We’re all aware of the importance of listening in our everyday relationships. But what about the relationships with consumers? To this day, many brands neglect social listening and turn their back on the biggest source of insights – social media.

The truth is, if you’re not engaging in social listening, you won’t be able to help customers, you won’t reach those who’re interested in your products, and you’ll be completely out of the loop on your industry. And that doesn’t sound like an effective business strategy, does it?

A lot of marketing professionals ignore social listening because of the assumed complexity of the process. I can assure you: social media monitoring is one of the simpler (if not the simplest) elements of social media marketing. And it saves you a lot of time and effort, whether you are a business owner or a marketing manager.

In this article, I’ll guide you through the concept of social media monitoring, its various use cases, and the most popular tools to do it. But first, let’s answer the question: what is social listening?

What is social media monitoring?

The basic definition is that social media monitoring is the process of applying a tool to track assigned words or word combinations, which are called keywords, on social media. Simple, right?

If you were paying attention, you probably noticed that I keep altering between different terms, such as “social media listening”, “social listening” and “social media monitoring”. Social media listening, like some crime novel writer from the XX century, has many aliases including but not limited to:

  • Social Listening

  • Social Media Monitoring

  • Online Analytics

  • Buzz Analysis

  • Social Media Measurement

  • Social Media Intelligence

Most specialists agree that social media monitoring is a part of social media listening: monitoring triggers an immediate response (you see a post and respond to it), whereas social listening is that plus analyzing collected data, identifying trends, and implementing the insights in your strategy. 

Think about it this way: by using social media monitoring, you can understand whether your customer likes the shoes you sold them, while with listening you will understand what kind of shoes people like, how and when they buy them, and so on.

How do social media listening tools work?

To put it simply, social media listening tools get relevant conversations containing your keywords in real time and gather them in one dashboard. The “real time” part is very important – 60% of customers expect brands to respond to them within an hour.

Relevancy is also highly important – you don’t want to spend your time browsing through irrelevant posts.

In order to get social data, tools usually connect with social networks through APIs, making it possible to monitor publicly available information. It only shows the data which users choose to share with the world. Tools cannot access private groups, posts, or messages.

With that in mind, the definition of “publicly available” varies on different social media platforms. Some social networks consciously restrict access to certain parts of the platform. For example, Facebook will let you monitor public pages, but personal accounts and closed groups are beyond your reach.  

At this stage I have to confess something: even though we’re discussing social media listening, most tools don’t just monitor mentions on social media - they also get mentions from the web. For example, besides social networks, Awario also monitors forums, blogs, news, review platforms, and the rest of the web.

To monitor the Internet you can choose between using a third party provider or having your own crawlers, which is just a slightly creepy name for search bots.

Awario uses its own crawlers, so you can guess which one we think is more effective. Actually, we’ve been working on our crawlers for 10 years already with our colleagues at SEO PowerSuite.  

The bots continuously crawl sites and index them. Once it's done, these pages are ready to get monitored! The tool prioritizes websites based on their importance and crawls them accordingly: some websites are monitored in real time, some every 5 minutes and some every two hours – you get the idea.

So now that we’ve answered the question “What is social media listening?”, let’s talk about what it’s not.

Social listening is not a simple word search.

I say the process is simple, but it's not that simple. When crawling, social media listening tools take many different parameters into consideration: date range, location, duplicated mentions, spam, and others, in order to give you the most relevant results.

Moreover, with such features as Boolean operators you can create refined and sophisticated queries, which allow you to get only highly relevant mentions.

Social listening is not simply gathering mentions.

That wouldn’t be fun at all! Most social listening tools offer something more than just gathering mentions. For instance, Awario groups mentions according to different parameters, analyzes social listening data, categorizes mentions, compares several alerts, etc.

Social listening is not just for brand monitoring.

There are so many ways to use social listening apart from boring brand monitoring. Of course, it does this job perfectly, but there’s so much more you can do with an effective social listening strategy..

Benefits of social media monitoring

But is there really a need for a social media monitoring strategy? Well, for starters, people expect you to do social listening. Your customers, both current and potential, are already on social media, trying to reach out to you.

Some marketers might believe that there’s no use in a tool to monitor social media – most platforms alert you when you get @mentions anyway. But the numbers suggest the opposite: 30% of tweets including company names don’t include their Twitter handle. That’s nearly a third of your audience! And that’s with Twitter’s tag-friendly UI! Imagine what’s happening on other platforms.

But even those who understand the importance and value of social media monitoring sometimes don’t deploy it to its full potential. One of the biggest misconceptions about social listening is that it’s only good for monitoring your brand mentions.

