The Definitive Guide to Social Listening

The Definitive Guide to Social Listening: How to get started – The concept of social listening refers to the process of monitoring social media platforms for mentions of your product, service, brand, competitors, and more.

The great thing about social listening is that it gives brands the chance to track, analyze, and respond to conversations about them on social media.

Social listening is a powerful component of audience research.

Let’s say you own a laundry business. While out at a restaurant near your laundry shop, you overhear two customers talking about getting their clothes washed after one of them gets their apparel stained while eating.

“You should drop it off at the laundry down the street,” one says. “I think they offer express service, so you’ll get it in a day.”

“That would be cool but I don’t think I’ll be able to come pick it up tomorrow. Do you know if they offer deliveries?” the other one replies.

Based on the short conversation above, you as the business owner will get the idea that you may have to give this potential customer a delivery option, if you don’t already offer the service, in order to make them patronize you.

Based on this information, you start asking around to hear opinions if people would love to have their clothing items delivered to them.

Based on the information you’ve gathered, you begin to make changes that people like – and it works. Your customer base is increasing as more and more people want to have their garments delivered to them.

This is all because you just employed the tried-and-true method of social listening, which brands use to engage with their customers and give them what they love.

If you’re not leveraging social listening, you’re letting a a lot of great consumer insights go to waste. In this article, you’ll learn how to get started with social listening as well as the tools to make it simple.

What Is Social Listening?

Basically, social listening entails tracking your social media platforms for mentions and conversations related to your business or brand. After taking note of the information about your brand, you analyze them for insights to discover opportunities to act.

It follows two distinct steps:

Step 1: Keep an eye on social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors, products, and keywords relative to your business.

Step 2: Review the information you get for ways to put what you learn into action. It can be something as minute as responding to a happy customer, or something as huge as altering your entire brand positioning.

Although social listening might seem like social media monitoring, however, both concepts actually differ in relevant ways.

Social media monitoring versus social listening

Social media monitoring is basically observing metrics such as relevant hashtags, brand mentions, competitor mentions, industry trends, and gathering data about those metrics.

Thus, social media monitoring is excellent for things like monitoring ROI or A/B testing campaigns. By initiating action in response to the data you collected, you start the process of social listening.

As social media monitoring focuses on metrics like engagement rate and number of mentions, social listening utilizes the numbers to consider the mood behind the data.

Basically, it helps you to clearly understand how people feel about you and your competitors. Social listening goes beyond merely counting the number of times your brand gets mentioned.

This “online mood” also referred to as social media sentiment, is a crucial aspect of social media listening.

By understanding how people feel about your brand you’ll be able to keep your marketing and product development efforts on track. Additionally, it also allows you to respond to positive or negative posts quickly.

The most important thing to understand is that social listening looks forward and backward. It has to do with analyzing the information you receive and using it as a blueprint for your strategy and day-to-day actions.

Key Benefits of Social Listening

If you aren’t making use of social media listening, you’re missing out on a lot of valuable insights. As a matter of fact, you may just be missing out on a big piece of insight about your brand that people are actively talking about.

You’ll want to know what people are saying about you or your brand. Naturally, your patrons are telling you what they want from your brand.

If you really care about them, you need to take a look at some of the insights you might gain from social listening.

Below are some of the ways social listening can help your brand:

1. Customer engagement

With social listening, you are presented with a unique opportunity to engage with your customers about your brand.

For instance, a customer might have posted a tweet about how much they loved your product, or they might have contacted you on social media for a customer service request.

Many top brands do this a lot. In fact, some have an entire Twitter account dedicated to responding to only customer support queries.

And it doesn’t always have to be direct replies either. Sometimes they notice a trend and address it quickly.

Nike tweeting about frequently asked questions

Coca-Cola is another excellent example of a major brand that engages in social listening. The soft drink company frequently responds to followers who tweet about their product—and follow up with them in their DMs.

By doing this, they generate a feeling of goodwill with their followers and boost engagement. You should also think of how your brand can do the same for its patrons.

