What is social listening?
Social listening is the process of analyzing online conversations around your brand, industry, competitors, or specific topics. It is a key component of market research and includes tracking social media channels for customer feedback and direct and indirect mentions of your brand so you can gain insights and leverage those trends and opportunities.
Weaving AI-powered social media listening into your brand strategy enables you to know why, where, and how these conversations are happening and what exactly your customers think and want — even when your brand is not tagged. This will help you manage customer complaints, enhance your social media presence, and monitor your competitors’ strategies.
Why is social listening important?
Social listening allows you to track how people feel about your brand in real-time. If there is a significant change in the frequency with which people talk about you or shifts in the mood behind what they say, you'll know it immediately. Social listening data can help you create content your customers are interested in, provide ideas on how to improve customer service and adapt your marketing strategy to fit current market needs.
Benefits of social media listening
Social listening benefits include insights into what people are actively discussing about your brand, such as what your customers expect from you. Here are some ways social listening can benefit your brand.
Strengthen customer relationships
Social media listening lets your brand identify customers at various stages of the decision-making process and create an integrated customer experience strategy to address issues, such as lower customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores and loss of market share.
Make data-driven business decisions
Social listening uncovers valuable customer feedback on products and services and allows you to discover influential audiences and market trends your brand can capitalize on. A social listening dashboard can easily do that work for a business.
Stay ahead of the competition
Social listening helps you understand what your customers want and gives you a competitive advantage over your competitors’ products and strategies.
Learn more: Benchmarking your way from information to action with competitive insights
Improve your influencer marketing
You can use social listening to find influencers with significant clout in your industry who will advocate for your brand and enable you to construct an effective influencer program to increase your reach.
Protect your brand
Social listening lets you monitor real-time reactions, detect anomalies in online activity, identify brand risks at early stages, and alert your team so they can be proactive in their response.
What’s the difference between social listening and social monitoring?
Social listening and social monitoring sound similar and are often used interchangeably, but they differ in important ways. The purpose of social monitoring is to gather data. It can be used to look back on past events using metrics such as:
Social media monitoring can be used for tasks such as ROI tracking or setting yearly budgets based on the value of your social media marketing campaigns.
Social listening involves looking beyond the numbers to discover the “why” behind the data. This is also known as social media sentiment. This sentiment analysis can help you learn how people feel about your brand and your competitors. Rather than just looking at how many times your company is mentioned, you take a look at the social conversations around your brand mentions. By being aware of shifts in social sentiment, you can also respond quickly when unexpected changes occur.
Social monitoring records what has already happened while social listening looks at the future and the past. This involves analyzing the social media data and using it to guide your daily activities and strategies.
Learn more: Understanding Social Monitoring vs. Social Listening vs. Omni-channel Listening
How does social listening work?
A social listening tool collect online data about your brand and your competitors. This data comes from research based on keywords or phrases to gather the most relevant information. Mentions are then analyzed to understand customer sentiment and are categorized as positive, negative, or neutral based on their tone and context. Categories can also be added to discover what your customers talk about when they mention your brand or product online (e.g., price, product availability, or packaging).
This information can be monitored and analyzed to give you a better understanding of what consumers are saying about your brand and competitors, helping you create a response to benefit users and increase sales.
How can a social media listening strategy help your company?
People are talking about your brand in real-time, and knowing what they’re saying is in your best interest. Without social listening, you may be missing out on important customer insights. Here are some ways social listening can help your company.
Understanding your audience
With social media listening, you can get a better understanding of what your customers want from your company and use that information to drive more effective strategizing and planning. For example, a current customer might make a social media post highlighting what they love about your product. Or perhaps a customer makes a post about improvements they’d like to see from your brand. You might even catch people talking about problems in the market that your product or service could remedy. So, getting your customer insights is the first step to understand your audience.
Industry and product intelligence
Social listening is useful for understanding what people are saying about your brand, but it’s also useful for finding out what people are saying about your industry. The use of social listening can give you valuable insights into how you fit in the marketplace.
You can learn what your competitors are doing with the help of social listening. Are they implementing new marketing campaigns? Are they releasing new products or product upgrades? These insights give you an advantage over your competition and can give you ideas for improvements within your own company.
Listening to conversations throughout the industry reveals a lot of insight into what works for current and potential customers and what doesn’t. This information can help product strategy and development, customer service, and marketing.
