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What is Social Listening?

Published by Spinutech on December 18, 2020

What is Social Listening?

Have you ever been asked to distinguish between “hearing” and “listening”?

Hearing is the ability to perceive sounds. Listening is the act of putting that ability to use. When we’re engaged in conversation, we can often hear more than we listen. We don’t always actively listen to what the other person is saying because we are too focused on what we’re going to say.

In marketing, listening to your audience is critical. You don’t build connections with people by telling them what they want. You build connections by understanding what they want. Fortunately, social media has made this easier than ever, putting your audience at your fingertips. If you’re not attuned to their conversations, you are neglecting valuable insights.

Social Media Listening is Feedback at Your Fingertips

Today’s version of “Keep your ear to the ground” is “Keep your eyes on social media.” If you need to gather information, simply open up Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok and dig in. You can track millions of conversations around specific topics, keywords, phrases, brands, and industries and use your findings as data to answer a number of questions about your audience:

  • Who is your audience, exactly?
  • How does your audience feel about your organization, or your industry?
  • What topics and trends are driving their conversations online?
  • What is your audience passionate about?

Just don’t forget the “listening” part of “social listening.” Like any treasure trove of data, sifting through social media requires an analytical approach. It’s not simply about what people are talking about, but why they are talking about a particular topic, where the conversations are happening, and how their thoughts, feelings, and opinions are being presented.

Even the interests of your audience are important. Social media platforms allow you to target ads based on a person’s interests, so you need to know what they are interested in.

Social Listening is Not the Same as Social Monitoring

It is important to distinguish between social listening and social monitoring. Social media monitoring is the practice of tracking and responding to messages sent to or about your business. For example, a Twitter user may Tweet at or mention the Twitter handle of a business if they are experiencing an issue with their product or service. Social media has become a new form of customer service, and this type of interaction is called social monitoring.

Social Listening can Serve a Number of Different Purposes

Social listening is a multi-purpose marketing tool for your business. With the proliferation of social media platforms, there are myriad avenues for you to collect data and a variety of different ways you can leverage that information to build better content and make more informed decisions.

Understanding the Public Perception of Your Brand

You may think you know how customers feel about your brand or product, but in this day and age perception can change in the time it takes for one Tweet to go viral. Social listening can help you gauge brand sentiment and whether it is trending in a positive or negative direction. You can also get a better sense of what your customers like and love about you -- and what they don’t.

Analyzing Your Industry

Trends can be fleeting, and more often than not you may find yourself on the tail end of them. But social listening enables you to put your finger on the pulse and get a better sense of where your market is headed by keeping a close eye on hashtags and discussions related to your industry. You can develop new products or content based on the insights you glean.

Performing a Competitive Analysis

Social media functions as a hub of information for most users. But it serves as a battleground for businesses, especially those in the same industry vying for the same eyes and ears. You can utilize social listening to keep close watch on your competitors and even use them as a point of comparison, drawing conclusions from what they do well and what they don’t do well.

Measuring the Success of a Campaign

So you built and launched a campaign, but was it a success? Is there room for improvement? Social listening can help answer both of these questions. Track the impressions and engagements around the social posts tied to your campaign, gauge public sentiment around your campaign, or even check to see which demographics your campaign resonated with most.

Now is the Time to Start Listening

There are a variety of tools to choose from that can help you sift through the social media, from Sprout Social to Falcon.io and Hootsuite. But now that you have a better understanding of social listening, you can start to develop a strategy for how to best utilize it. There’s an ocean of information about your audience, industry, and organization waiting to be explored. What more do you need to know before you dive in?