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How to Use Social Listening for Your PR Agency's Market Research

How to Use Social Listening for Your PR Agency's Market Research

Home Blog Agencies How to Use Social Listening for Your PR Agency's Market Research

The client is always right…right? Probably not.

When bringing on a new client, you need to learn everything about them: their products, their customers, their competition, their industry, their favorite food and pet’s name…you get the idea. It’s a lot of information.

While you can (and should) talk to your agency’s clients when doing market research for them, they won’t have all the answers. But the thing is, they don’t know that. You’ll ask them, “What is your competitor’s biggest weakness?” And they’ll tell you what they believe that is. But it’s always good to get a second opinion.

What your client believes, and what their audience for PR initiatives believes, might not be the same thing. It’s your job to know every opinion, then use smart campaigns to shape and shift them to align with your client’s goals.

How do you find out everything about your client’s industry without asking your client? With social listening, which we happen to know a few things about. So grab a snack, take a seat, and get ready for sharing time! You’re about to learn how to use social listening and media monitoring to supplement your market research.

Want to improve your client campaigns and win new business? Download our free guide to media monitoring for PR agencies.

5 ways social listening can supplement your market research

1. Find out what your client’s customers really think

When your client talks about their business, take things with a grain of salt. Don’t worry – it’s not that they’re lying to you, they just might see things a little differently. We all have trouble seeing ourselves as others see us, from time to time.

Your client’s reality may not be the same as their customers’ reality. What does that mean? Well, let’s look at an example.

Say your client just spend a year developing a new product. They probably have a lot of confidence in it and would say it’s their biggest strength, because that’s what their goal for it is. But their customers might see things differently.

Plus, your client might not be getting the best feedback from their customers in the first place. All too often we tell people what they want to hear. “The new design is perfect! Not a thing I would change!” Not one thing, really?

Their customers are going to be more honest about your client when they’re not talking directly to your client. So, for example, on social media. That’s where the truth is.

By using social listening to hear your client’s customers, you’ll be able to get more accurate feedback and opinions than if you had gone through your client.

2. Re-evaluate clients’ strengths and weaknesses

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt awkward when you had to answer “What’s your greatest strength/weakness?” in a job interview?

You’re not alone. Evaluating ourselves like that can be uncomfortable. And we can never be completely objective while doing it.

And that’s why your client’s not the best person to ask this question to.

While knowing what they consider their strengths and weaknesses to be is helpful, it can’t be your only information. You need to know for sure what other people think. That’s how you decide what to play up and what to tone down in your PR campaigns. You obviously want to focus on the strengths.

3. Supplement quantitative data with qualitative opinions

Hard data is awesome, and completely necessary for every PR strategy. But numbers aren’t everything – they don’t tell the whole story. Often times, they tell you the ‘what,’ but not the ‘how’ or ‘why.’

Use social proof from listening and monitoring to add more context to your qualitative data. For this example, let’s say your client is a fashion retailer. Qualitative data can tell you how many people choose their brand over another, what the most popular markets and styles are.

But how much will that help you in planning a campaign or writing a pitch?

It’s not enough information. You need to know why people choose your client’s clothes over the brand one clothing rack over. Is it the price? The quality of the fabric? The trendiness? If you decide to focus on the price, when your client’s popularity is really due to the fabric, you’re making your campaign harder than it could be.

Supplementing your market data with feedback and opinions from social listening will help you understand your client’s true place in the industry.

4. Get honest opinions of competitors

Once again, take what your client says with a grain of salt. I know it sounds like I’m bashing your agency’s clients, but I’m not. All companies, all people, somewhat operate with rose-colored glasses on. We’ll shift and tweak an outlook to better align with our own. Boom, psychology.

It wouldn’t be unusual for a business to see their competitor a bit more negatively than an objective person would. You need objective opinions for market research, and you can get them from social listening.

The press, people in the industry, customers – they’re all great sources of information. You can also directly monitor competitors in a media monitoring tool.

5. Find new campaign ideas

Once you’ve pulled together and analyzed your market research, it’ll be time to start the fun work. Creating campaigns, pitching outlets, and generally getting stuff done.

And how awesome would it be to have a bunch of campaign ideas up your sleeve before you even finished the initial client onboarding?

Immersing yourself in a client’s industry sooner rather than later will make it that much easier to “live in idea mode” for their account. The more you know about their industry, the easier it will be to brainstorm ideas for them.

Don’t wait until campaign planning time to learn what news angles are currently popular, what the hot issues are, and which trends are emerging. Start paying attention now to save time on campaign development later.

How to monitor for client market research

When it comes to using media monitoring software, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. It feels good to have the power to monitor anything. But remember what Uncle Ben told Peter Parker. So just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Your time is precious. Don’t waste it monitoring for things that won’t help you better serve your clients. Just monitor what matters.

Here are ideas for alerts you can set up to monitor your client, their industry, etc. on social media without all the noise:

Listening for general info

  • Your client’s name
  • Names of the company’s public-facing employees
  • Product or service names (and their features)
  • Names of your client’s competitors
  • The main phrases used to describe the industry

Listening industry deep dives

  • “Industry name” + trends
  • “Industry name” + leaders
  • “Industry name” + news

Listening for customer feedback

  • “Client name” + best
  • “Client name” + worst
  • “Competitor name” + best
  • “Competitor name” + worst
  • “Client name” + review
  • “Product name” + review
  • “Competitor name” + review


While open and honest communication is essential between an agency and a client, also realize that your client’s paying you to reach a certain goal for them. If reaching that goal means getting information elsewhere or double-checking research, it’s worth it.

Your client might wonder why you’re not going straight to them, but when you present them with all this information they can now use themselves as well, they’ll be thanking you.

How do you supplement market research with social media intelligence?

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Brittany Berger

Guest Blogger @Mention