Learn more: How to build a customer-centric product strategy using real-time product insights
While it’s easy to ignore one or two negative comments every now and then, it’s important to pay attention anytime the negative comments begin to outweigh the positive ones. Even one scandal or serious incident can cause a wave of negative comments on your social media accounts. Social listening allows you to analyze incidents and determine how to solve problems before they get out of hand.
One of the worst parts about a crisis is feeling like you don’t have control. Crises often demand quick decisions, leaving you with little time to consider the best options. Because social listening allows you to see what your audience is saying about your brand across social media platforms, you can see a crisis coming before it gets out of hand. If you notice an increase in negative mentions, for example, you can take quick actions to manage social media crisis and solve the problem before it becomes unmanageable.
Brand monitoring involves monitoring social networks, forums, blogs, and other websites to find mentions of your brand. Sentiment analysis can be used to categorize these mentions into positive, negative, or neutral.
Brand monitoring tells you more about your brand reputation and what factors affect it, such as time of year, certain marketing campaigns, or product releases. It shows you how your actions affect the level of engagement involving your brand. Monitoring your brand helps you find any complaints, praise, or questions about your brand online in real-time. Quickly responding can improve customer service and engagement and help you build a brand community on social media.
Brand monitoring gives you additional information about consumers, such as location, social media usage, demographics, and more.
Social listening allows you to benchmark against your competitors. You can use these insights to identify competitors and see where your business is falling short in other areas such as customer service, retention, or reputation. You can also see where you are excelling in the industry. You might have the best prices or fastest delivery times. Knowing where your company is succeeding and where it is falling short compared to your competitors will allow you to focus on and perfect the areas that need improvement.
Social listening strategies
Your social listening strategy should depend on what questions you want to be answered. Do you want to know how people feel about your brand and why sales are down? Do you want to know what consumers are saying about the industry or your competitors? Topics to base your social listening strategies on include:
Knowing how people perceive your company or products is essential for improving areas like customer service and customer retention. Insights about the positive or negative feelings people have about your company can lead you to change your assumptions and move toward more targeted content marketing. Social listening can uncover answers about your company’s health, such as:
How customers feel about your company, products, or services
The kind of content people share about your company
How your audience aligns with other business channels
You can discover new industry trends before they even become trends with social listening. Looking at discussions or hashtags within your industry can give you a better idea of where the industry is headed. This information can be used to create new products or content to improve your marketing strategies. Adapting to new industry trends puts you ahead of your competitors by helping you:
Watch out for things that are disrupting the market
Be aware of important political and social issues to decide if they're relevant to your company
Find gaps in the market that you could solve with new products, product upgrades, or improved workflows
Pay attention to commonly asked questions to create content to answer them (e.g., the FAQ section on your website or social media posts that address these questions)
Learn more: 4 ways to maximize social listening and propel your brand with trend analysis
You can use social listening to do competitive analysis by monitoring what people are saying about your competitors. Digging deeper into top competitors to find the most commonly discussed topics about them can help you improve your marketing strategies. Social listening allows you to:
Get an idea of your audience share on social media
Discover new products or services your competitors are offering
Find out which of your competitors’ content receives more engagement than yours
Examine why customers aren’t satisfied with competitors’ products and how you can meet those customer needs
It takes a great deal of effort and time to develop new campaigns, but without knowledge of how effective those campaigns are, you can’t improve and expand on them. Social listening can help you prove the effectiveness of your marketing campaign by showing you:
The engagement around your campaign posts
Audience demographics that relate to your campaign
Important influencers who are talking about your campaigns
Sentiment around certain campaigns
Major themes throughout your campaigns and whether they’re positive or negative
Learn more: Why Social Media Competitive Intelligence Is Your New Secret Weapon
Metrics to track with social listening
There are several metrics you can track with social listening, and they can all be useful in the correct context. Here are the four most common metrics to track with social listening.
Share of voice
Tracking the number of social media mentions your company receives allows you to analyze your social media performance, but the share of voice lets you put these metrics into perspective. Share of voice displays what proportion of the conversation you occupy compared to your competition. This shows how relevant you are in the industry.
Engagement rate is how often people interact with your content. This can include many actions on social media, including comments, follows, likes, shares, and direct messages. Look for seasonal trends, similarities or differences in demographics, and sudden increases or decreases in mentions.
The level of engagement shows your relationship with customers. The more engaged someone is with your brand, the more likely they are to become a customer. The level of engagement can signal trust, interest, and brand enjoyment, though it is important to note that high engagement isn't always a good thing. You may also notice an increase in negative comments.
