When Listening Wins the Game

Picture a world-class chess tournament — or a high-stakes game of poker. You sit across from your opponent, evaluating your next move. You are aware of spectators shifting nervously in their seats. The room is quiet, tense.

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But this time, you have an advantage. Imagine that you know exactly what your opponent is thinking and even their next move. Imagine that you can hear what the spectators are whispering about. Able to see the whole picture, you sit there feeling confident and comfortable, because nothing is going to surprise you.

Now, what if you could bring that same superpower to your organization?

With social listening, you can.

Social listening allows us to tap into the thoughts, opinions, and experiences that millions of people share on social media every day.

Plus, it captures this existing data at a fraction of the cost of traditional research methods. Using specialized tools and sophisticated analysis, Reingold’s digital marketing team can help you glean insights from those conversations and understand what they mean for your big picture.

Armed with the results, you can help your organization make better, more informed decisions. Here are five ways that social listening can raise your game in advocacy, business development, and more.

1. Reading the Playing Field

Think of social listening as conducting a huge, ongoing focus group. It can round out your understanding of how the target audience perceives a specific issue, a cause, or your organization. And it can detect early signs of change, acting as a precursor — or supplement — to traditional research, such as surveys or traditional focus groups.

In 2018, a major health care trade association faced a growing trend of consumers abusing and misusing an over-the-counter medication — drawing scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration. They needed to learn more about it.

Through social listening, Reingold pinpointed anonymous forums where this drug’s misuse was being discussed. We learned about the misuse and found clues for creating successful messages to curb it. Over time, social listening also provided evidence that incidents of misuse were relatively isolated and the trend was not increasing rapidly. As a result, we helped this client combat the misuse and make a case for less harsh FDA regulation.

2. Designing a Winning Game Plan

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Social listening can help guide your next move, whether that’s maintaining course, taking a sharp turn, or even pausing for a moment to assess your options. It can reveal when a fresh strategy is needed — before it’s too late. Even when you know the external environment is changing quickly, understanding exactly how it’s changing can be the difference between success and failure.

“Social listening is the canary in the coal mine.” — Mark Viden, Senior Vice President of Brand, CommonSpirit Health, in eMarketer

A major pharmaceutical leader in cannabinoid prescription medicine wanted to gauge changes in public perceptions and discussions of CBD in recent years. The company knew CBD was more popular than ever, but through social listening, Reingold provided a more in-depth and nuanced view. We used this information about the company’s market and potential audiences to create high-impact social media content and deliver results for our client's new campaign.

3. Outpacing Your Opponent

No one likes to be caught off guard. A competitor’s surprise move can throw you off your game, leaving you in the vulnerable position of reacting rather than leading.

Social listening can provide insights about your competitors’ priorities and uncover news or trends, like a push for legislation, that affect you both. Often, indications of these priorities are hiding in plain sight. One great place to start: the posts being promoted by a particular social media account, which can be found through ad transparency centers on both Facebook and Twitter.

Last year, a major physician specialty association faced potential passage of legislation that could dramatically affect its members. Several other associations were lobbying for that legislation. By gathering valuable intelligence about what those organizations were communicating to their own members, the public, and Congress, we helped this client create persuasive countermessaging to help sway the minds of decision-makers.

4. Getting Ahead of Curveballs

When a crisis hits, your most valuable resource is time. Social listening can spot the seeds of an issue as they begin taking root on social media, giving you time to help frame it instead of just react.

Don’t think a crisis is going to happen to you? Sixty-nine percent of leaders have faced a crisis in the past five years, according to a study by PwC.

Social listening is one of the best ways to detect emerging issues. Reingold configures social listening tools to send a notification to analysts when specific keywords are used or there is anomalous activity related to a topic or organization. 

In March 2020, for example, Reingold’s social listening team identified a false rumor that the 2020 Census was tied to federal stimulus checks. Because we caught the rumor as it emerged, we were able to help the U.S. Census Bureau create a webpage and work with partners to quickly curb the spread of misinformation and prevent it from becoming a major source of confusion about the census.

5. Keeping an Eye on the Scoreboard

When your mission is to raise awareness, change perceptions, or reduce stigma, it can be difficult to quantify success. How do you measure enthusiasm after a big event or understanding after an educational campaign without administering costly surveys?

By tracking how often and in what ways a topic comes up on social media, social listening can provide data that shows campaign impact.

When a major physician specialty association needed to measure the effectiveness of a long-running communications campaign, Reingold used social listening to produce one of the inputs. Our analysis documented how members of the target audience were reacting to the campaign on social media, including their levels of engagement with specific content and how that compared to other associations’ engagement rates. This helped guide key adjustments in order to optimize messaging.

Social listening produces the kind of results that make you say, “Why weren’t we doing this all along?”.

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