What is Social Media Listening? Importance, Benefits and Strategies for 2024


Brands – put down your megaphones and put on your headphones.

It’s time to listen. It’s time to listen specifically to the conversations going on on social media.

And not just conversations with your customers. Valuable insights can come from non-customers — and even haters too.

With over 5.17 billion active social media users in 2024 and a projected surge to 5.42 billion by 2025, it’s safe to say your customers are already there, engaging in lively conversations. 

Only 24% of companies feel that they are effectively using social media listening to inform their business decisions (Source: Altimeter).

We’ll then equip you with a step-by-step guide to crafting your own winning social listening strategy.

What Is Social Media Listening?

Social media listening means checking social media sites for comments, conversations, and mentions related to your company and industry. After that, you analyze the data and find ways to use it for your business’s growth and marketing.

Social listening helps you understand what your customers really feel about you beyond surveys.

Over my career, I’ve built several enterprise social media strategies from scratch and one component that I never miss is a social media listening strategy. It’s important to have a social media expert map out how to track, analyze and respond to discussions on various platforms. 

For instance, you might find out that customers really like your new product. You can figure out why they like it—maybe a specific feature—and use that info to make future marketing campaigns better.

Or you might see that customers are upset about something specific. Then you can quickly address the cause of their frustration.

Social Listening vs. Social Monitoring

While social media listening and monitoring might appear interchangeable, marketers know they’re two sides of the same coin – with monitoring forming the foundation and listening amplifying its reach. Monitoring focuses on actively tracking brand mentions, replies, and interactions, fostering connections through responsive engagement.

Listening, however, takes a bird’s eye view. It delves beyond individual conversations, seeking the grander narrative woven across all brand-related discussions.

This insightful zoom-out unlocks doors beyond mere interaction; it fuels fresh marketing messages, sparks product innovation, refines brand identity, and unveils influencer or partnership opportunities, all fueled by the collective wisdom of the social web.

Why Is Social Listening So Helpful?

As per the Social Media Today’s State of Social Listening 2022:

About 61% of companies now use a social media listening system and keep an eye on mentions of keywords. Meanwhile, over 82% consider social listening crucial for planning.

Why? Because it unlocks a treasure trove of benefits for your brand.

To understand just how much social media noise we’re talking about, take a look at how much social activity occurs on average every minute of every day:

  • 510 Facebook comments posted
  • 1 billion Facebook stories shared
  • 350 million photos uploaded to Facebook
  • 500 million tweets sent
  • 4.2 billion likes are registered on Instagram
  • 720,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube

With such a high volume of social interactions, it’s no wonder that many brands are hesitant to dip their toes in the social listening waters.

Helps You Understand Your Customer Better

Social media acts as a raw nerve for consumer sentiment, beyond the carefully curated brand interactions. Users vent frustrations and share unfiltered opinions, often untagged, offering a goldmine of insights.

BIOS paints additional strokes, revealing user demographics and self-perception. This treasure trove of data empowers brands to forge deeper connections with their target audience.

Offers Competitor Intelligence

Social listening is to keep track of the conversations around your competitors’ products or services. It’ll be useful to monitor the conversations between your competitors and their customers on social media.

It’s helpful to observe competitors’ negative sentiment and it can take their customers closer to your brand where you can offer them something better.

It might be a good idea to explore the well-doing strategy behind the competitor’s success at social media and to implement the same elements.

You might even learn about a competitor’s new products before you have had a chance to examine them yourself.

You can combine this knowledge with what you learn about preferred features from potential customers that will favor you over competitors.

Lets You Track Brand Growth

As your brand blossoms on social media, the conversation expands. Mentions and tags pop up like confetti, while your custom hashtags become vibrant threads weaving through posts. These threads offer a glimpse into brand perception, revealing how people are using your hashtags and shaping your story.

To grasp the full picture, social listening tools become your allies, meticulously tracking and measuring this growth across platforms and over time. This way, you can witness your brand bloom not just in numbers, but in the chorus of voices surrounding it.

