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Social Listening: Definition, Strategies, and Tools

Social Listening: Definition, Strategies, and Tools

Home Blog Digital Marketing Social Listening: Definition, Strategies, and Tools

What is Social Listening?

To stay ahead, brands must actively listen to and understand the conversation surrounding their business. Social listening allows you to measure what customers say online about your brand, products, and services—at scale. It provides insight into their perception of the competition and industry trends.

If you want to know how to implement a social listening strategy from scratch, you’re in the right place. Since 2012, we’ve helped 4000+ brands gather 23 billion mentions of their brand, competitors, and industry, and we’ll share with you all the tips and tricks they used to make the most of social listening.

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.

Social listening vs social monitoring

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

social listening vs monitoring

Social Media Monitoring

Imagine someone mentions your brand on Twitter. Social monitoring is about spotting that mention (quantitative). It involves tracking and responding to online conversations and is often mentioned as brand monitoring.

It focuses on metrics such as the frequency of mentions and engagement levels.

Here’s an example of social media monitoring from Black Girl Sunscreen :

social media monitoring example

Engaging in social conversations with people who mentioned your brand can turn conversations into potential clients and enhance your brand monitoring efforts.

But you won’t have the “big picture” of the opinion towards your brand or your industry.

Social Listening

That’s where social listening steps in. 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?

Social listening data can reveal the emotional pulse of the audience towards a brand or a topic using sentiment analysis.

Do you want to know what people say about you online and gather meaningful insights about your target audience? Then, you need social listening to adjust your social media strategy based on the data collected.

In short, social media monitoring will tell you what’s happening, while social media listening will explain why something is happening.

Social listening benefits

Social listening offers a range of advantages that can help you effectively adjust to your audience and market. Let’s explore these benefits, from improving customer service to staying ahead of industry trends.

Understand your audience

Social listening tools can reveal what customers truly think about products and services. Monitoring social media channels and websites can help you gather insights about consumer preferences and pain points, tailoring your marketing approach.

You can then use this feedback to improve your offering, making customers happier.

Customer service and support

Businesses can use social listening to provide immediate feedback and effectively address customer feedback and queries. This proactive approach to customer service resolves individual case issues and builds a reputation for responsive and caring customer support.

A perfect example of a customer service answer through social listening is Starbucks:

social-customer-service-starbucks-idea

Crisis management

1/4 of the crisis spread to the media in less than one hour. Two-thirds within 24 hours.

That’s why spotting a potential issue before it escalates is invaluable. Through social listening, companies can detect early signs of crises by identifying the spikes of mentions and their associated sentiments.

The faster you respond, the easier it will be to mitigate the crisis. This can help you prevent a PR crisis and maintain a positive brand image and reputation.

Competitive analysis

With social listening, brands can understand what their competition is up to.

Have they changed their pricing? Do they plan to launch a new product?

By tracking competitors’ activities, you can discover strategies that work for them or areas where you may fall short, providing a valuable edge.

Unsatisfied competitors who talk on social media platforms can become potential customers if you join their social media conversations at the right time.

Mention social media reply

Track brand mentions

Monitoring mentions across social networks keeps businesses informed about what is being said about them. The social listening insights include positive feedback, user-generated content, or areas for improvement.

For mentions on websites and blogs, you can turn your brand unlinked mentions into powerful backlinks that will improve your SEO positions.

Industry insights

Another advantage of social listening is gaining a broad view of the industry trends. Detecting emerging trends lets you adapt quickly to what the market wants so that you can stay relevant and ahead of your industry.

Other benefits of social listening include developing a data-driven content strategy, generating ideas for product development, measuring the impact of marketing campaigns with campaign analysis, and finding key influencers with whom to partner.

How to build your social listening strategy

Now that you know all the benefits social listening can provide for your business, let’s explore how to create a social listening strategy that effectively identifies where your audience is and what they want.

1) Determine your goal with social listening

Every strategy begins with a goal.

What does your brand aim to achieve?

  • Do you want to know what your customers thought of the last product you released?
  • Are you looking to find the latest trends in your industry?
  • Or perhaps you’re seeking to prevent a crisis from happening?

Make sure to clearly define your objectives as they will guide your social listening efforts.

2) Choose your social listening tool

You could go from network to network, searching for any mention of your brand name.

But there are two big 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. When you 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 can capture every mention of your brand on social media and organize it in one place.

Each platform offers varying degrees of depth, so choose one that aligns with your business needs, budget, and technical capacities. We’ve included a selection of social media listening tools at the end of the article. Try Mention for free for 14 days!

3) Select the platforms you want to listen to

Now the big question: Which platform will you listen to?

This will depend on several factors: where your audience hangs out and is most active, what kind of data you want to gather, and your budget.

You must choose your sources based on your goals: social media platforms, review sites, blogs, etc.

To make social listening easily accessible, Mention provides data from X (Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube, Blogs, Review Sites, and more.

mention sources

4) Accurately select your alert parameters

Now, it’s time to create an alert to start listening. Brands should select relevant keywords, themes, phrases, and mentions that matter most to their mission.

You must consider all the different possibilities for writing a word or expression that matches your alert.

Using optional keywords will help narrow your alert results and eliminate the noise around your target topic.

Don’t forget to create a blacklist of keywords that you don’t want to appear on the alert, so you only get relevant social listening data.

