Insider Exclusive: Why You Should Engage in Social Listening

Insider Exclusive: Why You Should Engage in Social Listening

By Bill Eager

Before getting into the mechanics of how to listen on social channels, let’s start with why you should listen. The goal of listening is to identify the key themes and emerging topics that are critical to your target audience. The process combines computer intelligence to pick up and sort content from many sources, such as online social feeds and the human intelligence to review this content and add insight about what is important.

Key Themes and Emerging Topics Are Key to Advertising

The result of this work is a marketplace analysis that provides direction to the strategy for connecting with your customers in a meaningful and timely manner. Key themes are the broad discussion areas that are being discussed and have been discussed for a period of more than one year, whereas an emerging topic is one that is just now beginning to enter the dialog and may be critical to future discussions. This information is the foundation that drives online and off-line advertising and other aspects of business decision-making.

How to Learn by Listening

This process of learning from listening involves accumulating a volume of conversations related to your company, brand, products and services, competition, and industry. You may already have some of this available in different forms. Step one is to take a look at what you have today. For example, have you conducted surveys, focus groups, or interviews? You need to aggregate the research that you currently have. Some of this may be in old-fashioned “hard copy,” such as surveys, or it might be digital. As a rule of thumb, go back two to three years because it gives you the breadth of content for the themes.

Social media represents a river of conversations. It is constantly flowing and you need to listen continually to see what hot topics related to your business are moving in this stream. The benefits of the listening process are many. For one, you can start to participate in the dialog with new appreciation of what is being said.

Use a combination of computers and humans to sort through the social media conversations you care about; discover why they are happening, and learn who is driving them. At the basic level, sort on keywords—keywords related to your company, products, and industry. Depending upon the tool you use, keyword searches may come in many forms to help you refine the listening.

For example, if you are a tour operator, you might want to search for conversations about specific types of tours for extremely targeted audiences. Instead of searching for “tour participants,” be more specific by searching “millennial tours,” “food tourism,” or “female solo travel.”  Other searches include:

  • Brand mentions
  • Competitors
  • Hashtags

There are a variety of professional listening tools available to help you gather the themes and topics you need for your digital campaigns. To get the latest tools, just Google “professional social listening tools.”

Bill Eager is co-author of Transformative Digital Marketing and will be a speaker at the 2018 ABA Annual Meeting & Marketplace, Jan. 26–30. To learn more about Eager, visit

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
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