Just what is social listening, and why is it important?

First things first, social listening – what is it? 

If you’ve been looking into social listening as part of your social media strategy, you’ve probably come across: social monitoring. And have also probably been confused by the two. 

While they do have crossover, the two have distinctions, so let’s take a look. 

First, social monitoring:

Social media monitoring covers tracking social media conversations about your brand, campaign, or company. Imagine being a fly on the wall and listening to what consumers actually say about you. That’s essentially what social media monitoring is. 

But you can (and should) go one step further by getting involved with the conversation and responding to your consumers and potential customers. Now, we don’t mean every comment or mention, but this type of social interaction is vital (and increasingly expected) by consumers.

You can respond to a customer query, direct them to a section of your website, or work on brand perceptions. Social monitoring and management is a quick and public-facing way to let your customers know that you’re there for them. 

Social monitoring is a reactive approach to community management. 

Social Listening

Social media listening is the overarching category that covers social monitoring. It involves gathering data from all social media platforms to see how consumers interact with your brand and the wider industry. 

You can identify trends, keep up with the competition, and build rapport with your customers. The process is much longer and more complicated than monitoring, but an integral part of building a social media strategy with depth. 

It helps you understand the bigger picture. You can understand why these conversations are happening. You can gain insight into how people think and feel, even when they don’t directly mention or tag your brand. 

Think of it as having eyes and ears everywhere and planning your next move based on what you learn – this is the proactive approach. 

Social Monitoring Vs Social Listening

What can your brand do with social listening? 

Create conversations with customers. 

We love to see a big brand replying to a mention on Twitter. Especially when it’s a totally on-brand, quick-witted response. 

Your take on this doesn’t need to be clever or funny – it just needs to be sincere. 

You could surprise pleased customers by thanking them for their feedback or provide a solution for a disgruntled customer to regain their trust like Adobe did here.

Communicate brand values. 

By actively partaking in conversations with customers and competitors alike – you can give consumers insight into your brand beliefs and personality. Social listening gives you insight into how your customers feel about many different topics and their pain points relating to your industry. With this knowledge, you can speak to them in their language and show them how you can solve their problems.

Find mega-fans and influencers.

Social listening gives you the ability to identify relevant industry or subject influencers, along with regular people who have the potential to become future brand ambassadors. 

People who consistently speak positively about your brand and those with high numbers of followers are both equally valuable to help drive your brand message.

Prevent PR fails. 

Address negative brand sentiments before they escalate into needing damage control. 

Social monitoring can only do so much when it comes to keeping tabs on all your mentions online – social listening tools can provide you with instant updates if there is a spike in activity. 

Even better if you can get ahead of the curve like ASOS did here when they announced a misprint on their packaging before the internet had the chance to comment.

Keep an eye on competitors. 

By keeping tabs on others, you can track their successes and failures – learning from their mistakes – saving you time and money testing out these things for yourself. 

Your competitors’ moves will often affect you, so anticipating them early, like being aware of new product launches, means you can prepare for them. 

Checking what consumers are saying about your competitors means you can even tweak your offering based on an area where they struggle, or call them out on it like Burger King did here.

Find potential customers. 

Social listening doesn’t just mean listening to your existing customers. With a proper social listening search strategy in place, you could look to solve consumer problems before they even know they have one. By following topics even loosely associated with your brand, you can find opportunities early and incorporate them into your strategy. Or just call out your competitors like Wendy’s did here.

What’s the point?

Social listening helps underpin your content strategy for future campaigns, staying ahead of your competition by monitoring the industry.

By learning how your customers feel about your brand and your competitors, you can use these insights to inform your marketing strategy. This type of social listening is done in real-time and often happens in the heat of the moment, when a customer is either really pleased, or displeased with a service or product. 

Now you know the benefits of social listening, you’re probably wondering where to start. 

It’s a two-part process: 

1. Monitoring – track mentions, tags, keywords, and products related to your industry. 

Social media monitoring is the base level of social listening. It is used for customer care, tracking the success of recent campaigns or products, and is a reactive, short-term solution. 

2. Listen – Analyse the data and zoom out on your industry. Find out how people feel about your brand by looking at conversations that you’re not tagged in and how competitors are doing. 

Social listening goes further than monitoring, helping you find insights into consumer sentiment regarding your brand and the wider industry. Social listening is a long-term, proactive process to inform your strategy. 

Use both social monitoring and social listening to form your short-term and long-term strategy.


Social Listening Tips  

1. Identify your goals 

Much like when you start to create your social media strategy, the first step to social media listening is knowing what you aim to achieve from the listening. 

  • Identify brand health, deep-diving into customer opinions and beliefs about your brand. 
  • Stay in the know with all competitor developments, audience opinions and marketing strategies. 
  • Develop a content strategy plan based on trends and consumer behaviour. 
  • Gain a better understanding of social media audiences and adjust social strategy accordingly. 

2. Identify the right keywords and topics 

To succeed at social listening, you need to identify the most relevant keywords for your brand. 

A solid place to start is with this list: 

  • Your brand name and handles 
  • Your competitors’ names and handles 
  • Product names and slogans 
  • Your brands’ hashtags and those of your competitors
  • Industry buzzwords and trends 

It’s important to make sure you stay on top of changes in trending keywords and topics and consider searching for common misspellings of your keywords, as you could be missing out on conversations. 

3. Find your audience 

Conversations will differ from platform to platform, and recognising these differences is crucial in informing your multi-channel social strategy. By comparing the number of conversations, and their sentiment across different platforms, you can: 

  • Join the conversation authentically 
  • Adjust individual social media strategies 
  • Create relevant organic and paid content 

4. Act on your discoveries (this is a big one)

It’s an easy trap to fall into, having so much data and information flooding in that you become data-stunned. To make sure you get the most out of your social listening, do the following:

  • Be proactive with your findings – don’t let a great idea go to waste – act fast. 
  • Share learnings with your team, and get feedback from them. 
  • Regular roundups – doing this will mean you always have a solid idea of the general sentiment and can spot changes early. 

So, what do you want to achieve? 

Social listening strategies can look like this: 

  • Understand your brand health
  • Gain consumer insights
  • Understand your share of the market
  • Track success of campaigns

To get you started, choose one, and dedicate yourself to finding out everything you can, using the tips we’ve shared. Use your findings to inform your social media strategy and track the results. 

For help with your social media strategy, get in touch.

With thanks to:
Twitter Business
The Drum