Learn more: 3 effective ways to improve customer engagement on social media
Sentiment analysis allows you to assess if people are talking positively or negatively about your brand. How sentiment changes over time can be a good indicator of changes in customer satisfaction. If positive sentiment increases, customer satisfaction is also likely to increase, meaning you are succeeding at meeting customer needs.
Conversion is the ultimate goal of marketing campaigns. Social listening tells you what really matters to your target audience, allowing you to make changes to meet those needs. Conversion rate is a great way to track this. How many people are visiting your website through your social media can tell you how well you’re conveying to your audience that you can meet their needs.
What to look for in a social listening tool
When researching and comparing social listening tools, it’s important to first lay out your business goals and map out the features necessary to fulfill your team’s needs. Who will be operating the tool? What data are you looking to surface, and through which channels?
Common features can include:
Alerts and notifications
Anomaly and trend detection
App and CRM integration
Ensure that your tool aligns with your social listening strategies and KPIs to understand what consumers are saying about your business — and how you can leverage those insights to deliver a better customer experience.
Learn more: AI-powered insights to competitive benchmarking: features you need in your social listening tool
Social listening tips
Knowing what to listen for, where and how to listen, as well as learning from your competitors, is how you create the best social listening strategies.
Know what words and topics to listen to
The key to effective social listening is to select the most relevant keywords. Social media listening tools help you know what words people are using when they mention your brand and industry. Some of the most important keywords and topics to track include:
Your brand’s name, social media handles, and slogan
The names of your products
Words related to your competitors such as brand or product names, handles, and slogans
Popular words related to the industry
Hashtags including your brand’s hashtags, those of competitors, and hashtags related to the industry
Names of major leaders in your company such as CEO, COO, or CFO
All of the above should also be monitored for common abbreviations and misspellings.
Know where to listen
Conversations about your company or the industry are going to vary depending on the channel. For example, what people are saying about your brand on Instagram will likely be different from what they’re saying on LinkedIn. You may also notice people mention you a lot on Instagram but rarely on Facebook.
Knowing where people are talking about you and your competitors and how these conversations differ across networks shows you where your marketing strategies will be the most relevant.
Avoid broad searches
Once you’ve determined what terms to track and where to find them, advanced search methods can be used to narrow your results. The more narrow you can make your search, the more likely you are to find your ideal target audience. For example, you might want to narrow your social listening by location. If you own a small business in the United States, you might not have any interest in conversations happening in France.
Learn from your competitors
Listening to your competitors and what’s being said about them online can inspire new strategies. Social listening can show you what they’re doing right and why their customers continue to purchase from them. More importantly, you can get a sense of what they’re doing wrong, especially when they receive criticism. This allows you to adjust strategies to make up for their shortcomings.
How to get started with social listening
To achieve effective social listening, you’ll need to decide which business goals to focus on. Do you want to improve your customer service or develop new products for the market? Do you want to know how to keep up with your competitors or discover where your target audience exists online?
Once you’ve decided which goals to focus on, choose keywords and topics to track. These should be relevant to the goals you chose. For example, if you want to know what customers are saying about your company, searching your brand’s name or products is a good place to start. Next, set up your social listening tool and start your social listening.
Once you’ve gained some valuable insights, put them into action. Use your new insights to implement new marketing strategies, create new products or upgrades, or improve areas of your company such as customer service. Any changes you make to improve customer experience can lead to higher profits.
Turn data into action with AI-powered social listening from Sprinklr
Unlocking insights from massive amounts of data scattered across digital and social channels is next to impossible — without the help of advanced artificial intelligence (AI). With Sprinklr’s AI-powered social listening tool, you can capture valuable customer feedback on products and services, gain a competitive advantage over competitors’ products and strategies, discover influential audiences, and identify key market trends you can capitalize on. Sprinklr Insights suite of products helps you contextualize 500M conversations every day beyond your core brand channels and turn data into actionable insights to drive business growth and evolve customer experiences.
With Sprinklr Social Listening, you can listen proactively across 30+ modern channels, including social media, messaging, chat, review sites, and much more. These tools enable you to:
Identify and contextualize relevant conversations that directly or indirectly mention your brand or product, providing you with new opportunities to connect with your customers and prospects, and drive brand loyalty.
Intelligently filter out non-engageable messages and focus on the messages that matter most, helping you connect with your customers at the right time on the channel they choose.
Detect brand risks and crises in real-time, and notify the relevant team via email and mobile, resulting in quicker responses.
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