2. Crisis management

Engagement is great, especially when it comes with a positive social sentiment. Social sentiment about your business can be tracked in real-time using social listening.

This way, you’ll be able to see what posts are performing well for your brand and those that aren’t. If you’re receiving a lot of positive engagement, find the reasons behind it.

Your customers share hordes of useful information about what they like and what they dislike. Those lessons can help direct your strategy across multiple channels.

Also, social listening helps you address PR nightmares before they get out of hand. If sentiment is down, analyze the social feedback for lessons that could help prevent a similar misstep in the future.

If sentiment is much worse, look for the cause and make instant changes, by removing a problem post, or apologizing for an insensitive Tweet/Post.

One remarkable example of this comes from major sporting brand, Nike. Back in 2019, Nike found itself in the middle of controversy when Duke basketball player Zion Williamson’s Nike shoe exploded in the middle of a game live on national television.

When this happened, several influencers and celebrities got on Twitter to tweet their concern for the player and voice their displeasure with Nike.

Swift as a flash, Nike’s social media team wasted no time in quelling the inferno. They calmly replied to tweets from concerned customers while their PR team released a statement the following day wishing Willamson well and promising to investigate the incident.

In addition, they also reached out to Willamson himself and even offered him an advertising deal. Because of the goodwill, commitment, and humility in the face of that crisis, Nike rose above the situation.

An even more recent incident of social listening occurred a few weeks ago before this article was written.

During the Euro 2021 football competition, Portuguese legend, Cristiano Ronaldo, at a press conference after a match, removed two bottles of Coca-Cola from his table and replaced them with a bottle of water.

This move wiped $4 billion from Coca-Cola’s market value as its shares dropped 1.6 percent. It also triggered several debates on social media from fans and other influencers alike.

However, Coca-Cola later responded with a statement saying “everyone is entitled to their drink preferences.”

It was the perfect response to a rather unsettling gesture from the football star who was indirectly encouraging people to take less Coke and more water.

3. Track competitors

Social listening is more than merely knowing and understanding what people say about you. You also want to have an idea of what they say about your competitors.

This gives you crucial insights into where your brand fits in the marketplace. You will also get to know what your competitors are up to in real-time.

Are they gearing up to launch new products? Perhaps, they’re coming up with new marketing campaigns? Or getting lashed by the media?

With social listening, you’ll be able to discover these new opportunities and threats as they happen. This gives you the opportunity to plan and respond accordingly.

4. Discover consumer pain points

By monitoring conversations around the industry, you’ll uncover a truckload of insight about what’s working and—more importantly—what’s not working for your customer.

This information is highly valuable for your product and marketing team. Can you alter an existing product or include a distinct feature to resolve the problems people have been talking about? What you learn might, perhaps, spark a new product idea.

You’ll also get valuable insights into the downsides of your current products or offerings. Can you make changes to your products as a move that’ll help address the concerns?

If you do make any alterations, be sure to inform people about it using a targeted marketing campaign.

5. Find new sales leads

Generally, people love it when you’re able to solve their problems. However, people also love it when brands strike relationships with their customers.

Social listening is a tool that helps you build relationships with potential customers in your industry who you can nurture into relationships for social selling.

By reaching out, making a connection, and sharing helpful information, you can establish your brand as the best resource when it comes to making a purchase decision.

6. Identify influencers and advocates

Interestingly, monitoring social conversations about your niche will give you a sense of who the important influencers in your industry are.

These are important people that you will want to connect with. In fact, they can have a huge influence on how their followers and fans feel about your brand—or your competitors.

You will also discover people who already love your brand and are saying positive things about you on social media.

These are natural brand advocates and you should try reaching out to them to look for opportunities for collaboration.

How to get started with social listening

Positive social listening is all about what you’re listening for. This basically means choosing the right keywords for your brand.

However, one interesting thing about social listening is that the keywords and topics you monitor will likely change after some time.

By using special social listening tools, you will discover what kinds of words people tend to use when they talk about your business and your niche in general.

