What is Social Listening? A Complete Guide

by Josh Barney

Social listening is the process of monitoring social media for information that can be used in business.

It’s important for companies to use social media as a way to understand what their customers are saying about them, and how they feel about their products or services – which is why more and more brands are seeking information about social listening.

This post will explore why businesses should actively monitor social media channels, what tools they can use, and most importantly, answer the question ‘what is social listening?’

1. What Is Social Listening?

Social listening is the process of listening to what your target audience is saying about your brand on social media. This information can be used in your business to drive decisions and measure the success of your brand online.

customer avatar
A customer avatar is a great way to target your market with appropriate content and offers. Social listening can be used to assist your customer avatar research.

Social listening allows you to listen in on what your customers are saying about you, and how they feel about your products or services. It’s important to use social media as a way to understand what customers think of your brand. 

With social listening, brands can measure the success of their online branding efforts by understanding trends and popular keywords that surface within these conversations.

Social listening is considered a key part of modern social media marketing.

2. Why Use Social Listening?

Social listening could be embedded into any social media marketing strategy.

It’s important to use social media as a way to understand what customers think of your brand, and social listening allows you to do this.

tweetdeck social listening
Twitter offer their a tool called ‘TweetDeck‘, which allows you to view all the latest mentions of your brand. (Click on the ‘+’ in the left side menu, and select ‘Mentions’ – as seen in the next image!).

More than ever before, companies need access to customer insights on data points like:

  • Positive sentiments vs negative sentiment
  • Product reviews
  • User feedback ratings
  • Location-based opinions around stores or locations
  • Customer service
  • Brand engagement

This type of information helps businesses make smarter decisions when running ads for campaigns or creating content for social media feeds.

Select the ‘Mentions’ option to use social listening for your Twitter handle on Twitter’s official TweetDeck.

Social listening metrics can also be used in tandem with social analytics data to present a more complete picture of what is happening online and offline so that you can drive positive brand results.

Social listening also helps brands get insights into customer conversations by monitoring what people are saying on social networks like Facebook and Twitter (as well as other channels).

96% of unhappy customers won’t tell you directly but will tell 15 friends about their disappointment with you.


BTW: Sentiment analysis is language-processing artificial intelligence that understands human emotion behind posts based on word choice.

3. The Pros of Social Listening

Social listening has many advantages, these include:

– Social listening can help you stay connected to the social world and keep track of what people are talking about in your industry.

– It is easy to use, with most platforms offering free packages that include basic features like TweetDeck (though costs increase depending on how much automation you want).

Social listening tools like Awario, offer free trials for new users.

– You can listen for anything from one specific topic or an entire hashtag/phrase; it all depends on what makes sense for your business objectives.

– Listening allows you to gather insights into customer attitudes and needs as well as competitor activity which helps inform new marketing campaigns or product development initiatives.

– The more data points there are available online – be they review sites like Yelp!, blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates etc., the easier social listening becomes.

– Even if you don’t have a social media team in place to monitor all your accounts, social listening can be used as an effective way of tracking what’s happening on different channels.

– Social listening gives you an insight into customers’ attitudes and needs which enables marketers to develop content or products based on customer feedback.

4. The Cons of Social Listening

Social listening also has some disadvantages, this includes:

– There is a lot of noise on social media. It can be difficult to find the signals among all the static.

– Social listening doesn’t always provide reliable data or insights because not every comment, post, or tweet is honest and truthful.

– You need people in place to monitor your social channels for content that needs attention. This may mean that you’ll have to hire more staff members including someone with social skills.

– Listening tools often only filter out what’s happening on one channel so it’s hard to stay updated about what’s happening across different platforms unless they use a tool that does this automatically.

5. How To Get Started With Social Listening

Now that you understand how important social listening is, you’re probably keen to get started.

We’ll start with the basics: what social networks should you use social listening on?

social networks social listening

To answer that, it’s important to know why you’re using social listening in the first place. This helps you determine which platforms will provide you with relevant information for your objectives.