Helps You Keep Up With Industry Trends

While brand mentions are valuable, social listening’s true power lies in uncovering industry insights. Don’t be shy to eavesdrop on non-competitor industry leaders – their content might reveal hidden gems. Embrace social listening’s holistic perspective to stay ahead of the curve and fuel strategic decisions.

Gives You Opportunities to Improve Brand Image

Building trust is the new currency of commerce. In Edelman’s Trust Barometer, a whopping 81% of customers said they need to trust a brand before buying.

Businesses who undertake social listening to get feedback will help them improve their products and provide better customer service.

It’s important to know what’s working and what isn’t and who is using your products or services to provide useful information.

You can use this information to improve your offerings, fix bugs, and collect positive testimonials to use in marketing efforts. Negative feedback signals what you need to do better. Ignoring negative feedback risks losing customers.

Helps You Find More Leads

Based on a study by PYMNTS and AWS, 43% of people use social media to discover and buy goods and services. Notably, the highest conversion rates are seen on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, where people often make purchases after finding things on these platforms.

A social listening strategy can help you get a share of the action by understanding trends in what customers are talking about, their issues, and suggesting solutions.

You can also figure out if they know about your business and adjust how you react on social media accordingly. But, it’s not just about finding new customers. You can also listen to what unhappy customers are saying about your competitors and come up with the best plan to make them choose your brand.

After that, when these happy customers share their good experiences on social media, it brings in more potential customers to your business. Keeping up with these efforts can help you consistently get new leads from your social platforms.

Helps You Find User-Generated Content Opportunities

Forget polished marketing speak, your most compelling brand ambassadors are out there, already singing your praises. That’s the magic of user-generated content (UGC) – social media posts, forum discussions, even DIY guides created by passionate customers.

Why trust you when they can hear from their peers? Studies show a whopping 79% of consumers place online reviews on par with recommendations from loved ones.

Here’s where your social media listening powers kick in. Imagine the authenticity boost with real customers spreading the word.

And it doesn’t stop there. Seek out influential voices in your niche, the ones who hold sway with your target audience. Influencer marketing packs a punch, with an average return of $5.78 for every dollar invested. Partnering with the right online advocates can amplify your reach and ignite brand loyalty like never before.

Examples of Social Listening

Want to see social listening magic in action? Check out these brands and how they leveraged its power:

Building and Tracking Brand Health

Understanding and nurturing your brand’s online reputation is a key benefit of social listening. Tracking online conversations, brands can gauge public sentiment, identify potential issues, and proactively address them. Imagine a major clothing retailer using social listening to monitor customer feedback on a new product line.

They might discover concerns about sizing or comfort, allowing them to quickly adjust their offerings or address customer service needs.

Social listening reply example from Target

Social media mentions aren’t always direct tags. Sometimes, the juiciest gems lie hidden in untagged tweets, where users air their honest opinions without expecting a brand response. This is where social listening tools become gold mines for savvy marketers.

Target is a prime example. They spotted a glowing, unscripted tweet about their brand and instead of a bland reply, they whipped up a witty, personality-infused quote tweet. This unexpected attention not only delighted the original user, but also warmed the hearts of Target’s entire Twitter community.

Moments like these are marketing magic. A single, well-placed response builds brand loyalty, fosters authentic connections, and makes your brand instantly more relatable. It’s a masterclass in harnessing the power of “real talk” for social media domination.

Event Monitoring

Hashtags are event engagement champions, but attendees sometimes leave them hanging. Fear not! Even without explicit tags, valuable feedback lurks in keyword conversations. Here’s how to tap into this goldmine:

  • Listen for positive sentiment: An attendee tweeting “Loving this conference! #WorthTheHype” might not tag you, but their enthusiasm screams volumes. Slide into their mentions, express appreciation, and engage their tagged friend – a potential future attendee!
  • Track event-related keywords: Go beyond your branded hashtag. Listen for terms like “speaker insights,” “networking magic,” or “event must-attend.” These uncover hidden gems – attendees sharing valuable experiences and potentially recommending your event to others.
  • Fuel future marketing: Analyze the keywords you gather. Identify recurring themes, positive experiences, and areas for improvement. This intel feeds your future event marketing, attracting new audiences and amplifying what attendees love.

