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    How to create better social listening queries

    Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a data analyst to craft social listening queries that drive results.

    Social listening has always been a powerful tool for brands that know how to wield it effectively. Even just one solid query can give a brand a rich, unbiased view of consumer sentiment. These insights build stronger messaging, campaigns, product lines—the opportunities are endless.

    In a bygone era, tapping into this data couldn’t be done without countless training sessions on everything from advanced analytics to structured query language (SQL). Today, listening tools are more intuitive, making insights more accessible.

    If your leadership team is bought in on social listening, the only thing standing between you and smarter social insights is improving your social listening query building skills. In this article, we’ll show you how to craft social listening queries that answer your burning questions on consumer preferences, sentiment and more.

    What is a social listening query

    How to create better social listening queries

    A social listening query is a set of search parameters a user gives to a social listening tool to gather and analyze consumer data across a variety of social networks. These queries can include keywords, hashtags, cashtags, mentions, phrases and even emojis, depending on your tool of choice.

    Social listening queries allow marketers to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s happening online. By tracking conversations, sentiment data and other relevant information, they provide insights into audience preferences and behaviors.

    Boolean search is a way of refining query results by combining keywords with search operators. These operators include “AND”, “OR” or “NOT”, along with several other character combinations, to allow users to tailor searches for specificity.

    Many—but not all—social listening tools use a Boolean search query builder. If you choose a social listening tool with this particular setup, you’ll need to know the full roster of Boolean operators, along with the basics of search logic to create successful queries.

    For example, if a marketer at Sprout Coffee Co. wanted to parse through mentions of their most recent seasonal beverage, here’s what that query might look like:

    (“Sprout Coffee Co.” OR “Sprout Coffee”) AND (“Pumpkin Spice Latte” OR “PSL” or “Pumpkin Spice”)

    With many tools, the more thorough your understanding of Boolean search, the more detailed you can be in your query creation.

    If you don’t want to spend your spare time learning the basics of Boolean, don’t worry—you can still harness the power of social listening. Sprout’s Listening Query Builder is user-friendly and intuitive, so your team can create complex, multi-faceted queries in the same time it takes to schedule a post.

    Sprout Social's Query Builder, which intuitively prompts users to list keywords, exclusions and filters to create dynamic social social listening topics.

    You can even use the Queries by AI Assist tool to strengthen your query as you build it. It will automatically suggest related keywords based on the keyword you initially provide, so you can get the insights you’re looking for even faster.

    Sprout Social's Queries by AI Assist tool generating suggested keyword additions related to the term "coffee". The suggested terms include "Brew", "Beans", "Java", "Joe" and "Latte".

    How to create better social listening queries

    If you want to get the most out of your social listening tool, then you need to understand how to set up and maintain social listening queries. The truth is, query building is more about mindset than anything else. There’s no one way to do it—you just need to know how to ask the right questions.

    The following tips will help you create queries that step up your social listening strategy.

    Get clear on what will drive value for your business

    You know the phrase, “there’s nothing more intimidating than a blank canvas”? Well, the same can be said about blank social listening query fields.

    The most common hurdle people experience when getting started with social listening is knowing what to look for. Millions of conversations happen on social media every day. It’s only natural that it might cause some analysis paralysis.

    The best way to break through this barrier is to get exceedingly clear on what information will drive the most value for your strategy, your team and your business. To achieve this clarity, ask the following questions:

    • What are your marketing departments’ top priorities for this quarter and year?
    • What are your business’ top priorities this quarter and year?
    • What conversations could yield valuable insights for teams across your business?

    Use the answers to these questions to inform a string of keywords that act as the foundation for your social listening query. This can take a lot of shapes. For example, a business concerned with reducing customer churn would benefit from a listening topic to spot trends in their customer experiences. A query with keywords related to their brand, specific product lines and common points of praise or concern can demystify what’s actually causing customers to leave.

    Go beyond brand health

    Your brand doesn’t have to be trending on social media for social listening to work. Smaller brands and businesses in crowded industries can benefit from a variety of social listening applications—you just have to think beyond brand health.

    Social listening has a variety of use cases, like customer care, market research, competitor intel and more. You can still build valuable queries, even if your brand itself isn’t sparking enough discussion online to yield meaningful insights.

    The Listening Templates section of Sprout Social's Query Builder. Templates include Brand Health, Industry Insights, Competitive Analysis, Campaign Analysis and Event Management.

    Sprout’s Social Listening tool offers a variety of Topic Templates to help users get started with query creation. These pre-built templates provide tips and examples for our five most popular Listening use cases: industry insights, competitive analysis, campaign analysis, event monitoring and of course, brand health.

    Consider how you might use these templates to inspire new listening use cases.

    Get inspiration from your audience

    Use social listening to deepen your customer knowledge. Developing queries around topics that are trending with your audience can pull valuable voice of customer insights that support more tailored brand messaging. Plus, they can provide intel on where your brand fits within the interests, concerns and behaviors of your target audience.

    For example, we often see healthcare organizations using social listening to better understand trending conversations and industry topics. A hospital system can create a “back to school” social listening query at the end of the summer and learn parents near them are concerned about how this will impact the spread of the flu and other viruses.

    This little nugget of insight can inspire social strategy, out-of-home advertising, internal resource distribution—the opportunities are endless.

    Refine your queries over time

    A major misconception with social listening is that if you build a topic and it works, you can then set it and forget it. Here’s why that doesn’t work.

    Conversations—whether about your brand or other points of interest—constantly evolve. If you return to a Listening Topic that hasn’t been refined in months, chances are you’re going to miss new developments in audience preferences, concerns and behaviors.

    Remember: a tool can only be as smart as you allow it to be. If your query begins to pull irrelevant information, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work anymore. It just means you need to go back and add keyword exclusions and/or additions. This refinement is necessary and normal. It should be a standard part of your listening workflow.

    Sprout Social's Query Builder with the Topic Preview panel open. The Topic Preview is pulling data around the terms "Dry January", "Sober Curious", "Non-Alcoholic", "Mocktails", "Alcohol-Free" and the hashtag #DryJanuary.

    Sprout’s Listening Topic Preview feature is a great way to pressure test a query update before making an entirely new Topic. When you click Preview in the Query Builder, you’ll see a preview of results from X (formerly known as X). If the results feel relevant and useful, you can click Start Listening, and the rest of your selected networks will get pulled in. If not, keep tweaking your query until you surface the right information.

    Build better social listening queries with Sprout Social

    When you work in social, time is of the essence. The longer it takes to set up a social listening query, the less time you have to capitalize on the insights your query will provide.

    Sprout’s social listening solution is intuitively designed and powered by AI technology, so you can take charge of your own success quickly. With Sprout, you don’t need to wait on a data scientist for access to business intelligence from social conversations happening all over the world. Sign up for a demo today to learn more about how Sprout can help you drive smarter, faster business impact from social.


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    The post How to create better social listening queries appeared first on Sprout Social.

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