For example, if your objective is to get feedback about a new product launch or service release then monitoring Twitter would be most suitable (since this platform offers real-time conversations).

But let’s say you want to understand how people feel about your company more generally and also gain insights into their purchasing behaviour – this might require looking at Facebook along with other channels such as Instagram, YouTube, blogs etc, as these sources allow for longer feedback, that is made in a less impulsive manner than Twitter (in general).

71% of social media marketers say that they are able to provide consumer insights from social media channels to other departments


So it’s not just about what people say online but also understanding the sentiment of what they say – something that text analytics tools can help you to do.

social searcher sentiment analysis tool for social listening
Social-Searcher is a FREE tool that allows you to check the sentiment analysis of a keyword across social media.

The key here is making sure your objectives are clear so as to better judge which channels will be most suitable for your needs and budget.

For instance, if you’re looking at Twitter then there are free options such as Mention – which offers basic functionality (you may need more features) though costs increase depending on how much automation you want.

If you want to get started with social listening:

  1. Figure out what networks you’d like to monitor
  2. Decide what you will listen for
  3. Create objectives based on your listening
  4. Measure those goals on a regular basis
  5. Repeat steps 1-4

6. Does Your Brand Need Social Listening?

Social listening isn’t for everyone – much will depend on your business size, following and your brand’s awareness. 

It can be time-consuming to monitor social media for mentions of your brand, which is why it’s important you have a clear understanding of what social listening will do before you decide if it’s the right service for you.


* You want to find out when people are talking about your company or products online (i.e., sentiment) and your brand is well-known enough for this to be an impactful figure…


* Your business has the resources available and you’re able to dedicate staff members specifically towards monitoring social networks…

Then, by all means, go ahead with social listening!

But if:

* You run a small business on a tight budget where every employee must wear many hats…


* You only care about finding negative feedback from customers…

Then social listening might not be for you.

In general:

  • Small businesses with small audiences and little brand presence, should prioritise other parts of social media marketing before social listening (e.g. content creation)
  • Medium and large businesses should perform thorough social listening activities to truly understand what their audience thinks of them

7. What Social Listening Tools Should You Use?

The social listening tool that you should use will depend on your budget and how much time you can dedicate to social listening.

Free methods of social listening include:

– Social media listening apps (e.g. Social Mention)

social mention social listening tool
Use Social Mention to make a search for your brand name or industry keywords.

– RSS feeds of people mentioning your brand on social networks and blogs

Google Alerts for specific topics or keywords from within a specified date range. This will send you alerts when anyone mentions your keywords online. (Google Alerts sounds great as a free tool, but doesn’t always live up to the billing).

google alerts social listening online
Google Alerts is a free option for social listening across the internet.

Social Media Listening Platforms usually have a monthly fee but offer more advanced features like sentiment analysis, trend tracking, and real-time monitoring:

If you are looking for a paid solution, there are many different brands out there – but I recommend trying:

What is Social Listening?

Social listening is a great option for businesses that want to grow their online presence, but small business owners may find the process time-consuming.

The goal of social listening is to listen in on what people are saying about your company or product and react accordingly with targeted content.

A few things you should keep in mind when trying this strategy include having enough content that will resonate with customers, understanding how often they share information, and knowing which platforms best suit them.

What aspects of social media marketing are you struggling with? Have you implemented social listening? Let us know in the comments…

Josh is the Founder of We Imagine Media, an award-winning content marketer, best selling author and creator of the www.joshbarney.blog. He creates and strategises content, sharing the most successful tactics with his lovely audience. He hates writing in the third person, follow him on the social links so he can get back to writing as himself.

4 Responses

  1. Great blog about social listening.
    I use Awario but there are many free ways to great started for new businesses. You have some good ideas. Thanks.

    1. Hey Mo, using social listening for your own brand might not be worth it if you’re just starting out, but you can definitely use it to analyse trends, your target audience’s preferences and to see how the big players in your industry are communicating with their audience via social listening. I hope this helps and good luck!

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