Social listening involves the use of innovative technology to collect and analyze data from social platforms on specific topics. Businesses use this analysis to extract insights into trends among consumers that can impact everything from product updates to marketing campaigns.

The idea of using social listening is not new. Marketers have used social media posts and to collect information on consumer opinion for many years. The difference today is technology that can allow you to quickly gather data from multiple social media channels on whatever keywords you want.

Having that amount of information opens the doorway to making data-driven decisions on important topics.

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Social Listening Is Not Social Monitoring

Social listening differs from social monitoring because it’s about collecting data, analyzing it for trends and then basing business decisions on that information. Social monitoring is about looking at the metrics surrounding issues such as brand mentions, relevant hashtags, industry trends and competitor mentions. That information works well with measuring the return on investment of social media and marketing efforts, for example, but does not drive strategy the way social listening can drive strategy.

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It’s Also Not Social Intelligence

There’s more overlap between social listening and social intelligence. The difference is that social intelligence is used more to find out about what customers think about current products. If social intelligence uncovers that people hate some aspect of a product, they can then make moves to change it. Social listening is more geared toward finding out about trends and planning for future products and services, or for making changes to current products or services.

Not everyone agrees on these definitions and there is overlap, but that’s generally the difference between the two.

Who Uses Social Listening?

Social listening can be used by all types of businesses. The key is knowing what topics and keywords to search for on social media. It’s also key to know where on social media are the best spots to listen for the most information and best feedback.


This is perhaps the best known use of social listening. Businesses can search social media to find out what customers are saying about their industry, their brand and (especially) what they want to see in products and services. It’s also ideal for testing the demand for a product or service you plan to soon offer.


This works in much the same way. However, you’d want to focus social listening on places where the people who make decisions at businesses you want to connect to have gathered. Finding out their needs can make a huge impact on how you design and deliver your products.

Government Agencies

Public departments stand to gain a lot by social listening. The whole idea behind government is to better serve taxpayers. By listening to what they have to say about current services and what they would like to see can help shape government policy and change how services get provided.

Uses for Social Listening

Beyond developing strategies, using social listening can help businesses in many specific ways. They include:

Handling a crisis. Understanding what people are saying about you can help you formulate damage control and rebuild trust with customers.

Engage with customers. Some companies, such as Nike and Coca Cola, will engage with customers directly on Twitter. Or, they will address an issue or question they see has come up frequently on social media.

Track competitors. It’s always a good idea to know what people are saying – the good and the bad – about your competitors. That can lead to making changes that elevate what you offer over what they offer.

Identify influencers. With the influence of social media, business must know the biggest influencers and what they are saying about the products or services.

Social listening is part of a new approach to marketing that reacts faster to customer needs. By paying attention to what people are saying on social media, it’s easier to find out what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. It’s also useful for deciding what you want to do in the future.

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