Resolving Potential PR Problems

Spreading widely on social media can be a double-edged situation. It lets you reach billions of people globally, but a single bad incident can quickly become popular, giving brands a hard time. Using social listening properly can help reduce the damage and maybe even change the situation.

Let’s look at the Red Cross as an example.

In 2011, a member of the organization accidentally tweeted, ‘Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink, we do it right #gettngslizzerd.’

Social listening reply example from Red Cross

As people started talking about it on Twitter, the Red Cross quickly noticed and saw the responses that followed. Instead of just removing the tweet, they switched to PR mode, but with a touch of humor.

Proactive Customer Service

In today’s crowded social media landscape, where brands and users intermingle in a constant buzz, responsiveness reigns supreme. Customers expect swift and helpful interactions, making a prompt response to assistance requests a key ingredient in earning their appreciation.

Wix, recognizing this digital dynamic, leverages the power of social listening to pinpoint and prioritize customer needs, ensuring timely support reaches those who need it most.

Social listening reply example from Wix

Eager to dive into their Wix website, a customer contacted their support for hosting plan guidance. Wix promptly responded, ditching the canned messages for a friendly, personalized touch.

Instead of just pointing them to a portal, they offered to connect them directly with the billing team. This one-on-one approach ensures the customer finds the perfect hosting plan to seamlessly launch their dream website.

Social Listening for Small Businesses vs. Big Corporations

Wendy’s proves you don’t need a marketing army to win the social media game. Their Twitter’s become legendary, spicing up the fast food scene with witty clapbacks and cheeky digs at rivals. 

That’s Wendy’s, injecting humor into every tweet and reminding everyone who’s the reigning queen of online sass. Their success shows it’s not about resources, it’s about personality, and Wendy’s serves up personality hotter than a fresh Spicy Chicken Sandwich. 

This scrappy social strategy not only reconnected with fans, but also revitalized their brand image, proving that sometimes, the best marketing tool is a perfectly timed zinger.

Social listening reply example from Wendy's

Wendy’s recent social media win is a masterclass in brand awareness. By capitalizing on a trending meme about McDonald’s, they earned a whopping 287,000 retweets – a social media goldmine equivalent to mountains of advertising dollars.

This witty exchange highlights the power of social listening. By keeping tabs on competitor accounts and identifying engaging content, both positive and negative, brands can strike marketing gold. This tactic translates perfectly to the realm of small businesses, offering opportunities to outmaneuver bigger players.

How to Implement Social Listening in Your Marketing

Social media listening helps us gain a deeper and better understanding of how our customers think and feel. Both as market research and a customer experience strategy, social media listening or social media sentiment analysis is a must-have for businesses that have an online presence. 

1. Know Your Customer Persona

Your customer personas are like profiles that show who your perfect customer is based on simple details. These are folks more likely to connect with your brand because your products or services are made just for them.

Social listening uses these personas to figure out which social media users to reach, what hashtags to watch, and which chats to be a part of.

Making consumer personas involves studying your customers well to find similarities in things like age, location, job title, favorite social media platform, hobbies, and so on. After setting up your social listening plan, you can use the insights you gain to make it even better later on.

2. Define Your Social Media Listening Objective

With an average of 2 hours and 32 minutes spent daily on social media in 2023, the sheer volume of online interactions can feel overwhelming. 

Are you crafting a better brand image for an existing product? Prioritize conversations surrounding your offering, not competitor chatter. While insights from the wider landscape are valuable, stay laser-focused on your main objective for maximum impact.

3. Understand and Prioritize Platforms

Every social media platform has its own way of looking, how people use it, who uses it, the feel it gives, and many other things. So, depending on what you want to know on social media, some platforms are better for that.

Take LinkedIn, for example. It’s more about jobs and business, so it feels more serious. On LinkedIn, most people talk about work and finding jobs, with some also talking about products or brands.

On the other hand, Instagram is more about personal stuff, like sharing photos and videos. People often share their personal experiences with brands on Instagram.

4. Find the Right Social Listening Tool

Listening on social media goes beyond chasing brand mentions on tweets and Instagram posts. To truly gain insights, you need a robust social listening tool packed with powerful features. So, what should you look for?

