The Concept of Social Listening and Why You Should be Aware of It

Chances are you’ve heard the term social listening tossed around if you’re in marketing. Although the term isn’t brand new; it isn’t one that all marketers fully grasp. Understanding what social listening is and how to apply it to win for brands is what separates competent marketers from great marketers, and it’s important now more than ever to incorporate it into your brand’s strategy. Put simply, social listening is the process of analyzing conversations and trends happening around your brand online. This also includes being aware of conversations happening around brands operating in the same space as you and understanding trends in your industry. Social listening can help you improve on pre-existing content strategies, inform future content creation, and can even spark new ideas for future campaigns. Social listening can also help you identify key influencers in your industry.

Social listening is often confused with social monitoring. Social monitoring refers to tracking and responding to messages that are received by a brand online. Monitoring is an important part of the social media management process, but it deals with the what as far as what people are talking about, whereas social listening speaks to the why. Social listening involves discerning trends in the conversations happening around a brand and then using that information to create experiences that are meaningful for an audience. For example, Eggo waffles recently ran a multi-channel campaign where they used a “L’Eggometer” on social media to measure the stress of parents helping their kids get ready for school in the morning (Marketing Dive). Eggo learned through studying conversations on social media that the morning after daylight saving is one of the highest-pressure mornings for parents. Eggo used this information to time a giveaway when daylight saving time began to ensure that the promotion was coming at a time when it would be most impactful for their target audience.

Social listening is important for a few reasons. Engaging in active social listening and finding trends in the conversations that people are having about your brand helps provide a benchmark among competitors. Understanding the sentiment people carry towards your brand and others operating in the same space helps you as the marketer develop strategies to elevate and improve the brand’s standing in the industry. Social listening can also help you evaluate how audiences are responding to a campaign and inform whether changes need to be made to increase the overall effectiveness. Paying close attention to campaign performance is key for ensuring that nothing goes off the rails.

Social listening also helps marketers understand how to best engage with customers and how to respond in times of crisis. A great example of effective social listening can be found in the crisis communication situation Nike was faced with when a shoe malfunction caused Zion Williamson, a star basketball player at Duke University, to injure his knee on the court (Forbes). People took to social media to blame Nike for the incident, and many speculated about the shoe being tampered with. Rather than trying to deflect blame, Nike responded the day after the incident occurred to apologize and wish Williamson a speedy recovery, which showed action and ownership. As a result, they were able to rise above the crisis, which wouldn’t have been possible without careful consideration of their online audiences’ perceptions of what happened and a good understanding of their concerns.

Now that you have a better idea of what social listening is – It’s time to get started. You should begin with monitoring your brand name and handles. Make sure to do a social media deep dive to find keywords associated with your brand so that you can begin monitoring those as well. You should also monitor your company and competitors’ companies, as well as relevant campaign names, hashtags, and keywords. When you’re listening, be sure to keep an eye out for disruptive conversations happening. Disruptive conversations, especially those negative in nature that could impact your brand, are important to catch early on so you can develop a plan to get ahead of them. Take note of what people are talking about, including what they are saying about competitors, and start thinking about the aspects of your brand that you could highlight online to improve your overall industry standing. Identify who the influencers in your industry are and start thinking about how you could form a future partnership with them. Showing your audience that you are in touch with the voices in the community that matter to them will help attract new fans and retain current ones.

Social listening takes time to master but it has a huge impact on the perceptions of your brand online. As you are getting started, be sure that you are listening and checking in on feeds for all the social media platforms that you are active on daily, as well as monitoring news online to ensure that you are catching any positive or negative press around your brand early. Make sure to take of note of what your competitors are doing and think of ways that you could incorporate similar strategies for your brand. Always remember to act and respond to customers online in a timely and thoughtful manner. Showing followers that you care keeps them engaged with your brand.

Social listening is important for every brand regardless of whether they have a large social media presence. Being unaware of what online communities are saying about your brand makes it challenging to engage with them effectively, and it has the potential to lead to crisis communications situations down the road. AFFIRM’s team of digital marketing professionals is experienced with using social listening software to monitor and listen to online conversations to keep audiences satisfied and create innovative campaigns that engage them. Please reach out to us at if you need help getting started with social listening.

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