Fun fact: I’m a total Buffer fangirl. Have been for ages.

In fact, I recently learned that I was one of the first commenters on their blog back in the day. So imagine my excitement when they invited me onto their podcast, The Science of Social Media.

In my episode, we talked all about monitoring social media mentions – why it matters, how to get started and what to monitor on social media, and what you can do with what you learn.

Take a listen for yourself, I promise I’m not too boring:

If you don’t have time to listen right now, here’s the main gist:

Related: The Complete Guide to Monitoring for Social Media Marketers

Why should you monitor social media?

Social media monitoring is kind of limitless – it can be used for so many reasons and in so many ways. If there’s something you need to research or learn more about for your business, chances are monitoring can help out.

The most clearcut use case to monitor social media is obviously for a social media manager looking to listen and engage with their audience on different channels.

But that’s far from all it’s good for.

There are lots of different use cases from other departments as well, from sales and support to product development. Which team members benefit from your monitoring alerts depends entirely on how you set them up and what you want to know.

And when you’re not quite sure of that yet, you can just start with the basics: monitoring your company name, social media handles, and website URL. The insights you get from monitoring those will build you a great foundation that will make it easier to decide where to go next.

How to monitor the right things

What you get out of monitoring all depends on how you use it. For it to be valuable, you need to start off strong.

Getting started

Like I just mentioned, a good place to start is closely monitoring your company. That would include the company name, social media handles, and URLs. An alert would bring in anyone using those terms online, and from there you’d be able to learn so much about your audience, their lives, and how your brand fits into them.

No need to get fancier than that at first.

The reason you want to stay broad right now is because you might not necessarily know what you need to filter out, until you know it’s out there. And by going too specific at first, you may miss out on important info.

Ramping things up

However, it can seem impossible to find anything valuable and specific if you’re monitoring everything. Especially if you’re monitoring a really common word (*ahem* like “buffer” or “mention”).

In that case, you can optimize and narrow your search as you go, with features like adding and/or/negative keywords.

You may also want to look beyond your own audience.

In that case, the best next steps are to start monitoring your main competitors and the industry overall. Get acquainted with the little professional world your business lives in.

Keeping an eye on everyone else helps you see what other people are doing, and more importantly, what they’re not doing.

By observing competitors as well as their audience, you can see missed opportunities and beat them to the punch. And sometimes, that’s the best way to compete with big fish when you’re a tadpole.

How to learn from monitoring social media

So once you’ve been monitoring mentions for awhile, what’s next? How do you take those readers’ opinions and actually use them? What do you even do with all this wonderful (and free) audience input?

Get to know your audience

By monitoring your own brand, you’ll find everything your audience says, thinks, and wants to be. It’s incredibly valuable and overlooked by too many marketers.

But say it with me folks, “always go to your audience first.”

The best way to get to know them will always be by going directly to them. You may think you know your customers based off of assumptions and statistical market research, but that doesn’t erase the need to get their direct thoughts and feedback.

Meet your competitor’s audience

You can also look through your competitor alerts to learn more about your competitor’s audience and how it differs from your own.

For example, which influencers are talking about them? Why could that be? Are they working together in an official partnership?

If so, that tells you that your brand may want to get into influencer marketing more.

Never discount doing the same thing as them, or collaborating with the same person, because you never know if (a) you can do it better, or (b) your product is more what their audience needs.

Add insight to your strategy

Listen to the whole podcast episode if you’re interested in learning more about using monitoring to add insight to your social media strategy.

If you already listen on social media, what’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned? Leave a comment and let us know!

Guest Blogger @Mention

Brittany Berger is a content marketer helping B2B companies and entrepreneurs create unicorn content that shows personality and demands attention. Connect with her on Twitter at @thatbberg.

Subscribe to Marketing + Monitoring Weekly

Get hot blog posts, insanely useful resources, and funny gifs every Friday.