Also, you’ll begin to get a sense of what kinds of insights are most relevant to your brand. With that in mind, here’s a list of important keywords and topics to monitor right from the start:

  • Your brand name and handles
  • Your product name(s), along with common misspellings
  • Your competitors’ brand names, product names, as well as handles
  • Industry buzzwords
  • Your slogan including those of your competitors
  • Names of key people in your organization and your competitors’ organizations (your CEO, spokesperson, etc.)
  • Campaign names or keywords
  • Your branded hashtags as well as those of your competitors
  • Unbranded hashtags related to your niche

In addition, be sure to also monitor common misspellings and abbreviations. Later on, just before the end of this article, we will highlight some social listening tools that can help you keep an eye on all of these elements.

Top social listening tips

If you’re ready to get started with social listening, then take note of these important tips below.

1. Set goals

Sailing the waters of social listening without goals is like navigating a journey without a destination. You might have a map, however, it won’t tell you where you need to go.

Likewise in social listening, you may have all the data and conversations with you, but without goals, you’ll have no direction as to what to do with it.

So, what are the relevant goals that would complement social listening? Well, you can consider some of the key benefits discussed earlier as they are awesome inspirations for feasible goals. For instance:

  • Obtain knowledge about an existing product line for the next product you want to add to the collection.
  • See your position in comparison to your competitors.
  • Gain insight into what products are talked about the most.
  • Understand your customers’ pain points with respect to your product offerings.
  • Enhance your brand voice by understanding your customer’s voice

However, if you just want to get started, then it’s okay to make your goal as simple as determining what people think about your brand and products. Begin with a broad yet simple goal and then funnel down to get more specific, actionable insights.

2. Discover where to track

Discover not just what your audience says but also where your audience is talking about you. Basically, this means that you’ll have to cast a wide net for your social listening program.

Generally, conversations centering around your brand on LinkedIn are likely going to be much different than on Instagram.

Aside from this, you may also find that people talk about you all the time on Facebook, but not on Twitter.

Having sufficient knowledge of where they talk about you is as important as how they talk about you. It will give you a comprehensive strategy for jumping into the conversation via organic engagement and paid advertising.

You can start by doing an audit of where your brand presently has a presence. Be sure to include those channels.

Next, do market research on your audience to find out which channels they use. Then add these to your tracking list.

The major idea here is to collect as much data, from as many sources, as possible. By doing this you will get the most accurate, big-picture information.

3. Learn from your competitors

There is always something you can learn from your competitors, especially about the things people say about them.

Find out what they do right and what people adore about them. In addition, and particularly most importantly, see where they misstep and get it wrong.

You’ll agree with us that it is a lot less painful to learn a hard lesson by observing your competitors make mistakes rather than by making it yourself.

4. Collaborate with other teams

Social listening gives you a wide range of information that would be useful for your whole company. Maybe, it is a customer’s post that needs a swift response.

You could get an awesome idea for a blog post. Or perhaps an idea for a fresh, new product or new feature for an already existing product.

The entire team, including the content marketing, customer service, and product development teams, can all benefit from what you discover when you listen on social media.

So, be sure to communicate those learnings and also seek input from those teams, as well. They may have specific questions you can respond to by altering your social listening setup.

5. Roll with the trend

Once you begin to collect social information, you’ll develop a sense of the usual conversation and sentiment surrounding your brand.

Since you now know how people feel about you regularly, you’ll take note when it changes. When visible changes in engagement or sentiment about your brand occur, it can mean that the overall perception of your brand has changed.

By understanding why this happened, you’ll be able to adapt your strategy appropriately. This might mean riding on a wave of positivity or retracing a misstep to get back on course.

6. Respond

Social media users today are actually savvier than before. According to Netbase, a surprising 68 percent of consumers are aware that companies are listening, even if they do not mention the brand directly.

And according to Sprout Social, brands who respond are viewed more welcomingly — and even make customers more willing to purchase from them.

7. Take action

Remember, by not taking action, you’ll be engaging in social media monitoring and not social listening. As we reiterated earlier, social listening isn’t just about tracking metrics.

