Social Listening: What Is It? Why Is It Important?

Social listening is knowing what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Jeff Bezos put it succinctly in this famous quote about branding:

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

You want people to talk about you, but you want to know what they’re saying.

Social listening puts you inside the room.

What is Social Listening?

Simply put, social listening is finding out what people are saying about your personal brand, company brand, product, and even your competitors. It’s tracking the conversations that are happening on social media and other digital channels.

social listening
Photo credit to Ben White on Unsplash

In the Offline World, Social Listening Might Look Like This

You’re in your favorite coffee shop waiting to order your morning latte. While scrolling through your email feed, you overhear two people in line mention your business. While keeping your eyes on your smartphone, you shift your attention to their conversation. You hear one of them say they found your coaching services to be extremely helpful. The other says that they heard from a friend that you weren’t available when they needed you and were often rushed. You make a mental note—at least one client found you to be impatient and unavailable.

When you get to the office, you feel somewhat disturbed.

  • How many clients feel the same way as the friend of the person in the coffee shop?
  • You prepare a survey to leave in the reception area and email it to your clients.
  • Was this a one-time issue or do others also find you unavailable and rushed?

Why do you go through this trouble? Because you know that the success of your business depends on a good name and client referrals.

Photo credit to Angelo Moleele, Unsplash

We Live in a Globally Connected Digital World

This same conversation can happen on a social media channel. The initial opinion receives comments and shares. By the end of the day, 1000 potential consumers might hear that you’re not available when your clients need you and seem not to have the time to deal with their issues.

If you’ve employed a social listening strategy, you’ll see this conversation immediately, and you’ll be able to respond. You might create a poll on Instagram and Facebook to find out how your clients feel about your service delivery. The questions you craft will help you get to the heart of what the dissatisfied consumer said.

However, without an active social listening strategy, you’ll never know that conversation took place.

Social Listening is Not Social Monitoring

Social monitoring is focused on metrics such as:

  • Industry trends
  • Mentions of Your Brand
  • Relevant Hashtags
  • Mentions of Your Competitors

Once you collect and analyze these metrics, you can more effectively design and implement digital content strategies. You can assess ROI or create more impactful A/B testing campaigns.

Social Listening is About Improving Your Delivery

Social listening is about protecting your brand reputation. The focus is not on the number of people visiting your website, social media channels, or using your hashtag. Your focus is on client feedback so that you can improve your delivery. You’ll be able to create products and solutions that meet their needs in ways that you may not have even imagined. Consumer conversations can give you invaluable insight into market shifts and identify unexplored opportunities.

By actively listening to what is being said about you and your brand on social channels, you’ll learn what aspects of your product or service is most appreciated. As you go forward, you’ll know which components of your business model to emphasize. You’ll also be able to measure the depth of social moods to know when it’s time to pivot or adapt your business model.

Engage With Your Customers

Social listening enhances your ability to engage with your customers. When you see that positive tweet about how much they love your services or product, you can reach out with a quick thank you. Alternatively, suppose you’ve become aware of a concern about your brand. In that case, you can be proactive and send out a social media message addressing the issue.

Gain a Competitive Advantage

You want to know what they’re saying about your competitors too. You’re not interested in your competitors’ metrics (although this information is critical to your marketing strategies). By social media listening, you’ll learn what aspects of your competitors’ business models resonate positively with your potential consumer audience. Listening to their social media posts can alert you to new opportunities in the industry. You’ll learn when they launch new products or deploy new marketing campaigns.

Social listening is a way of proactively protecting brand reputation and differentiation. By tracking social media sentiment, you’ll gain invaluable information that can help you respond appropriately to both negative and positive feedback.

Photo credit to Uby Yanes on Unsplash

Why Is Social Listening Important?

Think of this scenario:

Let’s return to the coffee shop scenario from above. You go to the same coffee shop you’ve been visiting for years. All your friends go there too, and it’s become a morning ritual not only for coffee but for catching up. When you arrive, you see your friends and colleagues, but they look away from you. If you speak directly to them, they answer but don’t engage in a conversation. You wonder what the heck happened.

When you get to your office, you call one of those friends and press them for information. You find out that someone shared information about you that’s not true. And this information has been circulating for the past few weeks. You’re devastated. How far did the rumor go? When did it start? How many customers did you lose because of it?

This is what happens in the online world if you don’t have a social listening strategy. You won’t know what your customers are saying about your product or service. But the impact is more significant.

Social listening is consumer-focused.

How Do You Conduct Social Listening?

Your social listening strategy is personal to you and your brand. You won’t track the exact keywords and topics that a brand in a different industry or part of the world is tracking. With this in mind, you’ll probably want to begin monitoring at least the following:

  • Your brand name and tag line
  • Your name and the names of your team or executives in your company
  • Names of your products or services
  • Any slogans that you use
  • Your branded hashtags
  • Industry buzzwords
  • Competitor product names, slogans, campaigns, and branded hashtags

What Are Social Listening Tools?

If you’re a startup or solopreneur or run a small business, you already have a full plate. Where do you find the time to pay attention to everything being said about you on social media? Or your competitors?

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that you need a robust online marketing strategy. This includes social media engagement, content marketing, engaging content on your website, and many other elements. In addition to all of this, you have a business to run. Social listening is essential, but you need to automate it as much as possible. You might want to snoop around during your off-hours, but day to day, you need social listening tools.

Social listening tools do the work for you.

What are the Best Social Listening Tools?

Determining the best social listening tools depends on your brand needs. If you’re a startup or small business, you might not need a social listening tool with a powerful engine and high price tag. Finding the right one might require a bit of experimentation. Most platforms offer a free or trial version. Social listening tools range from basic to AI-driven, highly sophisticated platforms that produce data for an entire team to analyze.

Here are a few of the more popular social listening tools on the market today.

Google Alerts

If you want a free and straightforward tool, consider Google Alerts. It’s a very effective way to monitor online conversations about you, your brand, product, keywords, and competitors. It’s easy to set up, and once you’ve started, you’ll receive the latest mentions straight to your inbox.

Brandwatch Consumer Research

Utilizing advanced AI technology, Brandwatch monitor and analyzes consumer opinions from 100 million online sources and more than 1.4 trillion posts.


If you operate in the global marketplace, Audiense might be the social listening tool you want. You’ll not only know what consumers are saying, but you’ll receive insights that help you develop strategies for effective engagement on both online and offline channels.


This social listening tool uses AI technology to deliver real-time insights into what’s happening with your brand and industry across all online media and social channels and in 187 languages.


Mention helps you manage your brand reputation, listen to social conversations about your brand, and analyze the competition.

Bottom Line

  • If you’re not social listening, you’re leaving your brand reputation exposed to potential harm.
  • One bad experience or an erroneous comment can cause you to lose consumers.
  • If you don’t have a way to catch social conversation in real-time, you’ll lose a lot of ground that you may never recapture.
  • Social listening helps you differentiate your brand from your competitors and take advantage of new opportunities in your industry.
  • Start simple. As your brand grows, employ more sophisticated social listening tools.

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