How to Reach a Broader Audience with Multicultural Social Listening

Sarah Steimer
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

What? Not all consumers speak the same language.

So what? Marketers could be missing a huge piece of the market by only engaging in social listening in one language.

Now what? Use social media listening tools to broaden the scope of your audience and tap into markets you may have previously ignored.

​June 1, 2017

Brands are listening to various languages on social media to better meet consumer needs and expectations.

Social listening is a common practice for many organizations. It’s defined as monitoring digital conversations to determine what consumers are saying online about a brand, company and industry. Some organizations, however, may be missing a large audience by limiting themselves to social listening in only one language or to only one cultural group.

More companies are now realizing the benefits of engaging in multicultural social listening. This attempt to broaden the organization’s ear to hear more conversations opens the opportunity to gain a wider audience, new influencer opportunities and more nuanced customer feedback. It also proves the company’s interest in giving the audience what it often expects: a very personalized and immediate response.

The Importance of Social Listening

“I like to think of social listening as the technological version of active listening,” says Sarah Patrick, senior content strategist at Clutch, a company that identifies leading software and professional services firms. “It’s not only checking to see when people are tweeting at your company or messaging you on Facebook, but actively searching for people who are using terms that your business addresses or discussing your company without necessarily using your handle. It’s also a way for a company to seek out areas where they can improve their business or where they can attract new customers, and then taking the next steps by offering information of value.”

Patrick authored a 2017 report on why businesses should engage in social listening, based on a survey of 300 medium and large businesses that use social listening tools. The survey found 25% of respondents undertake social listening to improve products, 24% do so to attract customers and 21% do so to offer improved customer service. Companies listen to audiences on popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, but the report also found 71% listen on Instagram, 65% on YouTube and 27% on Reddit.

There are a myriad of social listening options for those interested, ranging from simply setting up Google Alerts to track company and key term mentions to using specialized social listening tools and platforms. The goal is to monitor terms, products or concepts associated with the company or brand across multiple websites, social media channels, forums or news sources.

Patrick says one of the greatest opportunities for organizations engaged in social listening is the ability to add value to a consumer’s experience. The way most brands use social media, in general, is to promote personal content, events or products. However, Patrick says  social listening allows companies to use materials in a way that helps consumers and adds value.

The Clutch report gives the example of an outdoor company that tracked the term “camping” with a social listening tool and came across a question on a forum asking the community for tips on the best tent for camping. The outdoor company has an opportunity to direct the person to a resource, perhaps a blog post on its own website that compares different tent brands—all of which are sold by the company.

“People may not know how to use your website as a resource, so you can speak directly to that,” Patrick says. “It’s indirect self-promotion, but it’s done in a way that appeals to the audience because it’s not demanding that they buy a product. It’s showing how their product or resources will help the buyer.”

Listening to Other Voices

Even if your company doesn’t have an in-house employee who speaks a variety of languages, there’s a platform for that. One such offering, Escucha from Boden, focuses on providing users with U.S. Hispanic social insights. The number of Spanish speakers in the U.S. is projected to rise through 2020 to between 39 million and 43 million people, according to a 2011 paper by the U.S. Census Bureau. A 2015 post by Nativa found approximately 9.6 million U.S. Hispanics on Twitter, 31% of whom prefer Spanish.

Natalie Asorey, head of social at Boden, points to the $1.5 trillion in purchasing power held by Hispanics in the U.S. She says that while companies may capture a bilingual Twitter or Facebook user in English, adding a cultural nuance helps to drive a brand’s point home.

“It really shows the brand understands who that consumer is,” Asorey says. “On Facebook, for example, there are about 20 million active monthly Spanish-dominant consumers. That’s more than half of their monthly active users when you look at the entire Hispanic population on Facebook, which is about 31 million. It’s a prime opportunity for brands to engage them in a way that’s not only about the language, but also about being culturally relevant and tapping into what their passion points are.”

Asorey says one of the benefits of cultural listening is in finding potential influencers who have already connected with the company’s desired audience.

For example, one of Boden’s clients, McDonald’s, identified Johnny Lozada as a key influencer for the company’s Hispanic demographic. Lozada was a member of Puerto Rican boy band Menudo and is a talent on Univision. He previously partnered with McDonald’s for a McCafé coffee campaign, so there was an opportunity to reestablish that connection while also reaching some of his followers. For Lozada’s birthday, McDonald’s put together a gift of two bibs for his granddaughter, McCafé coffee and a mug that read “Para el abuelo más cool de la televisión,” or “For the coolest grandpa on TV.”


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Lozada took a photo of the package and posted it to Twitter, tagging McDonald’s—by way of its U.S. Spanish account @MeEncanta—and the post received numerous likes, retweets and responses. These interactions may have helped create or deepen a connection between McDonald’s and U.S. Spanish speakers following Lozada.

Magda Urbaniak, global community manager at social media monitoring company Brand24, says this effort speaks to something that is key to social listening: learning the needs, problems and preferences of the audience a company aims to reach. A big piece of that attempt to understand a potential customer is having regard for a variety of cultures.

“Communication is not just about speaking, but also about listening itself,” Urbaniak says. “As the definition points out, we are open to what our public wants to convey to us. Naturally, we respect that there are speakers of many languages. We’re showing other cultures that we not only hear them, but that we are also part of these conversations, ready to react and help. Of course, this allows us to reach the global market.”

Urbaniak says communities are more demanding than ever before in terms of brand communication with expectations for a quick and personalized response. The up side of this, she says, is that consumers truly appreciate when their experience is particularly positive.

“Social listening is not about reaching a particular cultural, social or linguistic group,” Urbaniak says. “It’s about reaching out to specific individuals. This is both the most difficult and beautiful aspect of social listening: It requires precision, patience and determination, but it is one of the highest-quality roads in which to reach a target audience. Multicultural listening might be challenging, but it is a worthwhile effort to create the highest-quality communication.”

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Author Bio:

Sarah Steimer
Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.
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