Social Listening: What It Is and Why It’s so Important for Your Business

If you're a business who prioritizes staying "in the know," keeping up with social networks is just a part of the job in the online world. We’re not just talking about posting regularly either — even though responding to questions and concerns from customers is an important step for your online business presence. However, if you often find yourself semi-swamped with Tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram DMs, imagine how many people out there are discussing your business or product without directly mentioning you?


There are so many conversations happening on social networks that several pertaining to your business can go unnoticed if you’re not mentioned or tagged within the post itself. If you’re missing these conversations, you’re missing potential opportunities to help existing and find potential customers, as well as resolve issues that may have risen for past ones. Moreover, these conversations can allow you to see how others feel about your business. This is called social listening, and it’s a vital tactic to improve the perception of your brand.

Below, we’re going to tell you about what social listening is and how you can apply it to your own business.


What is social listening?


Social listening is actively monitoring conversations that are happening across social networks about your brand, products, your competitors, or other industry-related and relevant keywords. Then, you try to find actionable responses to these conversations. These responses could be in the form of a literal response to a social post or an adjustment to your marketing strategy due to feedback you found.

Social listening allows a brand to be proactive in conversations about it, improving reliability, social relevance, and trust with your audience.

Social listening also allows you to see the social media sentiment, which is how people feel about your brand by gauging whether the responses (on either a particular post or a broader range, such as account as a whole) received are positive, negative, or neutral. Knowing this can let you respond accordingly by changing your wording, advertising strategy, and more, so you can increase your positive reactions.


Social listening versus social monitoring


If you’re new to the world of social media management for your business, the terms “social listening” and “social monitoring” may seem interchangeable, but they aren’t. While the two share similarities, each has their own purpose and benefits.

Social monitoring is the act of responding to customer comments, questions, and issues as they’re received. This reactive approach is primarily in place to get the commenter from point A to point B — whether point B is a how-to guide, support article that solves the issue, or information, such as how to contact support. This type of social interaction is not only vital for customers, but also the minimum effort you should be putting forth on social media for your brand.

Social listening, on the other hand, is proactive. It zooms out on social monitoring’s macro focus and looks at the bigger picture: How are people talking about your brand in conversations you’re not tagged in? For many businesses that don’t take part of social listening, these conversations are as far gone as the dark web, and this valuable data is lost to the ether. It’s not just about your brand, either. Social listening zooms out to your entire industry, so you can identify trends, keep up with competition, and let your customers know you’re there for them when they need you.


Why is social listening important?



Now that you know the difference between social monitoring and social listening, it’s a little easier to discern why the latter is important. In a nutshell, it provides insight that social monitoring doesn’t and wasn’t intended to do. It doesn’t mean this reactive tactic is not important, but here are some of the things you can’t find with monitoring that you can with listening.


Proactive tactic: Allows you to take initiative and create opportunities instead of waiting for them.

Identify happy customers: Surprise and delight happy customers by thanking them, giving special offers or perks.

Find unhappy customers: Address unsatisfied customers head-on, without being prompted, to direct them to the solutions they seek.

Pinpoint influencers in your industry: Find social accounts that hold clout within your industry.

Define trends in your industry: Provide relevant, on-the-nose posts that respond to a trending topic in your industry.

Take note of potential customers: Chime in when people are looking for suggestions within your industry.

Provide customer service: Offer help to customers or remind them that you’re available to help them if they need it.

Avoid PR nightmares: Address potentially brand-threatening situations before they grow into a full day of damage control.

Get a sense of what people think of your brand: Without adding a mention or tagging you in a post directly, people will tend to speak more freely about your brand, allowing you to get an idea of how people perceive your brand. This kind of customer feedback is invaluable.


Social listening in action


Sometimes seeing is believing, even if we’re talking about listening. While we can tell you all the ways social listening can be used, seeing real examples can be just as helpful. Below, we’ve detailed a few examples of the tactic in action.


Netflix Socks:

Sometimes, just showing that you’re listening can be effective. Netflix proved that in a big way. It received several complaints on social media from users that were falling asleep while watching Netflix, only to wake up to spoilers or rolling credits. So, the streaming service took action in the most hilarious of ways. It made socks. Not just any socks — socks with a built-in sleep detection system that will pause Netflix if you doze off.

Falling asleep to Netflix is far from Netflix’s problem. Still, the socks it created were in response to the comments it received from its users. It’s funny, fairly amazing, and more than a little bit clever. The cherry on top? The socks won a Shorty Award for Best Creative Use of Technology.

Samsung responds to competition:

As mentioned earlier, social listening requires you to take a look at your industry as a whole, including your competition. When Samsung noticed that one of its competitors, Huawei, released a new smartphone and focused on its camera and slow-motion video capture features, it was able to respond by adjusting its marketing strategy and focus on its own phone’s slow-mo prowess.

Morton’s Steakhouse delivers to airport for one traveler

This one sounds too good to be true, but there’s enough coverage on it to shirk any non-believers. In 2011, Peter Shankman jokingly tweeted out to Morton’s Steakhouse, asking if they’d deliver a porterhouse at the Newark airport when he landed. Well, the steakhouse saw the tweet and a man in a tuxedo holding a bag was waiting for Shankman when he got off the plane. You can even read Shankman’s full rundown of the story here.


Social listening tools

After reading about the opportunities you can find via social listening, we’re sure you’re excited to start trying it out yourself, but it wouldn’t be right to send you off without knowing the tools to make the entire process easier for you.

Hootsuite Insights: Not only does Hootsuite Insights offer a rich set of tools specifically aimed at social media listening, they also include an analysis of sentiment, trend-tracking, and in-depth performance reports.



Brandwatch: This is a “does it all” tool that may be overkill for many small businesses. Still, Brandwatch offers a fantastic set of tools for things like competitor analysis, brand management, influencer marketing, and much more.

Awario: If you’re looking for a sophisticated suite of social listening tools, Awario can help. It specializes in social media monitoring, social selling, social listening for both teams and agencies, and influencer marketing.



Audiense: If deep insights into your audience is what you’re looking for, Audiense Insights should definitely be on your list. Whether you’re trying to understand your audience, or looking to further develop it, Audiense will get you there.

Sprout Social: To say that Sprout Social offers an elaborate set of solutions would be an understatement, but that’s very much a good thing. Whether it’s social monitoring, customer care, or data and analysis (including social listening), it’s really hard not to recommend. Starting with Sprout Social may be a smart idea if you plan on seeking out additional social media management solutions after you’ve become a social listening master.



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