What is Social Media Listening?

And why you should care.

Man Doing Analysis on Laptop Computer

Social media listening, or just social listening, is the art and science of analyzing trends on social media platforms. When I use that term, I mean something more in-depth than the monthly reporting I deliver to my clients.

Social listening is compiling data around brand mentions, industry conversations, engagement rates, influencers, and more to build a cohesive understanding of the social environment.

With that data, marketers can distill key recommendations for future campaigns, assess how the market is doing, identify brand threats, and spy on competitors. You can visualize how people react to your brand or latest commercial (brand sentiment), how widely your infographic was shared, and whether the new name for your product works – or if it’s an acronym for a fringe political party in India.

When to Use Social Listening

You should engage social listening whenever you want to analyze social media conversations. On zero budget, you could manually count how many times your hashtag was used or calculate engagement rates by hand. With something like 100k/year for Netbase, you can perform in-depth analyses on whatever you want, using Boolean search terms and automatically generated data visualizations.

For B2C companies, you can analyze common consumer complaints. You could find out what specific feature people hate about your competitors’ product – and then emphasize your solution to that issue in your messaging. Or, you could quantify how often your brand’s label appears in Twitter images in New Jersey on the average Tuesday of 2019.

On the other hand, B2B companies can do some pretty comprehensive competitor analysis. I’ve done a couple of these and found out anything from the best length of social media text to what times competitors tend to post their most engaging content (so I can run ads at that same time).

One of my favorites is identifying people mentioning competitors - and send those people a pitch (which is exactly what Talkwalker did when I spoke about this blog post).

Talkwalker Screenshot.png

These tools are also particularly useful during a crisis comms situation, when there is a threat to a brand (like a recall) or an actual life-and-death situation (like finding people stranded during a flood). I for one used Geofeedia in Coney Island to detect people posting about brand and physical safety threats within the amusement park area.

What Are the Best Social Listening Tools?

For awhile, Radian6 was the crème de la crème of platforms. Right before its change into Salesforce’s Social Studio, it became one of the weaker tools with a host of flaws, and I’ve haven’t had the (mis)fortune to use it again.

My absolute favorite tool is Netbase. I worked with it when I was at Hotwire Global and then again when I freelanced for them on HomeAway. Its search operators are amazing, and I love having all the bells and whistles. It’s also one of the most expensive, and all of its features aren’t necessary for the average social media marketer.

In fact, many social listening tools are prohibitively expensive for the average freelancer, and I currently only use those tools that my clients already have available.

Sysomos is a bit clunky, but it’s second-best to me after Netbase. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Sysomos since I was stuck using Sysomos Expion a few years back. It was the clunkiest, crappiest version of Hootsuite I’d ever tried. And, I really hate Hootsuite. All platforms change those, and Sysomos has only gotten better in the past few years (and Expion is technically no more).

Nuvi is utterly beautiful. If you needed to pick a platform based on looks, it’s this one though the functionality is a bit limited. Crimson Hexagon was another, though they recently got in a lot of hot water for misusing data on Facebook. Late last year Crimson merged with Brandwatch, and I imagine that their social and PR listening tools are much more refined than the last time I used either of them. In a few weeks, I hope to be able to update this post with my thoughts on the new Brandwatch - depending on if I land this prospective client.

But, all in all, the tool depends on the job you need to do – and the price you’re willing to pay.

Interested in learning more about social listening? Shoot me a message on Twitter at @TomBasgil or hit me up for my services here.