment that audience. It’s time to take your knowledge and use it to inform or update your personas, including what they like, what they don’t, trends, and share of voice vs. your competitors. Actions for this stage include:

  1. Building out your social personas, including examples, emerging trends and channel-specific behaviors.
  2. Defining the overlap and/or difference between your personas and competitive personas based on listening insights.

Metrics and insights for the Segment stage include:

  • Audience demographics (gender, location, etc.)
  • Top engagers
  • Trending hashtags
  • Competitor performance


Stage 4: Time to Teach

Learnings and updated personas in hand, it’s time to go forth and share the insights you’ve gleaned from listening with the broader team. While this should certainly include the marketing team, be sure that relevant insights are shared with sales, any consumer-facing teams and your executives to ensure alignment. This includes:

  1. Training the rest of your marketing and customer-facing teams on behavioral insights, trends and core personas.
  2. Reinforcing trainings on a monthly and/or quarterly basis as your audience and results evolve.

In this stage, relevant metrics and insights include:

  • Most resonant topics
  • Top surprising insights
  • Top trends


Stage 5: Evolve Your Strategy

Remember how we mentioned the real-time nature of social listening? It means you’re never more than a few clicks away from gaining additional insights on your audience — and that you should consistently access this information and use it to strategically re-evaluate and evolve your current strategy. This means you should:

  1. Take a look at your current strategy compared to your audience personas and current trends; adjust accordingly.
  2. Be open to testing. Try testing one campaign based on your listening data and benchmark it against a previous campaign.

As you evolve your strategies, your KPIs will include:

  • Overall campaign performance and benchmarks
  • Top-performing keywords and topics


Stage 6: Nurture (Then Repeat)

After evolving and testing your strategy, it’s time to develop a long-term plan based on your learnings. This isn’t a set-it-and-forget it plan, though — you need to include time to listen and repeat the process in order to truly optimize your marketing. How do you go about achieving this?

  1. Determine how social and social listening can be used to move the needle on or better inform planning for larger business goals.
  2. Schedule regular reviews of your data with your team, including executives, to highlight the opportunities you see for building long-term value for your business.

Nurture stage metrics include:

  • Brand health and perception — today vs. where you aspire to be
  • Competitive share of voice
  • Any other KPIs that ladder up to your business goals


Go Forth and Listen!

With the L.I.S.T.E.N. framework under your belt, your brand will be better-equipped to enter the wide web of social chatter available and apply the insights gained more effectively. Want to chat more about listening? We’re happy to talk.