It's Time to Listen.

How Arby’s, Microsoft, Bank of America, and AT&T take action on their listening strategies.

Caroline Henley
June 15, 2015 - 4 min. read

At the Social Shake-Up Conference in Atlanta this week, one of the most exciting ideas floating around the panels has been the many creative social media listening strategies.

The power of social listening is undeniable—with firehoses bringing data in from millions of touch-points, a company can zero in on anything and measure pretty much everything that people are talking about across the web. The possibilities to turn all of this data into proactive strategies are endless.

So what does taking action on “big data insights” actually look like? Let’s take a look at what some major brands are doing on this front.

You asked, we sauced.
The Arby’s team has carved out a social listening strategy as hearty as its roast beef. Arby’s operates an in-house, glass-walled “social listening room.” Josh Martin, Director of Digital and Social, and his digital team sift through their listening data, on the lookout for real-time marketing opportunities as well as overall trends in their customer data. They take action on these trends to increase online engagement and overall sales.  

Josh talked about how the company found their fans buzzing about Arby’s famous house sauce and its “horsey sauce.” There was clearly a demand for the free packets. What if the restaurant bottled it and made it available for purchase? Arby’s ran a limited edition bottle of each and supported them with a campaign, “You Asked, We Sauced.” The digital team was able to create new revenue for the company just by being able to measure its customers’ conversations.  

listening strategies

Listen—we get you.
Twitter’s VP of Global Brand Strategy Daina Middleton showed trending Twitter data from a typical day in the UK—the Brits were tweeting while they were commuting. One of the highest trending keywords during these periods was “disappear.” UK commuters wanted their fellow countrymen to disappear!

Microsoft’s cell phone company Lumia UK jumped on this data and created a clever Vine—what if you could make your fellow commuters disappear?



By tapping into consumer insights, and creating content around what its audience was already tuned into, the organic tweet was a hit.

Sentimental service
Tracy Bell, who runs Enterprise Media Monitoring for Bank of America, discussed the bank’s strategy to use listening for customer support. Sentiment analysis plays a big factor here. The bank wants to nip any negative sentiment in the bud. Tracy’s team also keeps a sharp eye on sentiment during paid campaigns, measuring positive sentiment during each campaign and how it affects the overall sentiment for the brand. The bank also benchmarks its sentiment against competing banks.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, many people were confused with so many storefronts closed and ATMs broken. They needed cash in an emergency situation. Bank of America used listening to dive into these conversations, lending a voice of authority to correct any rumors or inaccurate info. The bank was also able to use listening to find the most cut-off locations. Bank of America built RVs outfitted with ATMs and drove them to these locations.

listening strategies

Jumping into the fray
It’s a great way to jump into real-time opportunities. But the majority of the time, we rely on listening to keep a finger on the pulse, said AT&T’s Mary Eliza Massengill. As the Lead Marketing Manager for the telecom’s Digital Innovation department, Mary Eliza is in charge of promoting AT&T’s sponsored events. AT&T is also deeply committed to social customer care and relies on social to create one on one relationships with its customers.  

Mary Eliza wants to flip the idea of a user-generated sweepstakes—take a selfie, be entered to win–on its head. She finds conversations where AT&T can help and generate buzz and brand awareness, places where people might not have otherwise come across AT&T.

AT&T sponsors March Madness. This year, the company used listening to find people who were talking about wanting to go to games. The telecom team airlifted free tickets into these conversations—not asking for anything in return. As it’s all published online, the brand is able to generate a huge amount of goodwill and buzz. And AT&T enjoys earned media in the process with happy game-goers letting their followers know the story.

“Being nimble is so hard with a hundred decision makers involved. But it’s absolutely essential for us,” Mary Eliza said.

Shhh… It’s time to listen!
Mary Eliza’s call to speak less and listen more is really the future of social media marketing. Social marketing’s power comes from its innovation as a two-way conversation. By listening in to the people who are most likely to purchase, a brand has more insights than ever to adapt its content and even its product based off data.

Are you listening in to the digital buzz? Have you acted on any creative strategies for your company? We’d love to hear about them—leave a comment below.

Effective Social Customer Service

Download the guide to a successful customer care strategy.