What is social listening and why you need it



Almost 61% of businesses have a social listening system in place and are monitoring for keyword mentions. Social listening is an incredibly smart and simple way to collect relevant information from across the social sphere to help you understand changes in the industry, witness the sentiments around your business and products, keep an eye on your competitors, discover industry trends, and so much more.

What is social listening?

Social listening is the practice of monitoring social media channels for relevant keywords. While this can be done manually by searching, many use tools to search for these keywords on their behalf such as Brandwatch, Brand24, or BuzzSumo. Generally, social listening is used to discover mentions of your brand, your competitors, and relevant keywords that relate to your business, industry, or products. Monitoring these keywords allows you to address any attention (positive or negative) around your brand or products, but also get a deeper understanding of your competitors and industry in general.

Social listening versus social media monitoring

Social media monitoring and social listening are incredibly similar tactics — so it’s no wonder they’re often confused for each other. In short, while social media listening is about searching for keywords involving your brand, competitors, and related terms, the practice of social media monitoring is specific to looking for mentions of your brand and is mostly for the benefit of catching any negative sentiments around your business which can be quickly addressed and resolved. Social media listening allows you to do so much more than look for mentions of your brand. It allows you to learn about the wider industry, spot trends, and discover more about your target market.

The benefits of social listening

Audience/customer insights

Social listening and social media monitoring can help you to understand what your audience is saying about your products or services and brand as a whole. This kind of insight is invaluable and will shine a light on anything that needs correcting or improving. However, it's not all doom and gloom — social media listening can also give you insights into what your customers love about your brand, as well as highlight all the wonderful and relevant conversations in which you may wish to get involved.

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Business and product insights

Conversations around your business, products, or services will give you both honest and impactful feedback. Use this information to give feedback to other teams within your business, such as your product or marketing teams, to make improvements and necessary tweaks.

Listening to conversations from your industry can give you a lot of insight into what is and isn’t working, as well as a deeper understanding of your industry as a whole. This will enable you to spot any upcoming trends and stay ahead of the curve when it comes to your product offerings or your marketing strategy.

Crisis management

Naturally, crisis management is a big part of both social listening and social media monitoring. By listening for mentions of your brand across social media networks, you’ll be able to pick up on any less-than-positive conversations that might be floating around these platforms. This will enable you to put your customer support hat on in order to solve any problems, apologize for any wrong-doings, and hopefully turn some frowns upside down.

Relationship building

Social listening isn’t about passively listening and learning from what you see. It’s also about looking for the right conversations and opportunities to get involved by sharing content from your brand or offering valuable industry insight. Monitoring mentions of your brand specifically will also help you to find conversations with your customers and continue to nurture these relationships.

Find relevant communities

Monitoring industry-relevant keywords will help you discover whole communities filled with potential customers. You can infiltrate these communities by sharing relevant insights and expertise, as well as related information about your products and services. As with any good social selling strategy, it’s important to build trust and a respectable reputation before you try to sell.

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Keep an eye on competitors

Social listening can be a very effective way to keep an eye on your competition. Any positive interactions can provide inspiration for your marketing or customer support teams, while any negative sentiment can educate your team on necessary changes. Any disgruntled customers complaining about a competitor could also provide an opportunity to swoop in and offer your business as an alternative. In general, it’s always a good idea to be aware of what your competitors are doing. You’ll want to find out if they’re offering anything you’re not, what deals they are running, if they’re launching new products, etc. Social listening will help you to stay in the loop.

Looking for content ideas? Social media listening can help you to understand not only industry trends, but also social media trends from those within the same sector. Use social listening as a way to gather inspiration for engaging and creative social media content.

How to get the most out of your social listening strategy

Choose your keywords carefully

The keywords you listen for should relate to your business and products and be aligned with topics on which you’re looking to gather intel. At the very least, you should be monitoring for mentions of your brand name as well as abbreviations and common misspellings. Additionally, you should monitor for mentions of your products, your competitors, competitor’s products, your slogan, your competitor’s slogans, the names of key people in your company (and in competitor's companies), industry buzzwords, your branded hashtags, competitor-branded hashtags, and other industry-relevant hashtags.

Know where to listen

You’ll need to begin your social listening strategy by casting a wide net to discover which social media networks are hosting the most relevant conversations, as well as how the type of conversation varies across different channels. Looking at a variety of social platforms will also help you to understand how your advertising and content should be customized to each network.

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Once you’ve established which keywords are important for your strategy, as well as where you need to be listening, the next step is to refine the results of your listening efforts. One great way to do this is by limiting your results by geographical location — after all, if your products/services aren’t globally available, then there’s unlikely to be much value in listening for mentions across the world.

Learn from competitors

It’s easy to dismiss the value of monitoring for mentions of your competitors and focus on your own brand. However, by doing so you could be missing out on a huge learning opportunity. Social listening can allow you to be inspired by your competitor’s social media content and community management as well as learn from any mistakes you happen to spot.

Share your learnings

The information you gather through social listening is incredibly valuable insight that should be shared across a number of teams. Any insight you gather around your products should be shared with your product team, while any mentions of your brand, products, or services will likely benefit your customer support team, your sales team, and your marketing team.

Look out for changes

Any sudden changes in the sentiment around your brand or products is likely to be obvious if you’re regularly participating in social listening. It’s important to take a pause and determine the source of and reason for this change so you can learn from the experience — regardless of whether the sentiment change is positive or negative.

Limit the false positives

False positives are what we call any results that appear from social listening that are not relevant to you. You can and should take steps to refine your search queries to limit these false positive results. This will make it easier to focus on the conversations that are most important. However, don’t worry if some false positives still slip through the cracks — this is inevitable.

Social listening isn’t just about looking out for mentions of your brand, or for spying on your competitions (although we’d be lying if we said these things weren’t a part of it). Social listening enables you to get a much deeper understanding of what your audience, clients, and potential customers think and feel, as well as what’s going on in the industry. Start your social listening strategy today and you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn in a short space of time.

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