What’s the difference between social monitoring and social listening?

Sprinklr Team

July 31, 20237 min read

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If you're a digital marketer, you're probably familiar with the terms "social listening" and "social monitoring."

Despite the similar names, they are not interchangeable. In fact, they represent distinct strategies — different enough that opting for one over the other can yield entirely different outcomes in your marketing funnel.

That's why it's essential to explore the "social listening vs. social monitoring" question and discover how each process can enhance the user experience.

Understanding the nuances between these two practices can significantly impact your marketing success. So, let's take a closer look at both approaches.

Table of Contents

What is social listening? 

Social listening is a digital marketing strategy that involves identifying and examining online conversations related to your brand and industry domain. Marketers draw insights from ongoing discussions to refine tactics, set goals and benchmark activities.

Essentially, you gather data from your social media platforms and focus on how customers in your industry interact on the web, including interactions with competitors and their customers. This analysis encompasses all conversations around your domain, even if your brand is not explicitly mentioned or involved.

By homing in on the relevant conversations, you can identify potential gaps in your customer-facing messaging and gather ideas on how to minimize risk while better catering to customer needs.

Social media listening often yields valuable data for creating campaigns, improving brand messaging, optimizing content strategy and enhancing influencer marketing efforts. Moreover, it serves as a powerful tool to initiate impactful conversations with your customers.

Why social listening matters?

Here are a few reasons why social listening is a game-changer in the digital marketing landscape, empowering businesses to connect, adapt and thrive in today's dynamic world of customer engagement. 

  • Tracking social mentions: Social listening keeps a keen eye on every instance where a customer or any publication mentions your brand on the internet. But for a truly comprehensive social listening strategy, it goes beyond just tagged mentions (such as when your brand appears in an interview). Consider broadening your approach by tracking untagged mentions and monitoring your competitors and essential industry elements, like events and webinars, to gauge the extent of your audience reach.

    This strategy offers valuable data points, such as the most frequently used platforms by users, the frequency of brand mentions (both yours and your competitors'), and more. With these insights in hand, you can gain a deeper understanding of your brand's online presence and make informed decisions to improve your digital marketing efforts. 

  • Reading the right conversations: Once you delve into the discussions involving your brand or industry, you gain valuable insights into your customers' true desires. You can identify which features they talk about most frequently, what they appreciate, and what aspects receive the most complaints.

    Armed with these data points, you can nurture what you're already excelling at and make significant improvements to address customer concerns. Moreover, why not actively seek out conversations where you can offer helpful information or advice, even if your brand isn't explicitly mentioned? By doing so, you position yourself as an expert in your domain and attract the sincere attention of people who see your genuine altruism. This approach often translates into long-term brand loyalty, as customers are more likely to connect with a brand that demonstrates care and expertise beyond self-promotion.

  • Identifying loyalists & (the right) influencers: Social listening is a powerful tool for discovering genuine influencers who can effectively convey your brand message to the right audience. Simultaneously, it helps you locate individuals who truly adore your brand, actively recommend it to others and remain supportive even during challenging times – these advocates are invaluable in your brand's journey. 

  • Analyzing the competition: Social listening doesn't just stop at monitoring your own brand; it also provides insights into what customers are saying about your competitors' offerings. By paying attention to audience conversations, you can identify areas where your competitors may be falling short and ensure you avoid the same pitfalls.

    Additionally, you can capitalize on features or areas where your competitors are facing challenges, allowing you to gain a competitive edge. Extracting insights from conversation threads on social media posts and blogs proves particularly useful in understanding customer sentiments and preferences. Armed with this information, you can refine your strategies and fine-tune your offerings to meet the needs of your target audience better. 

Also Read: Social media messaging: How to get it right? 

What is social monitoring?

Social monitoring is akin to "reading the room" in a digital landscape. It involves tracking and responding to brand mentions across various internet platforms, including social media, forums, blogs and reviews.

The primary goal is to identify every mention of your brand, product or service and respond in a way that adds value to the commenter. For positive mentions, a simple "thank you" will suffice, while for negative ones, a sincere apology followed by a commitment to make amends is essential – and, of course, taking the necessary actions to fulfill that promise.

Social monitoring entails searching for: 

  • Your brand name (including any misspellings)

  • Product names (including misspellings)

  • Competitor names 

Ideally, social media monitoring functions as an extension of your customer support, but within the realm of social media. It involves actively monitoring all conversations on your social media platforms and engaging with each post accordingly. The overarching objective is to proactively reach out and connect with as many audience members as possible, fostering a sense of connection and loyalty between your brand and its customers.

Why social monitoring matters?

Here are a few ways social monitoring empowers businesses to build stronger relationships with customers, proactively address concerns and maintain a positive brand reputation in an ever-evolving online world. 

  • Helping customers with queries: One of the simplest and most direct ways for customers to voice their thoughts is by tagging brands on social media to ask questions, make statements or share complaints. Neglecting to reach out and respond to these customers means overlooking a critical and substantial aspect of your customer service efforts.

    Social monitoring is the key to identifying these tags and promptly providing the appropriate information in response. Embracing this practice is essential for brands to remain relevant and competitive amid cutthroat competition. By being proactive in addressing customer queries and concerns, you can enhance your brand's reputation and foster stronger relationships with your audience.

  • Figure out relevant trends: By closely monitoring mentions of your brand name, as well as those of your competitors, you can pinpoint the latest trends within your industry and leverage them to your advantage.

    These trends not only provide valuable insights into what users want but also present opportunities to adapt your products or services to cater to their unmet needs. Understanding your customers through social monitoring enables you to gain valuable insights that can significantly boost your sales and revenue-maximization strategies. This data serves as a crucial foundation for optimizing your offerings and ensuring long-term success in a competitive market.  

