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Social Listening: Everything to Know Before You Start

Social Listening: Everything to Know Before You Start

Home Blog Digital Marketing Social Listening: Everything to Know Before You Start

4.9 billion.

This is the amount of social media users out there. In 2023, this represents more than half of the world’s population. 

As a result, we see a LOT of fresh data published and shared each day online. 

Here’s a snapshot of the estimated amount of information circulating each minute in 2021 on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

What happens in an internet minute in 2021

Facebook comments: 510,000
Tweets sent: 350,000
Videos viewed on TikTok: 694,000
Clicks on sponsored Instagram posts: 4,100
LinkedIn logins: 7,000
Products pinned on Pinterest: 1,300


This means two things:

  1. There’s a LOT of information created each day on social media platforms (not even counting blog posts, news articles, forums and review sites)
  2. This noise makes relevant social media messages inaudible for your business

Yet, businesses cannot afford not to have a strong social media presence, as their customers certainly use social sites. That’s true for all types of businesses, regardless of their business model (B2B, B2C, B2B2C, etc.). 

In short, you need a strong social presence to capture your audience’s attention.

More importantly, they may already be talking about your brand, competition and/or problems you can help solve, on social networks. If you’re not able to make sense of all the social media noise and keep track of those key conversations for your business, you’re missing out – big time.

In this comprehensive blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know about social listening. What it is, why is social listening relevant for your business and how to use social listening to identify key conversations, watch your competitors, and deliver a better customer experience.

What is Social Listening?

Social media listening is a technology that shows you what is being said on social media, without you having to go looking for it. There are a few social media listening tools on the market.

Mention lets you:

  • Know what’s said about your brand, as it happens
  • Track social media mentions on top social media platforms
  • Evaluate the tone, influence and reach of those social messages
  • Analyze relevant data and identify trends
  • Create aggregated reports to understand the big picture and share it with your colleagues and clients

Now, if you’ve been on the lookout to learn about the definition of social media listening, you’ve probably encountered another term: social media monitoring.

How Does Social Listening Differ From Online Monitoring?

Most people mistakenly use both terms to talk about the same thing. But in reality, what’s the difference between social listening and social monitoring?

Social media monitoring

To monitor: “To observe, record, or detect with instruments that have no effect upon the operation or condition.” 

Social media monitoring is about collecting data (quantitative):

  • How many times was your brand mentioned?
  • What is your overall brand awareness?

Social media listening

To listen: “To give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing

Social media listening (or social listening) is about understanding and analyzing this data (qualitative). Why is this happening and how can you leverage this data to grow your brand: 

  • Who is talking about your brand?
  • Where was your brand mentioned?
  • How are they talking about your brand?
  • What are the trends you should worry about?
  • How does your brand compare to the competition?

In short, social media monitoring will tell you what’s happening, while social media listening will give you an explanation as to why something is happening.

This is something to keep in mind when looking for free tools. Advanced social listening tools like Mention excel both at monitoring and at listening.

Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s dive in.

Never Miss a Relevant Conversation About Your Brand With Social Listening

Let’s face it, 10 years ago, managing one’s social media accounts wasn’t as time-consuming as it is today. First of all, social media wasn’t as broadly adopted by your target audience and thus wasn’t playing a central role in your marketing strategy. 

You maybe had a couple of social accounts, if any, and you weren’t sure if you were going anywhere with it.

Oh, how things have changed, eh? Indeed, things are a little different these days.

Tracking what is being said about you on social media

Today, social media isn’t just for chatting with friends and most businesses have somewhat of a presence on social media. What’s more, it has become a powerful sales tool

At the very least, your business needs to be on social media to answer customers and stay connected.

This is, of course, easier said than done as your target audience is likely active on a LOT of different social sites, may it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest or even world-famous sites such as Reddit.

As a result, you don’t have the manpower to know what they may say about your brand and industry on all of them at once. At least, not without a little help. 

That’s why we have social listening tools. Using Mention, you’ll be able to sort out the sheep from the goats, and focus on the actual conversations that are directed to you or about you.

31% of company mentions on Twitter don’t include brand @handles, thus making it harder for brands to catch relevant conversations.

This can be extremely interesting for big brands who are finding it difficult to sort out the relevant sources that are speaking about them or their products/services, allowing them to maintain high-level customer service. It is also an essential tool for smaller businesses because, even though a smaller number of people may be mentioning them, using a social monitoring tool will allow them to keep an eye on what their competitors are up to.

Tracking data using a social listening tool

Lastly, we know too well that data is worth nothing if you can’t use it. 

A social media listening tool will also provide you with insightful reports to help you understand the “why” and “how” hiding behind any mention of your brand.

Mention offers report customization and an overview of the KPIs related to your brand’s online presence. This includes changes in sentiment, brand awareness, social media engagement, and other relevant metrics. 

Finally, Mention’s report feature allows you to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and initiatives. It allows you to assess how well your brand is being perceived, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions to enhance your online presence.

Check the stellar & live dashboard we have on @Nasa (we like space stuff).


Track Every Social Channel From One Place

This is the key point. You could go from network to network searching for any mention of your brand name.

But there are two bigs flaws to this strategy:

  1. It’s a waste of your valuable time
  2. You will miss things

There are too many sources, too many customers, and too many voices. And when you do finally miss something, it could end up being a costly complaint from a valued customer, or an endorsement from a powerful influencer.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. A social listening tool picks up every mention of your brand on social media and pulls it all into one place.


That way, you can see everything that is being said about you as it happens, in one place, thus saving you an insane amount of time.

Listen to Conversations About Your Brand, Products, and Services

You could be providing the best service in the world, your brand is only worth what your customers are willing to invest in it. 

