How to measure customer loyalty on social media

Customers are constantly sharing valuable information on social media about their preferences, their pain points, and their feelings toward your brand and your products. If you’re interested in measuring your customer loyalty on social media, the best way to do it is with a strong social listening strategy.

Most experts agree that keeping a customer costs less, in money and effort, than winning a new one—though naturally, most businesses will want to pursue both. A happy repeat customer often spends more with your business, is less sensitive to price, and helps to draw in new customers with a minimal added cost.

Add that all up, and it’s clear that customer loyalty has enormous value to your business. But how do you tell if you’re earning it? Loyalty can be represented by behaviors—repeat purchases, recommendations—but at the end of the day, it’s a feeling. That ambiguity can make it hard to measure in a concrete way.

Which brings us back to social media. There are few places where customers share their opinions as freely and as unfiltered. Putting your digital ear to the ground with a robust social listening plan earns you a ton of customer insights that you won’t get in any other way.

What is social listening?

People in a crosswalk. Social media icons appear as graphics above them, indicating social networks.

Social listening is a strategy that puts you more in touch with your customers’ unfiltered opinions. It involves pinpointing keywords related to your business, your industry, and your competitors, and then tracking them on social media to get a sense of what the conversation is like.

Unlike a more targeted social monitoring strategy, the goal isn’t to track the success of particular marketing campaigns, products, or other efforts. Social listening is broader than that. The idea is to meet your customers where they are and hear their opinions, without measuring them against any particular outcomes.

Social listening allows you to spot opportunities as they arise, and respond quickly and directly. When you approach social listening openly, the insights you uncover might surprise you. 

Choosing the right tools.

Social media is a massive, and ever-growing, repository of information. Some of that information is valuable to you, like your customers’ feelings about your product and your industry. But sifting through the sheer volume of stuff out there can seem like an overwhelming job.

Fortunately, you’re not the first to consider a social listening strategy to measure customer loyalty. A variety of tools exist to make social listening manageable and straightforward. With the right solution, you can keep an eye on your keywords across all the major social platforms in one dashboard. That way, you can get a big-picture overview of how your audience is feeling at a glance.

But to get good information, you have to be listening to the right things. Your social listening strategy is only as good as the keywords you choose to focus on. It’s important to select terms that relate to your company and your product, but you should also widen your focus.

Come up with lists of keywords that relate to your industry at large. If you’ve done customer needs assessments, you probably have a good idea of some of your audience’s biggest pain points—those would probably make good keywords, too. And be sure to include terms related to your competitors, so you know how you stand in the marketplace, and what differentiates you.

What to measure on social media.

Two businesspeople measure social media performance on a computer monitor.

At its best, a social listening strategy opens you up to perspectives and insights on your customers that you may never have considered before. But it also offers you stronger tools to measure customer loyalty.

A variety of more traditional metrics exist for gauging customer loyalty. These, however, mostly rely on surveys and self-reporting by your customers. That’s not a knock on these methods—it’s important to know your customers’ stated intentions for the future. 

But people often filter themselves less on social media. These unvarnished opinions can add a new dimension to your feedback surveys. If your business has the capacity to dig into social media, here are a few ways you can use it to measure customer loyalty.

Customer sentiment.

Customer sentiment is an aggregate of all the mentions of your product or service on social media, and whether they are positive, negative, or neutral. Because of the massive amount of information there is to sift through, customer sentiment is usually simplest to measure with automated tools.

Whether you’re analyzing customer sentiment manually or automatically, the process is the same. Establish the keywords you want to track: your business name, your product or service. Then, record all the mentions you can find on social media for those keywords, over a set period of time.

Once you have your mentions, you (or your customer sentiment algorithm) will assign a value to each mention, based on the words used and the context. That can be as simple as positive/negative/neutral, or you can assign weight based on a variety of factors. 

These individual measurements are collected into one final score for an overview of customer sentiment. The score gives you a snapshot of how consumers are feeling about your product and your brand at a particular moment in time. 

Positive sentiments on social media are a good sign that you’re doing what you need to do to keep your customers around. Frustrated customers, on the other hand, are an indicator that you might be heading toward a period of churn.

Positive sentiment doesn’t necessarily equate one-for-one with customer loyalty. But sentiment analysis can give you an idea of how you’re doing with your target audience, and whether you’re on the right track or in need of a course correction. 

Social media engagement.

Brand awareness and recognition are an important first step in gaining customers. But it’s usually a good sign that your audience is invested in you when they choose to interact with your social media content.

It takes effort to write a comment, post a link, or even just to click the “like” button. It’s a sign of a customer’s appreciation for you, and more than that, it’s a signal to their own personal network that they value your brand enough to stand by it publicly. That’s an investment of more than their own time and effort—it’s an investment of their own social capital. 

All of this makes social media engagement a pretty good yardstick for measuring customer loyalty—an association backed up by research. A study in the retail banking industry demonstrated a strong relationship between customer engagement driven by positive experiences and customer loyalty.

It’s important, on that note, to pair your customer engagement metrics with a sentiment analysis. You don’t want to wind up in a situation where most of your engagement is negative. But customers who go out of their way to engage with you are usually the kind who stick around.

Brand advocates.

Along those same lines, brand advocacy is a great sign that an individual is likely to be a repeat customer. A recommendation from a customer to their social network is an investment of their social capital. Even more than when they simply like or comment, they’re sticking their neck out for you.

When you spot these recommendations on social media, they can help you to identify some of your best customers. A handful of individual social media users doesn’t necessarily measure much about your customer loyalty as a whole. But it does tell you that you’ve reached at least a few people. And their enthusiasm for your product or brand can provide valuable insights. 

These kinds of customers can give you a benchmark on brand loyalty. And they can show you—explicitly, or through their shopping and sharing behaviors—what you’re doing well. These insights help you fine-tune your customer experience, and bring more loyal customers into the fold.

Referral traffic.

Do you know where your web traffic comes from? Referral links help you identify the source of your visitors. That lets you pin down how your various customer segments are finding you, and which channels are the biggest for sales conversions. 

You can leverage special-purpose referral links to gauge how often your customers are recommending you on social media. Provide a link at checkout, and prompt your customers to share it on their social media. You won’t just be driving increased sales—you’ll be able to collect information on customer engagement and brand advocacy.

You can also provide your biggest social media advocates with unique referral links. That way, you can pinpoint the traffic and sales that they’re driving individually, and gain insights into how they’re spreading the word. 

Traditional surveys.

Finally, you can always pair social media with your more traditional methods of measuring customer loyalty: surveys.

Many of the best-established customer loyalty measurements are based on customer surveys: customer satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and more. Social media is a very personal way to get in touch with your customers, and it gives you a channel to ask them for feedback directly.

There are caveats to this approach. Social media is very public, and not every response to your survey will be productive or relevant. But that’s true of most data collection. At the end of the day, direct surveys are just one more way of many to leverage social media for deeper customer insights.

Loyalty can be difficult to measure, but social media is a rich resource.

Your customers are making their feelings clear on social media. If you have the tools to listen to them, you can gather a lot of insight.

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Megan Wells
Megan Wells
Megan is a content writer and strategist who loves to dig into the ways technology is changing consumers' relationships with brands.

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