To effectively nurture relationships, marketers need to tailor brand content and messaging to fit the preferences of the customer. When the CMO Council asked which channels and resources marketing executives use to better understand their customers, 49% placed social media listening at the top of the list (along with a corporate website, CRM and customer satisfaction surveys).

Although social listening has become an essential part of most marketer's regular activities, many have just tapped the surface in terms of the value they can garner from implementing regular social listening practices. Here are five key social listening tactics that every brand marketer can leverage to create a closer connection to their customers.

Customer Care Social Listening

The success or failure of a brand's customer care process has a direct impact on brand sentiment across social media. To be successful with customer care on social media, a brand's first priority should be to ensure all customer concerns are addressed and resolved quickly. If your brand is not participating in listening for customer care mentions across social media channels, chances are you are not aware of negative brand mentions and conversations which could go viral if left unanswered. Customer care listening doesn't necessarily have to be solely about the negative conversations. Twitter users also publish tweets about positive customer service experiences, some of which do not contain a mention of a brand's Twitter handle. For example, Twitter found that when airline brands respond promptly to users' product or service complaints and help to resolve the situation, 82% of users shared that positive experience with others. Ultimately, it's up to you to discover these hidden gems through customer care listening.

Competitive Social Listening

Competitive listening across social media channels is a crucial part of a brand's listening approach. Listening to competitors helps to paint a fuller picture of both positive and negative social media conversations within the industry and provides insights into the content competitors are creating. An essential part of competitive social listening is ensuring that your search queries are not favoring your brand in terms of the breadth and depth of the keywords used. It's important to provide a level playing field for each brand when setting up competitive listening by including all brand name variations, campaign names, branded hashtags and product or service offering keywords. With competitive listening, brands can monitor share of voice (SOV), trending conversations in their industry, competitive sentiment and much more. Keeping an eye on the competitive conversation at all times is a critical part of a brand's success, as brands looking to conquer social media must be able to adapt quickly to the changing landscape.

"Life Events" Social Listening

Social media "Life Events" involve individuals posting directly or indirectly about situations that involve a product or service category. An example life event for a pizza restaurant may be individuals on Twitter stating that they are hungry. The value in this type of listening is the surprise and delight moment a brand can provide by reaching out directly to the individual to "solve" their problem or situation. When a Twitter user tweets about being hungry, he or she is most likely not expecting a pizza company to reach out offering a 20% off coupon. These interactions can help to build brand advocacy, as many people feel compelled to share their brand experiences with friends and family on social media. According to Deloitte's Digital Democracy Survey, 78% of people said that recommendations from friends and family influence their purchase decisions. Listening for "life events" on social media can help brands to engage 1-to-1 with customers to provide solutions and relevant content to potential customers in real time. The personalized relationship building made possible by social listening can be a substantial driver of social conversions in the form of leads and purchases.

Content Social Listening

Staying current within the fast-paced world of social media marketing means sharing real-time content. The problem that many brands face is that the content generation process can be both lengthy and expensive. A great solve for increasing your brand's social channel content is to supplement created content (original brand-created content) and co-created content (brand partnership created content) with curated content (content sourced from social media users). Curated content can come from any social channel and can appear in many forms, including text, images and video. That's where social listening comes into play, as brands can uncover highly engaging pieces of content created by consumers that did not tag the brand within the post. Many times users are more than happy to give brands permission to share their content piece, however, it's imperative that brands involve their legal department to solidify an official outreach process. When sharing curated content, it's important to always give credit to the content author via social media tagging. By doing so, the content author is much more likely to spread the word about the branded post which incorporates his or her original content piece.

Influencer Social Listening

Connecting with influential individuals on social media channels can have a positive effect on your brand's social media presence, especially in the areas of brand awareness, social following and brand trust. Before building out search queries for influencer listening, ensure your brand has an influencer strategy in place. This should include an engagement process for nurturing the influencer relationships, just as you would map out a process for nurturing customer relationships on social media channels. Patience is key when it comes to influencer interaction and establishing trust. Rushing right to an offer may be off-putting to some influencers, as brand trust has not yet been established. Influencers want to work with brands that are genuine and are a close fit with what they stand for. Once your influencer process is in place, map out the criteria that an individual must match against in order to be considered an influential person for your particular brand. Example criteria may be follower count, follower engagement, content types created or subject matter experts for certain topics. These relationships built through influencer listening and engagement can lead to content creation opportunities and building a more active social media audience for your brand.

Overall, integrating social listening into your organization will elevate not only your brand's presence on social media channels, but also other marketing channels including email, mobile and display advertising. Using the knowledge and content gained from social listening is your brand's secret weapon to marketing success.

More Social Marketing Tactics for Success

Interested in learning more? Download Success Through Social Listening for more tips and tactics.