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What’s the Difference Between Social Monitoring and Social Listening?

Guest Author

April 1, 2021  •  5 min read

If you use the terms “social monitoring” and “social listening” interchangeably, you’re not alone. But, it’s important to realize that the difference goes beyond semantics. Despite the fact that the two terms are often used interchangeably, they represent two entirely different strategies. Let’s look more closely at their attributes and how they can improve your CXM.

What is Social Monitoring?

Social monitoring is the process of identifying, tracking, and responding to individual brand mentions on social media, blogs, websites, review sites, and forums to learn what people are saying about your brand, products, and competitors online.

What is Social Listening?

Social listening, on the other hand, is collecting data from those social mentions and broader customer conversations, and pulling insights from them so you can make better decisions for your customers. You might call it, “reading the room.” And, its influence is skyrocketing: In a recent survey, marketers said “social listening” was their top social media tactic.

Social Monitoring vs Social Listening

The first step to executing these strategies properly is understanding what makes each one unique. That’s why we’re breaking down the differences between social monitoring and social listening so you can fine tune your strategy and create better customer experiences.

Micro vs. Macro

Social monitoring addresses customers on a micro scale. This is when care representatives or social media managers respond to incoming queries, issues, and comments. They monitor a feed of notifications and provide an answer or refer the person to the right department, as they might in a call center.

On a broader scale, social listening takes a macro look at how customers discuss your brand on social media. It gathers that data from social monitoring and customer interactions (often via AI software), and pools it to build a more comprehensive view of what customers are saying and how your brand can address a need.

There are many metaphors you can use to make this distinction clearer. Social monitoring is the trees; social listening is the forest. Social monitoring is the pixels; social listening is the picture. Social monitoring is the bandaid; social listening helps you find the cure.

No matter what terms you might use, it’s important to remember that these are separate strategies, and that you need them both to provide superior customer care.

Reactive vs. Proactive

Social monitoring is reactive. The customer makes the first move and reaches out to the brand on social media. In reaction, the care representative swoops in to solve an issue or answer a question. It’s a crucial social strategy to have. But those customer interactions shouldn’t stop there.

That’s where social listening, which is proactive, comes in. Social listening allows brands to take those short-term interactions and build them to glean insights for a long-term strategy. This unified, birds-eye view can also help you better understand why those social mentions came to your care representative in the first place. And you can start to find opportunities to make changes that proactively prevent similar issues in the future.

Through social listening, you can also unearth trends among your industry, competitors, and consumer experiences. You can then make necessary changes to stay ahead of the curve and keep customers happy.

Take Xbox, for example. The @XboxSupport Twitter account responds to individual queries, like this one:

Image Source 

That’s social monitoring. But if Xbox pulls back the scope and sees that many other customers have similar questions, they can suggest product or marketing changes within the company to improve the customer experience going forward. That’s accomplished through social listening.

Manual vs. Automated

At its most basic level, social monitoring can be done manually. That is, you can use Twitter or Tweetdeck notifications to easily monitor your mentions. But other than that, you can pretty much keep track of every incoming query. And while that’s sufficient for many companies, others prefer a more robust strategy that integrates AI social listening to identify intent and proactively predict cases that might need to be escalated in order to avoid potentially embarrassing remarks left by frustrated customers.

Quick response is a key part of CXM: One survey found that 83% of consumers expect brands to respond to social media comments within a day or less. And that’s where a modern customer experience management platform can improve customer satisfaction compared with inefficient workflows which can lead to delayed resolution and unhappy customers.

Social listening requires more automation and robust technology to collect and measure data. In fact, Forrester found that 52% of social listening tool users considered measurement their top challenge. The right social listening tools will allow you to automatically track keywords, trends, and brand mentions (with or without your handle). It can then aggregate and present that data in a way that is easy to understand and draw insights from. From there, you’ll be able to find patterns, uncover trends, and understand your audience without missing a beat.

Monitoring vs. Listening

People are talking about your brand on social media – whether you’re aware of it or not. That means they’re providing you with valuable data about what they need and want from your brand. You just have to be there to collect it and respond.

Once you parse the differences, it’s easy to see that despite their similar names, these two activities are in fact very distinct. After all, there’s a huge difference between monitoring a conversation or listening to it. While both social media monitoring and social media listening are crucial, it’s important to understand their differences, but more importantly to grasp what these two disciplines can do for your brand and CXM – individually and together. Only then can you execute them properly and use them to better engage your consumers.

Learn how Sprinklr Modern Care uses social monitoring and social listening to power modern customer care.

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