  • Keep an eye on your competitors: Monitoring your competitors' mentions provides crucial insights into their strengths and weaknesses, indispensable for crafting competitive product development and marketing strategies.

    But don't stop at merely tracking customer mentions. Go beyond to examine their content publications, campaigns and corresponding products. Identify what type of content drives the most engagement and explore ways to create your unique versions (without resorting to plagiarism). Similarly, analyze what your competitors may be doing wrong, and avoid falling into the same traps. By studying and learning from the competition, you can refine your strategies and ensure you stay ahead in the race. 

  • Gather social proof: Nothing speaks better for your brand than a genuine, willingly given customer review. Social monitoring comes to the rescue by helping you discover positive comments about your products, which you can proudly showcase as social proof. Customers naturally trust their peers more than promotional messages from you.

    No need to worry about coming across as boastful. If your brand genuinely offers a valuable customer experience, spreading the word is only fair. Your customers deserve to know about the great service you provide, and you, in turn, deserve recognition for your hard work and dedication. Embrace the positive feedback and let it serve as a testament to the excellence of your brand.

Also Read: 4 ways to maximize social listening and propel your brand with trend analysis  

Social listening vs. monitoring: Key differences

Note: We’re not trying to state that one strategy is better than another. In fact, we advocate that you understand the differences with perfect clarity, and then deploy both strategies to get the best possible social media ROI on your marketing activity.

Micro vs. Macro

Social monitoring operates on the micro level, where customer service personnel actively search for customers' queries, issues and comments to provide prompt responses. This tactic involves scanning through various feeds on public platforms to identify relevant notifications and address them accordingly.

On the other hand, social listening works at the macro level, focusing on how customers perceive not only your brand but also your industry as a whole. It involves analyzing conversations involving your direct customers, your competitor's customers, and industry experts to gain a comprehensive view of your brand's position within the domain.

In essence, social monitoring is like observing individual trees, while social listening is akin to viewing the entire forest. While social monitoring is a component of social listening, the latter includes a broader scope that goes beyond individual interactions to provide a holistic understanding of the brand's standing in the larger context of the industry. 

Active vs. Responsive

Social listening is a proactive exercise. You take the initiative to listen to your customers and the entire industry because you genuinely want to identify any gaps or shortcomings. It's all about seeking opportunities and resolving issues head-on.

The ideas generated from social listening aren't just for quick fixes. Brand mentions might highlight a missing feature, which can influence the company's product pipeline. Industry conversations could reveal that certain tools with specific capabilities create better revenue channels, prompting the brand to adopt those tools early on to gain a competitive advantage.

On the other hand, social monitoring is a responsive activity. The customers make the first move by tagging the brand with questions, complaints, statements or suggestions, and then the brand responds accordingly.

That's precisely why social monitoring is often a part of most social listening strategies. Reviewing tags is an excellent way to gauge customer sentiment, but it's not the only method. Both active listening and responsive monitoring complement each other to create a well-rounded approach to understanding and engaging with customers and the industry.

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

Xbox's quick reply to a user's tweet regarding the availability of digital purchases after being deleted from the console to save space.


That's social monitoring. 

But when Xbox looks at all the customer queries and contextualizes them within larger conversations in the gaming and tech domain, that's social listening. Insights gathered from this "listening" process enable Xbox to make well-informed product and business decisions that align with customer needs and market expectations. 

Manual v. Automated

The most apparent distinction between "social media monitoring vs. social listening" is quite literal – one process is manual, while the other is automated.

With social monitoring, you can either use a tool to find and list all brand mentions, or simply go through the mentions in your notifications without the need for an extra tool. However, responding to each tag requires manual effort and engagement.

On the other hand, social listening necessitates the use of an automation tool designed specifically for this purpose. It goes beyond customers who directly tag your brand on social media. You input relevant keywords and phrases into the system, enabling the tool to discover digital conversations, comments, articles, podcasts, videos and more related to those specific phrases.

Furthermore, automated tools enable you to keep a close eye on mentions of your competitors' names, something that can only be effectively achieved through automation. By employing the right automation tools, you can efficiently manage and analyze vast amounts of data, giving you comprehensive insights that manual monitoring alone cannot match.

Read More: Why businesses need enterprise social listening platforms 

Simplify social media listening & monitoring with Sprinklr

Once you implement your brand strategy, its impact needs to be monitored by examining all customer interaction on every social channel, including websites, chat and messaging. Constantly scanning social media for updated numbers, brand name mentions, and engaging with every comment and query is not something a team can easily manage manually.

This is where a tool like Sprinklr Social comes into play.

Sprinklr Social enables you to efficiently scan and engage with audiences across every digital channel. With a single, unified dashboard, you can easily view and interact with content from all channels. By leveraging Sprinklr Social, you streamline the monitoring process, ensure timely responses, and maximize your brand's online presence and customer engagement. 

A few of Sprinklr Social standout features (the ones that matter to your brand strategy): 

  • Allows for interacting with customers across 30+ social and messaging channels

  • Provides integrated listening to identify, study and participate in relevant conversations that don't directly involve your brand but offer opportunities to showcase thought leadership

  • AI-driven automated inbound triaging that enables you to categorize messages by intent, helping prioritize conversations for engagement 

  • Tracks branded content from development through deployment across all digital channels, fostering cross-team collaboration and visibility on a single platform 

  • Account-level permissions and governance to implement controls that prevent PR crises and the publication of content that violates brand hygiene 

  • Filters to establish a global compliance framework for approvals, governance rules and moderation processes

Does it sound like Sprinklr Social can complement your brand strategy? If so, contact us, and let's discuss how Sprinklr can help your brand stand out from your competition. 

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