By Raquel Puerto
On April 14, Twitter user Melissa DePino live-tweetedand filmed two African American men, who were waiting for a colleague, being escorted out of a Philadelphia Starbucks after the manager called the police claiming they were loitering in the lobby without having ordered anything. A flood of angry social media posts, statements from community groups and bad reviews started to trend utilizing the hashtag, #BoycottStarbucks. A couple of hours later, Starbucks issued a short apology via a generic tweet. Throughout the next couple of days CEO Kevin Johnson went full-on crisis management mode, issuing an apology and going live on Good Morning America for an interview to announce plans of racial bias training at Starbucks stores. Crisis (for the most part) averted. While it did take a couple of days for the company to respond - way too long in my opinion - Starbucks was able to monitor and engage in the conversation because of one powerful tool: social listening.
What is social listening?
Now what exactly is social listening and why is it so powerful? Social listening is an organic way of monitoring what is being said about you across all social media in real-time. When social media first started, it was a place where people shared their family Thanksgiving photos; but now it has become a powerful tool for businesses and brands to use in their marketing and public relations strategy. With the number of users on social media- 335 million on Twitter alone- it is easy to miss something and get overwhelmed with the amount of time it takes to monitor these conversations. Fortunately, social listening tools like TalkWalker, MeltWater, Mention and Sprout Social help you centralize monitoring of all channels in one place. These tools allow you to easily track and analyze any mentions, attitudes, and sentiments of your brand.
Why it should be a part of your PR strategy
In the Starbucks case, the company was able to prevent a severe crisis because they were monitoring those negative sentiments. Their PR team was able to track the conversation from start to finish and strategize their crisis management plan to soften the blow. Other companies, especially airlines, have used social listening tools to track brand awareness and build their reputation online. If their customers have any questions, feedback or complaints, brands can proactively respond without having the need for them to tag you directly. With the tools available today, it’s as easy as typing a couple of strategic keywords into a social listening tool, and you’re on your way to a successful PR strategy.
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