Before the dawn of social media, gathering customer opinions often required bringing in a sample group, asking them to test products, and encouraging them to candidly share their responses. While there’s still room for such testing today, it’s become considerably easier to overhear customer conversations on digital platforms: Social media users share their opinions online 24/7. Brands can seize this opportunity to gain valuable insights through social listening.
What is social listening?
Social listening, or social media listening, is the process of monitoring public conversations happening on social media platforms, blogs, or news sites for content relevant to your brand. This often includes looking for social posts or stories that include the name of your product, also known as brand mentions.
In addition to tracking your own brand’s name, social listening can include monitoring relevant keywords and keeping track of your competitor’s social mentions. This practice can help your team identify emerging trends and spot potential problems. Sentiment analysis tools also enable you to understand your general brand reputation by analyzing the tone of public content related to your company.
What are the benefits of social listening?
- Understanding public sentiment
- Evaluating competitor strengths
- Assessing consumer preferences
- Spotting areas of opportunity
- Getting ahead of potential problems
- Connecting with your audience
- Identifying relevant influencers
Practicing social listening as part of your social media strategy can help you gain insights about your product and spark new ideas. Monitoring social media channels to learn what users are saying about your brand can help you in a number of ways:
Understanding public sentiment
Keeping track of social media conversations can help you gauge the overall public opinion about your brand and industry. Knowing how customers perceive your company may help shape your team’s future communication and marketing strategies.
Evaluating competitor strengths
Tracking competitor mentions can help you evaluate your company’s strengths and weaknesses relative to other brands in your industry. It can also inform your own strategy; if you see customers raving about your competitor’s customer service, you can adopt its techniques or find new ways to better assist your customers.
Assessing consumer preferences
Social data can provide details about what consumers like and dislike. Following keywords related to your product can give you helpful feedback and honest opinions about consumer needs.
Spotting areas of opportunity
Insights gained from social listening can generate ideas for content creation, identify new markets, and even lead to product improvements. For example, imagine you own a company that delivers specialty mac and cheese. If hundreds of customers post social media videos where they’re dousing your product in hot sauce, you may consider adding hot sauce to your line of products or creating a marketing campaign to promote a spicy version of your signature dish.
Getting ahead of potential problems
Not every opinion shared online is positive. If a sizable number of customers post about the same negative experience, or if a news story or trending issue adversely affects your brand, social monitoring can make you aware of the problem before it hits a crisis level.
Connecting with your audience
Tracking your brand mentionsonline can help deepen your relationship with your customers. Your brand can use its social media channels to interact with customers directly, either to celebrate a success or help out with a concern.
Identifying relevant influencers
Every field has its own tastemakers, no matter how niche. Use social listening to identify individuals with an influential social presence. After you’ve determined who they are, your brand may choose to partner with these industry leaders to create sponsored content, send them products to test, or keep them in mind as a customer archetype.
Social listening vs. social monitoring
Often used interchangeably, social listening and social monitoring are both forms of tracking online conversations. However, while social listening involves taking a broad look at your brand mentions to understand brand perception, customer needs, and target audiences, social monitoring is narrower in its scope. Social monitoring typically serves as a customer service tool for general reputation management—a brand looks for mentions primarily to respond to problems and user queries.
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What are social listening tools?
Social listening tools are software applications that automate the process of monitoring and analyzing online conversations across social platforms. These applications crawl social media platforms, review sites, and other online forums to amass large amounts of social and online data. Using a social media tool can help brands translate social data into actionable insights. Many generalist social media management tools also have social listening capabilities.
Best tools for social listening
Whether you’re looking for a dedicated social listening software or an integrated social media management tool with social listening built in, there are plenty of options on the market, each with different capabilities and strengths:
Hootsuite is a social media management platform that offers a social listening add-on at the enterprise level. You can use Hootsuite Insights, powered by Brandwatch, to sort and track conversations based on keywords, hashtags, or audience. Hootsuite Insights includes useful data visualizations that make it easy to quickly understand user sentiment. You can also use this tool to monitor and spot emerging industry trends. Hootsuite custom prices its plans depending on the user.
Sprout Social is a comprehensive social media management tool that tracks conversations in addition to scheduling posts and managing social media accounts. Sprout’s social listening features allow users to create queries that track social media mentions, surface posts based on keywords, and follow hashtags. Social media listening is available with custom pricing at the enterprise level.
Brand24 is a user-friendly social media listening tool that offers several helpful visualizations. Its social media dashboard includes a custom-generated discussion volume chart and sentiment analysis—a method of using keywords to understand the tone of a post—that helps brands quickly understand relevant social conversations. Brand24 offers plans priced between $99 and $499 per month.
Agorapulse is a social media management platform with social listening capabilities. The platform is intuitive and beginner-friendly. Social media managers can create specific search criteria and filter results by users’ location, platform, and positive or negative sentiment. Agorapulse also includes social media monitoring tools you can use to bookmark active posts and keep track of trending topics. Social listening capabilities are available at the professional level for $79 per month. The advance and custom plans include social listening as well as additional features like advanced reporting.
Keyhole markets itself as an all-in-one social media analytics tool. Its social listening products include hashtag and keyword tracking features as well as influencer tracking capabilities. Keyhole also includes some valuable features for reporting on the success of social media campaigns, such as quick summaries of the total reach and impression from your brand’s social media posts. Keyhole offers three pricing tiers, ranging from $79 to $479 per month. Custom pricing is also available.
Mention offers four membership tiers. The most basic tier, intended for individuals, can track mentions and includes an influencer dashboard to help brands spot the most relevant tastemakers in their industry. The more premium tiers introduce advanced features like historical data, in-depth analytics, and social crawling capabilities. The solo tier starts at $41 per month, while Mention prices the enterprise tier on a per-customer basis.
Cyfe markets itself as an all-in-one business dashboard. The dashboard combines social media listening, sales, and support information in one tool. Users can customize their dashboard with the most valuable data; for example, if your brand focuses its efforts on a particular platform, you can design the dashboard with detailed analytics from that channel. Cyfe offers pre-built widgets compatible with other services your brand may use, including QuickBooks and Google. Plans start at $19 per month.
Meltwater offers comprehensive monitoring across major social media platforms, blogs, new sites, and podcasts. In addition to monitoring social media conversations, Meltwater’s AI-powered dashboards allow you to find influencers and assess social media engagement. The dashboards are customizable so you can filter results based on your target audience. The introductory tier offers basic monitoring tools, while the premium tiers introduce additional reporting capabilities. Meltwater prices plans on a per-customer basis.
Social listening tools FAQ
What is the cost range for social listening tools?
The cost of a social listening tool varies widely depending on the platform and the number of users. Tools range from $10 to more than $1,000 per month.
Are there any privacy concerns associated with social listening tools?
There are several privacy concerns associated with social listening tools, including questions surrounding how long they retain data, how they collect data, and what qualifies as private data. If you choose to work with a social listening tool, carefully review its data collection policies and ask for consent before publishing user-generated content.
Can social listening tools be used beyond tracking mentions?
Yes. You can use social media listening tools to track related keywords and industry competitors in addition to tracking your brand’s mentions.