5) Measure your social listening efforts with KPIs

To determine the success of a social listening strategy, it is essential to have measurable outcomes, especially in today’s data-driven world. Brands must define their key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the success of their social media listening and adjust as needed.

You could track KPIs such as:

  • Volume of mentions
  • Net Sentiment Score
  • Share of Voice (SoV)
  • Engagement rate
  • Brand health

Social listening tips and tricks

Now that you know how to set up your social listening strategy, here are a few tips to make your social listening program perform even better.

1) Use filters to categorize your mentions

When navigating the alert results, filters become your best friend for finding important information. They save a lot of time categorizing mentions.

By categorizing mentions—whether by sentiment, source, or topic—you can streamline their process and focus on what really requires their attention. For instance, setting up filters to separate positive and negative sentiments helps prioritize responses.

Mention allows you to filter your alert results based on sources, time, languages, countries, influence score, sentiment, and more.

alert building mention

2) Summarize your mentions with AI

Summarizing social media posts and conversations has never been easier with AI. Employ social listening tools that provide AI-powered analysis to digest the bulk of data into actionable insights.

This helps you understand the general mood and themes of the mentions without reading every single one, thus saving you a lot of time that you could spend doing something else.

3) Generate social listening reports to share metrics with your team

Measure twice, cut once—this saying is especially relevant to social listening. Agencies and marketers should create comprehensive reports that compile metrics and analytics to share with their teams.

This backs their strategies with tangible data and ensures everyone is on the same page regarding social media performance and audience sentiment.

Reports make it easy to share social listening results, provide stakeholders with a clear understanding of collected social media analytics data, and demonstrate the ROI of marketing actions.

Mention comparative report

Social Listening Examples

Let’s dive into real-world examples of brands successfully using social listening.

Hunter

Hunter, an all-in-one email outreach platform, used social listening to secure 200+ high-quality backlinks from reputable domains.

How? They used Mention to find unlinked mentions of their brand. Since Hunter is a common word, they applied filters to their alerts and used influencer scores to screen irrelevant websites. This allowed them to list quality domains to contact that mentioned Hunter without giving them a link.

Then, they did email outreach to ask to turn the unlinked mention into a backlink, which had a 15% conversion rate. The highest they ever had in their link-building outreach.

Hunter homepage

Labellecom

Another success story related to social media listening is Labellecom, a digital marketing agency specializing in B2C and B2B social media management in the French market.

They needed to monitor the results of their actions to prove the value of the social media strategies they were implementing for their customers.

That’s why Labellecom evolved its service to include a new component: the Brand Digital Presence Audit. This service includes an evaluation of a brand’s online presence and market, then creating and implementing a custom strategy.

Their audit contained the volume of mentions, sentiment analysis regarding the brand they were auditing, and historical data, which helped to close more deals with clients.

Labellecom

StrataScratch

StrataScratch is a data science interview platform that has 1000+ questions asked at top-performing companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

The platform was originally designed for data scientists. Using social listening, StrataScratch found that other professions (including data engineers, machine-learning engineers, and business analysts) would be interested in accessing their database.

In 2023, online conversations on Reddit permitted the CEO to receive customer feedback regarding the company’s pricing and better understand what customers were willing to pay.

The company’s pricing revamp was a key decision, and social listening played a major part in determining how to adjust pricing to stay competitive.

StrataScratch social listening reddit

Social Listening Tools

The quality of the data you’ll retrieve depends on the social listening tool you use. That’s why we have created a compilation of social listening tools that you should consider using to enhance your listening efforts.

Mention

Mention is a social listening and brand monitoring software that tracks 1 billion sources daily. Its listening abilities allow you to gain full visibility into any topic, brand, hashtag, or personality you like! You can easily create alerts and collect mentions in minutes using the assisted query-building function. The filtering options eliminate all the noise, so you only receive mentions that matter.

You can identify the impact of your marketing channels across multiple sources: social media, forums, review sites, online press, blogs, and more. Their historical data feature allows you to fetch up to two years of mentions.

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. You can assess how well your brand is being perceived, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions to enhance your online presence.

mention dashboard

Starting price: from $41/month

Meltwater

Meltwater provides tools and services for media monitoring, social listening, influencer marketing, and PR analytics. They monitor 300,000 online news sources, print and broadcast media, social media platforms (including Asian social platforms), review sites, and blogs.

Their deep influencer analysis enables them to discover and vet the best influencers that you could reach out to for your influencer marketing campaigns. They provide unlimited alert creations, 15-month historical data, and a reporting feature to share the results of your listening strategy.

meltwater

Starting price: from $4k/mo

SproutSocial

SproutSocial’s social listening tool enables brands to listen to any conversations happening online. Backed by AI, you can easily create alerts on the topic you want to listen to without being an expert in boolean queries. Their tool can handle 50,000 social media publications. You can use it to prevent crises from happening, analyze online conversations, measure your share of voice, discover industry trends, find key influencers, and more.

Sprout Social

Starting price: from $199/mo – Social listening is a 999$/month add-on

Lucas Carval

Lucas is a Growth Specialist at Mention, where he focuses on digital marketing, SEO, outreach, and social listening. Since joining Mention in October 2023, he has quickly made an impact by implementing strategies that enhance the company's lead generation. With over 2 years of experience in digital marketing, Lucas previously grew a streetwear Instagram page network from 0 to 120k followers in a year. He holds certifications in Google Analytics and has been recognized for his expertise through his bachelor's degree in Economics and Management.

Growth Specialist @Mention