  • Platform coverage: How many social networks does the tool monitor? Does it extend to news sites and blogs? Breadth matters, but ensure it digs deep into each platform for rich data.
  • Sentiment analysis: This advanced feature dissects your brand’s online reputation by identifying trends in positive, negative, and neutral mentions. It’s especially valuable for larger companies and brands.
  • Social media management: Don’t just listen, engage! Manage your accounts, plan responses, and schedule posts directly from the tool – a one-stop shop to streamline your efforts and save time.
  • Real-time alerts: PR nightmares require rapid response. Instant notifications about negative mentions allow you to address concerns swiftly and effectively.
  • Industry focus: Some tools cater to specific industries, offering niche features tailored to your business type. Consider this if your needs are unique.
  • Multi-language support: Engaging with multilingual markets? Choose a tool that supports multiple languages for proactive and informed interaction.
  • Popular social listening tools: Buffer, BuzzSumo, Falcon.io, Hootsuite, TweetReach, and Plan are just a few options to explore.

5. Select Keywords and Topics to Monitor

Mentions of our brand, content, and product/service aliases are prime targets. But that’s just scratching the surface. Our trusty tool can unearth hidden gems we never dreamed of.

6. Devise a Strategy for Responding to Social Media Mentions

Wendy’s seems to be handling user feedback without much thought, but they clearly took the time to plan their approach. You should do the same. Develop guidelines for dealing with both positive and negative mentions on social media.

Decide how you’ll respond to mentions with and without tags. Think about your approach to social media discussions involving competitors.

How will you handle comments from rivals, whether they’re positive or negative? Will you join discussions where competitors are not tagged? If you choose to respond directly to competitors, how will you do it?

Lastly, as you kick off your social listening efforts, how far back in time will you look for these mentions? Take all these factors into account when creating your plan.

7. Create Templates for Responding to Comments

Once you’ve mastered the art of crafting social media responses, it’s time to level up with pre-built templates for both positive and negative interactions. These templates should echo your brand’s personality and sound like a real person – ditch the robot speak, or risk alienating your audience.

Think of these templates as handy starting points, not copy-paste robots. Fill in the blanks with details like the user’s name and specific concerns, then personalize your response further. Over time, you might even develop specialized templates for recurring situations.

8. Record Content and Keywords With the Most Attention

Listen closely to the conversations, content, and trending keywords your target audience uses on social media. These insights are marketing gold, revealing their hopes, needs, and what truly grabs their attention.

To harness this valuable knowledge, create a shared Google Sheet with your team, where you can collaboratively record and analyze key themes, trending topics, and popular language. This data-driven approach will guide your social media strategy, ensuring your content resonates with your audience and helps you achieve your goals.

9. Continue to Hone Your Social Listening and Feedback Processes

As you dip your toes into social listening, expect to uncover a treasure trove of insights about your brand, paving the way for growth and optimization. But the learning journey doesn’t stop there. You’ll also unearth opportunities to refine your social listening approach itself.

For instance, your carefully crafted response template aimed at appeasing a disgruntled customer might actually backfire, igniting frustration further.

That’s a cue to revisit and revise your templates for maximum impact. On another note, you might stumble upon an unexpected hashtag buzzing with relevant conversations. Seizing this opportunity, you can incorporate it into your listening strategy, expanding your reach and understanding.

Final Thoughts

Listen carefully to strengthen your connections with customers. Creating a social listening plan is crucial for this.

Social media shows how customers’ preferences change. If you don’t stay updated and adapt, your brand may not do as well as others. People prefer a brand that is fresh and engaging, providing useful and interesting products, services, support, and information.

Why not leverage social media listening to connect with your audience, stay flexible, and thrive in this constantly evolving digital world?

Christopher Smith
Author: Christopher Smith

SEO and linkbuilding expert. More than 7 years of work in the field of website search engine optimization, specialist in backlink promotion. Head of linkbuilding products at GREAT Guest Posts, a global linkbuilding platform. He regularly participates in SEO conferences and also hosts webinars dedicated to website optimization, working with various marketing tools, strategies and trends of backlink promotion.

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