And today, a brand can only be successful if it has the means to take care of its customers.

If there’s something I learned working in marketing, is that people complain. All. The. Time. Before social media, brands could rely on call centers and hard mail to deal with complaints and help customers in need. It was a private and – potentially – lengthy process.

A study relayed by Convince and Convert revealed that 47% of social media users directly reach out to brands on social media to complain (publicly).

What’s more, another study from Altitude shows that 80% of consumers demand that brands answer to their social messages within 24 hours. Beyond that, brands risk losing their customers to the competition.

Now, social media can also hurt your brand if you’re not paying attention.

Social Listening for Risk Management

Social media is a fast-moving, high-intensity space. It’s where things “go viral,” after all. For this reason, brands need to watch carefully for negative press. One disgruntled former staff member, or an unhappy client, can post virtually anything they like online. And if that message gains traction, you’ve gone from one person saying bad things, to thousands.

It may seem dramatic, but a brand crisis can catch you when you least expect it. And if it does, you’ll be glad that you caught it early and had a chance to limit the damage. That’s why social media monitoring should be part of any crisis management plan.

Get Notified With Mention Spike Alerts

Mention Spike Alerts are one of Mention’s key crisis management features. If there’s any radical increase in mentions of your brand (or anything else you’re listening to, for that matter), you can be notified via email and/or via text message.

Because they defend controversial causes, Doctors of the World relies a lot on Mention to identify both foreign and domestic threats against their own people. If they catch a viral conversation mentioning gatherings and other forms of physical intimidation, they can notify both the local law enforcement authorities and their own security to prevent any situation to escalate from bad to worse.”
Clémentine Bourreau, Customer Success Manager @Mention

Control Your Online Reputation

Here’s an example of a negative conversation about video games.


Wolfenstein Youngblood (…) the worst game I’ve played this year besides Anthem

Almost as bad as Rage 2 on so many levels

Sh*t writing

Don’t remind me that I own Anthem

(These are video games by the way).

This whole conversation took place for everybody to see on Twitter, and nobody took the time to tag Bethesda (Wolfenstein & Rage 2) or Electronic Arts (Anthem) directly. Chances are that they could gain control of the conversation by joining it. 

Remember: you can go viral for both good things and bad things. It’s now up to you to craft a witty, well-timed social media response to avoid the crisis spreading like wildfire.

Social Listening for Product Improvement

Advanced social listening tools like Mention are designed to facilitate team-work, by allowing you to assign specific tasks to a team member, share reports and approve different workflows. 

Social listening is also a fine way to evaluate if your current offer matches your customers and market expectations. You need to know what your target audience thinks about your products and services, in order to make adjustments to better cater to your clients. 

Now, you’ve probably noticed that people talk freely about absolutely everything on social media. While that can be frustrating, it’s also a great place to find honest feedback about your brand. Start paying attention to what people say about you behind your back. It can be tough at times, but you’ll learn a lot about your own business.

Social Listening - mailchimp product complaint

Social Listening to Keep an Eye on the Competition

Competitive analysis is all about tracking the competition and gathering information to help you make more informed decisions for your own brand. Today, a large part of the information that’s valuable for you is public, and Mention makes it simple to keep a close eye on the competition.

Using Mention, you can listen to and analyze:

  • Their overall social media presence & performance
  • The feedback they get from customers 
  • Who is talking about them
  • How their brand is being talked about on social media platforms
  • The trends they associated with
  • What they’re good at
  • What they’re bad at
  • Which conversations they take part in

Why competitive analysis works

Building successful marketing campaigns is not an easy task. In fact, you can never know if something can work for you until you’ve tried it. But you can learn from your competitors’ experiences. 

As you build your brand, watching the competition will help you find out what they do well, and the mistakes they make along the way. Look for trends – things that help the best companies excel. 

A retailer, for example, could listen to the competition to anticipate where they will open stores next. They could pay attention to increasing conversations with local partners or influencers in specific areas they’re not operating in yet.

It’s essential to know if your competitors are something to be feared, or to be ignored. This is what a competitive analysis run through Mention will tell you. You’ll be better informed and prepared to craft your own marketing and growth strategies.”
Rodrigo Araujo, Customer Success Hero @Mention 

Different Social Listening Tools for Different Needs

There are hundreds, if not thousands of tools wearing a “social listening” hat.

Sadly, they are not all equally good.

You can, of course, consider using free social media analytics tools like Twitter or Facebook Analytics and retrieve engagement-related metrics.

If your budget is tight, an interesting social listening example is Tweet Deck. Tweet Deck monitors Twitter conversations and is a great social media monitoring tool for the following reasons:

  • It’s free
  • It’s great to keep an eye on simple topics and keywords
  • It lets you schedule tweets

Having said that, Tweet Deck remains a very simple tool – too simple for businesses trying to seriously leverage social media.

  • It catches a lot of noise
  • It doesn’t come with any analysis feature
  • It’s tough to visualize scheduled tweets
  • … it only works for Twitter
Social media campaign

Everybody’s Talking, Are You Listening?

With the widespread use of social media in our daily lives, social listening has become increasingly crucial.

It allows individuals and businesses to track and comprehend the feedback and discussions surrounding their brand, products, or services on social media platforms.

Through careful analysis of this data, companies can obtain valuable insights into their target audience’s needs, preferences, and opinions. This can inform their marketing strategies, enhance customer satisfaction, and lead to increased profits.

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Clément René

Clément is a Content Marketer. He creates content to help brands manage their online reputation strategy. If not behind a screen, you can find him reading books in Parisian cafés or exploring the city with his dog.

Content Marketer @Mention