7-min read
Feb 13, 2023

Why Community Listening is Your ‘Secret Marketing Weapon’

Pam Magwaza

A community listening program can solve data depreciation issues and help Marketers reach a broader audience.

Being a marketer in today's digital world can feel like trying to shout over everyone else in a crowded bar. But if you’re lucky enough to have an active community, you’re sitting on a goldmine of insights that can help you speak up and rise above the noise.

Joel Primack, Host of The Community-Led Growth Show, advocates for embracing Community-Led Marketing tactics. One of his favorites? A robust community listening program.

Joel started his career in community, pivoted to marketing, and then boomeranged right back into community. It’s given him a unique perspective on how Community teams can work with Marketing teams to achieve business goals.

"One of the biggest ways that marketing can win and gain value from a community is through having an effective community listening program," says Joel.

"It's like having a secret weapon to gain valuable insights from your brand's biggest fans and using it to level up your marketing efforts. You may think that sounds a little familiar — yes, it's similar to social listening but for your community."

Same same, but different. Here’s how.

What is community listening?

Community listening refers to the process of monitoring, analyzing, and engaging with conversations within your community. This includes tracking keywords, sentiment, and mentions of people or other brands during conversations among your members.

Through the years, marketers have used social listening to build a solid understanding of their current and potential customers by analyzing what they say about the company on social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It's a great way to do market research in real-time and use it to change your marketing strategy. But it’s not without limitations — and it’s why community listening may have an edge.

"Social and community listening are inherently different because they happen in two different spaces," says Joel. "One takes place where your audience (and people who may not be true users of your product or brand) live, and the other happens in a dedicated space for people who are your customers or interested in becoming them.

"It's extremely valuable for marketers to know how people speak about their brands. This is why social listening has been so popular, but community listening takes it a step further. You're not just seeing what a broad audience is saying about your brand or product, but you can access what people who have made your brand or community space a part of their daily life have to say about you."

Understandably, this is powerful — it can influence content, partnerships, brand voice, even your go-to-market strategy.

How a community listening program can solve marketing challenges

According to a 2022 article by Forbes, some of the biggest challenges marketers face today are data depreciation, rising above digital noise, and reaching their audience.

A community listening program can solve these challenges.

Data depreciation

Bye-bye, third-party data.

Data depreciation is just a fancy way of saying that advertisers are having a tough time keeping tabs on us online. With all these new privacy rules, cookie restrictions, and people taking control of their data, it's becoming harder and harder for companies to collect information about their target audience.

This means they need to start finding a way to gather first-party data from their customers: enter community.

"Community can help marketers move from a reliance on third-party data to receiving first-party data from community members," says Joel. "This quality data is more reliable and guaranteed to be obtained ethically."

Rise above the noise

Reaching customers has become more challenging because of shifting consumer habits and the sheer amount of advertising most people are exposed to.  Most brands have a significant social presence, and many more pay for advertising on social platforms in an attempt to rise above the noise.

Joel believes marketers focusing on Community-Led Marketing can give themselves a real competitive advantage.

"By paying attention to what your community is talking about, you can shape your marketing strategy to meet their needs. They're telling you what they want; if you give it to them, they'll be more likely to engage with your brand," he says.

"For example, if you have a Community of Practice and people are always discussing a certain topic, you could create a blog post, newsletter, or eBook on that topic. Chances are your community members will be interested in reading it and want to share it with their networks outside the community."

It can help you reach your broader audience

Your audience is those who may have seen a campaign or piece of content here or there but have yet to fully commit to becoming a member or customer. Bur your community? It’s made up of the people who already believe in you and your mission or brand.

According to Joel, collaborating with your community members on campaigns or content can be an effective way to show the value of your brand to your broader audience and make it stand out.

"Sharing a Community-Led project with your audience can be a great way to show off your product or community," says Joel. "Your marketing team can create that piece of content, and when you market it to your broader audience, you can mention that it was created to support your community. This helps show the value of becoming a member to your wider audience while also serving your biggest fans."

Getting user-generated content (UGC) can showcase your community’s expertise. This is especially great for Communities of Practice and Product Communities. If your audience reads a blog post or watches a video made by your community members, they feel a great sense of trust for your brand.

How to get the most out of a community listening program

Community listening can almost happen naturally if you spend appropriate amounts of time engaging with your community.

"Communities that have topic-based channels like you would normally see on Slack or Discord are particularly great for marketers to lurk in and look out for what community members are sharing or saying about a particular topic or feature," says Joel.

However, if your community is exceptionally large — think Atlassian, Hubspot, or Saleshacker — this can be a difficult task. This is where community analytics tools that can run a sentiment analysis, keyword research, and uncover trending topics may come in handy.

Wherever you are in your growth stage (with or without a community analytics tool), here's how you can start and gain value from community listening programs.

1. Get familiar with your community members

A crucial part of community listening is knowing who is speaking up.

For example, if you have a Product Community and a member from a target company expresses interest in a particular feature, it's an opportunity for your team to focus on that feature for marketing efforts and for Sales to reach out once that feature has been shipped.

👉Actionable tip: Identify members from target companies, compile a spreadsheet with their details, and document their comments that are related to your product or brand. It’ll make it easy for you — and your colleagues — to stay on top of what’s important to these members and reach out to them when you’re ready with what they need.

2. Set up specific channels based on your goals

Dedicated channels are a great way for Marketing teams to find the topics members engage with most.

Joel says channels such as reading rooms or resources and content can provide valuable insights for marketers to see what customers are genuinely interested in by simply observing what they share the most.

💡Pro tip: Collaborate with the Community team to set up temporary channels for marketing-led campaigns that can be of value to the community while also providing great insight into what will attract audience members.

3. Get a Marketing team member to get involved in the community

Want to know what's really going on in your company's community? Nothing beats getting in there yourself and checking it out.

"Have a member of your Marketing team join the community as a ‘lurker’ and work with the Community team to gather important data. Then, have regular meetings to analyze the data and use it to inform your marketing strategy. Trust me, it's a game changer," says Joel.

4. Keyword search

If you're in marketing, you may already have some experience with keyword research to improve your website’s Search Engine Optimization. A similar practice within your community can help you find what your specific members or customers are most interested in. If you have a list of key phrases or words you already want to work on, you can do a quick search on platforms like Slack or Discord. These searches are limited but if you’re looking at recent data, they can show you if there has been an interest in that particular topic from your community.

👉Actionable tip: Collaborate with your Community team to pull out weekly keywords related to topics your community may be interested in. This can be words or phrases that get mentioned a number of times by your members, or they could be questions you receive often. Use this information to create campaigns, events, and product marketing content.

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