It has more to do with gaining insights into what your customers and potential customers want from you, and how you can deliver what they want respectively.

So ensure you analyze patterns and trends over time, rather than just reading individual comments. Overall, these insights can have the most powerful effects in directing your future strategy.

10 Effective Tools for Social Listening

To start your social listening campaign, you’ll need some powerful tools to help you. Below are 10 effective tools for social listening that will help you monitor all of your platforms conveniently.

1. Brandwatch Consumer Research

Brandwatch helps you monitor the tone and impact of conversations over 95 million data sources including blogs, forums, social networks, news, videos, and reviews.

Also, it allows you to set up email alerts that notify you whenever conversations are happening thus, ensuring you do not miss out on a single one.

2. Hootsuite Insights

Powered by Brandwatch, Hootsuite Insights delivers data from 1.3 trillion social posts in real-time. In addition, it lets you save keywords or Boolean strings so you find meaningful trends and patterns you might otherwise have missed with social monitoring.

Also, you get to filter your searches for specifics including dates, demographics, and geographies. This lets you get even deeper insights into your brand’s sentiment across the globe.

Basically, you’ll be able to visualize sentiment about your brand in automatically-generated word clouds and meters.

3. Adview

Specifically created for social listening on Facebook and Instagram ads, Adview’s focused specialization lets you monitor up to three different Facebook Ad Accounts across unlimited pages.

In addition, you’ll also be able to view the analytics behind your Instagram and Facebook ads to understand which one is getting the most engagement.

4. ReviewTrackers

With ReviewTrackers, you can monitor reviews from well over 50 review sites such as TripAdvisor and GoogleMaps within 15 minutes of being posted.

Additionally, you can also share great reviews of your brand to all of your social networks with just a few clicks.

5. Audiense

Audiense lets you identify any audience regardless of the size while also providing recommendations based on the data.

The social listening tool displays reports that feed you on what they’re discussing, what they like, and even how they think and behave.

Its unique audience manager also helps in finding and understanding very specific audiences to ensure you have the perfect match for your brand.

6. Keyhole

Unlike most other social listening tools, Keyhole has a more refined focus. The app analyzes hashtag performance specifically on Twitter and Instagram. In addition, you’ll also be provided with insights into brand mentions as well as influencers.

7. Talkwalker

Talkwalker delivers robust social listening features that help you analyze blogs, forums, news sites, videos, review sites, as well as social networks all in one dashboard.

Talkwalker draws from over 150 million sources for your data. This means that you will be able to monitor conversations around your brand while simultaneously analyzing the engagement, reach, comments, as well as sentiment behind them.

8. Synthesio

One social listening tool that tracks conversations on highly specific topics in carefully segmented audiences is Synthesio.

Synthesio lets you tag mentions based on demographics, language, location, sentiment, and influence. Another exciting thing about this app is that its reports also come with a handy social reputation score!

The app is ideal for collaboration as well. With it, you will be able to assign mentions to other team members so they can resolve or analyze them at your discretion. It is an awesome tool for democratizing social media in your organization.

9. Mentionlytics

Mentionlytics helps you track mentions, keywords, as well as sentiment across a variety of languages. In addition, you can conveniently filter out influencers across several social networks and other online sources.

The monitoring algorithm of Mentionlytics spreads through social sites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, along with blogs and news sites for mentions.

10. BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo delivers reports on the best-performing content on social media. This includes a good focus on influencers.

BuzzSumo is mainly geared at helping you come up with new ideas for blogs and social posts. In addition, it also helps you key in on the best time and day to post on your own channels.


To cap it off, social listening is an essential tool that helps you learn more about your customers, your brand, and your competitors.

With social listening, you can stay ahead of curve, enhance the customer experience, and develop lasting, meaningful connections.

Before getting started with your own social listening campaign, first, ask yourself what you aim to accomplish or learn from the exercise.

Once you have a clearly defined vision, look for the right social listening tool to use in setting up keyword tracking for your brand, products, services, competitors, and industry.

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