As social media marketers, we have direct, 24/7 access to the world's largest focus group—and they have a lot to say.

Social marketing is different from other marketing tactics because it's a medium where your audience talks back—immediately, directly, and sometimes not in your favor.

So, if you're developing a social advertising strategy using the same one-way approach you would for a PPC ad, email campaign, or TV spot, you're missing the point... and a huge opportunity to capture market share.

Brands succeed on social when their messages are two-way conversations that tap into their audience's preferences and deliver a more personal (dare I say "intimate") and live experience. The smartest social brands engage in these real-life conversations using social media listening, which stitches together data from across the major social media networks—factoring in sentiment, demographics, engagement levels, and earned media trends.

For example, a leading video game brand uncovered a significant social trend by searching earned and owned social media for the phrase, "I want the new [game name] but it's too expensive." The company then tagged the people posting this type of content; the minute the game went on sale, the brand reached out to those people to inform them of the sale. As a result, the company sold 70,000+ copies of the game.

Social listening data is gold for a social media advertiser. "The holy grail of social media is using custom audiences to get very specific messages to a very targeted audience," according to WordStream Founder Larry Kim. That same video game brand could subsequently serve up relevant coupons (and content) to that audience via social ads for ongoing engagement.

Although paid social and social listening often live in different areas of the marketing team or even the company, when brought together they have the power to create much more relevant messaging and advertising.

Here's how.

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image of Jen Kern

Jen Kern is CMO of Tracx, provider of an all-in-one social media management platform that helps social-savvy companies hear and react to the full conversation online.

LinkedIn: Jenifer (McGregor) Kern

Twitter: @jennifer_kern