Interesting things to know about Social Listening

Social listening is the process of collecting data from social platforms and forums on a chosen topic. This could be a brand, an industry, or anything at all.

The collected data is then analyzed to find trends and useful insights. This can influence a wide range of processes including business operations, product updates, and advertising approaches.

It’s not an entirely new approach, it’s just that the technology is different. Brands have been trying to gauge the opinions of the public and their customers with surveys since forever.

What tech means now is that you don’t even need to prompt people anymore. People are talking about anything and everything online, it’s just a matter of finding them

Know there are three basic kinds of online monitoring: web mentions, social media mentions and customer reviews.

Most software solutions handle one or two of these, and I’m unaware of ANY that handle all three. Understand exactly what you are getting with your monitoring before you sign a contract or subscription agreement.

Many, many blog articles about monitoring actually mix up solutions, confusing them with each other, even comparing reviews for solutions that aren’t apples-to-apples. Google Alerts is a great example of this – it’s listed on quite a few blog posts about monitoring customer reviews, yet I’ve never seen a review come up on a Google Alert. It’s not a predictable, consistent way to watch reviews and would be a mistake to rely on. HootSuite is another solution that is written about as a mention monitoring tool, when the reality is that it only monitors tagged social media mentions, but not untagged mentions and certainly not mentions outside of the specific social media platforms you set up within your dashboard.

It’s a social media management dashboard, not a mention monitoring solution. You need to watch untagged mentions, or be aware that you are not.

Before you decide on a solution, take time to thoroughly understand your needs, then compare those needs to your potential solutions. Ask questions. Otherwise, you can end up with a crisis on your hands that you didn’t see coming, despite your efforts.

The least exciting thing about social listening is also the most important

Probably the least exciting aspect of social listening is customer service. You may provide customer service by phone or by email, in great volume or in great scarcity – but social care (customer service on social media) is the primary reason that many social users will engage with brands on social platforms.

A recent survey by Oracle reports that:

  • 43 percent of social users interact with brands on social media for a direct response to a problem or question
  • 31 percent of social users interact with brands to gain direct access to customer service representatives or product experts

If we look back at the criteria that studies like STI and Forrester use, they weigh each of those six functions equally to determine the utility of a social listening application. For many or most businesses issue management is a far more important aspect of social listening.

When you consider that the criteria for an enterprise-level user is more than $100 million in annual revenue, you understand that smaller scale likely means prioritization. Or put more bluntly, you probably can’t afford the social listening tools that purport to do everything and don’t: so you must decide what is important.

Don’t assume your clients are actually reading the alerts.

Email inboxes are tricky things – how well you “listen” to email alerts can depend on how flooded your inbox is that day, and how busy you are. Never assume your clients read the alerts once you set up the monitoring systems, unless they have already proven to be consistently on top of them.

Do your own monitoring, and facilitate handling anything urgent if it falls between cracks.

By setting up the social and online listening tools yourself, you are able to quickly review email alerts and ensure your client is on top of them. It takes an hour or two a month (collectively) to  breeze through them, and it’s a wonderful value-add to a PR retainer. It also helps you “own” crisis planning, management and response for that client–something most companies ignore until forced into repairing a situation.

If the alerts are going to an in-house staff person, monitoring those alerts will help you help them. You’ll know when to pick up the phone.


Social listening is the process of collecting data from social platforms and forums on a chosen topic. This could be a brand, an industry, or anything at all. The collected ...
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