As a good marketing professional or just as a logical human being, you probably understand that the power of marketing lies in customer insights – the more you know about your target audience, the more profit you get. And the Internet is objectively the biggest source of information in the world. Why do you think GDPR was needed?
 

But how do you find relevant information in this ocean of data? The answer is, obviously, social listening. It can provide tangible insights about your business and your customers.

By using social listening, you can both react to immediate triggers and see the bigger picture. It helps you understand how your customers’ opinions change over time and shows you how to adapt your strategy accordingly.

For social media marketing specialists, a social listening tool is a true Swiss Army knife with as many use cases as you can think of. I'll let you in on a secret: you can use social listening on every stage of your business journey, from product development to HR management. Using social listening can be beneficial for the following aspects of your business:

  • Brand monitoring

  • Competitor monitoring

  • Social customer support

  • Social selling

  • Influencer marketing

  • Campaign monitoring

  • Crisis and reputation management

  • Market research

  • Collecting customer feedback

  • Content curation

  • Social listening for SEO

  • Social listening for bloggers

3 best social media listening tools

The market of social media monitoring software is extremely diverse: you can find specific services for any budget and any needs. But it might be difficult to decide what are the tools that will fit your business best. 

Luckily, I wrote a small guide with some tips on how to choose the best tool for you. Here are three tools at different price points and with different functionalities. 

Awario

Price Three tiers: Starter for $29/mo, Pro for $89/mo, and Enterprise for $299/mo

Platforms Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, blogs and news websites, the web

Yes, I am a bit biased, but I believe that Awario is the best example of an affordable tool with Enterprise-level capabilities. Many tools focus either on monitoring or listening, i.e., they either showcase individual mentions or analyze large amounts of social data and present visualized insights. Awario does both.

The tool offers various ways to customize and tweak your monitoring. In addition to an elaborate system of filters (location, languages, date range, etc.) you can switch to a Boolean search mode where you can create long detailed search queries. You can set up the tool to notify you of the new mentions by email or through push notifications. 

Awario has three types of reports: Mention Statistics, Alert Comparison, and Influencers.

Mention Statistics shows you all the data around your mentions: the number, reach, locations, languages, and source of posted mentions as well as the sentiment around your keywords and topics associated with them.

As you can guess from the name, Alert Comparison compares up to 3 alerts (clusters of keywords and keyword combinations). It includes all the metrics mentioned above as well as the Share of Voice. You can benchmark your brand against your competitors or find out which hashtags perform better on social media. 

Influencers report shows you the influencers who mentioned your keywords for each social media platform and ranks them by followers, number of mentions, and number of mentions. 
All the reports can be shared via a link or downloaded in a PDF file. 

Tweetdeck

Price Free

Platforms Twitter

The best thing about Tweetdeck is that it’s free, the worst — it doesn’t monitor social media networks en masse, it’s limited to only one platform. Tweetdeck is an official Twitter software that makes managing Twitter easier. Along with scheduling features, it includes social monitoring features.

Basically, you can create a stream of all the tweets containing your keyword. Every time it’s mentioned in a tweet, it will appear in the stream (excluding private accounts). 

The tool is quite intuitive and doesn’t require much time to work out. 

Brandwatch

Price The three tiers that Brandwatch offers cost around $700, $2500, and $3500. You can also request a custom plan.

Platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Sina Weibo, VK, QQ, news and blogs, the web.

Brandwatch is the big guns of social data analysis. It consists of three different platforms which use social listening data to give you guidance on your marketing decisions.

Brandwatch Analytics, as it’s clear from the name, analyzes social mentions and segments them based on the variety of filters and criteria. It also implements AI technology to notify you whenever there’s a sudden change in the sentiment or number of mentions.

Brandwatch Audiences’ main goal is to do detailed research into your potential audiences. It gives you access to a database of more than 450 million people, which you can search based on various demographic data and relevant keywords. Once you find the potential audience Brandwatch will show you how to reach them: what they talk about, what influencers they follow, what interests they share. You can compare up to three audiences to see what makes them unique.

Brandwatch Vizia will guide you through the tricky process of reporting on the analyzed data. Not only does it visualize the insights you get from Brandwatch software, but it also integrates your Google Analytics data so you can see the full picture. It also shows you who saw your reports and how many times they viewed them.

All in all, Brandwatch is perfect for a large social media agency or in-house social media teams in need of an all-encompassing social data platform. 


That’s it for the basics of social media monitoring. I hope you got the answer to the question “What is social listening?”. In the next few articles, we will go through each of the ways of using social listening, and learn how to improve your social listening strategy. Check out our guide on how to set up a perfect social listening search and stay around for social listening tips and resources!