insights | 28.05.2024

Social listening: how to tune into what your customers are saying

Article topics
  1. What is social listening?
  2. The benefits of social listening
  3. Is social listening the same as social media monitoring?
  4. Tools to help with social listening
  5. Can I do social listening without tools?
  6. Top tips for making the most of social listening

Did you know that 60% of people around the world have at least one social media profile?

Whether TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Pinterest, people use social media to talk about what they like and dislike.

You can use this information to your advantage with social listening.

If you’re new to social media listening, we’ve put together this guide to help you get started. We’ll look at what social listening is, the benefits, what tools to use, and how to make the most of what you discover.

What is social listening?

Social listening (also referred to as social media listening) is when you track messages and conversations on social media that relate to your brand.

You can then use this information to refine and improve how your brand operates.

You might hear the term ‘brand sentiment’ used a lot in social listening. This is when you identify the emotions people use in their social media messages, identifying whether their feelings are positive, negative, or neutral.

With social listening, you’re not just tracking mentions of your brand but mentions of the products and services you sell, information about your competitors, and news about your industry.

It lets you see what everyone is saying about you and gives you the data you need to make the right business decisions.

The benefits of social listening

Here’s a great example of a brand that used social listening to its advantage.

Many years ago, the pizza chain Domino’s found out that people were complaining about the quality of its pizzas on social media. Rather than ignoring them or trying to spin their complaints into something positive, the company took action.

The CEO invited some of the most vocal critics to a focus group to find out how Domino’s could improve how it made its pizzas. The company made changes based on the feedback and delivered the new pizza to the critic’s houses so they could taste the difference.

What other benefits does social listening have for brands? Here are some advantages for you to consider.

  • You can use it to inform your marketing. Social media listening lets you see what people have to say about your brand and is something you can use to create targeted and effective marketing campaigns. A great example is Innocent, which used debate on social media about whether its new drink was blue or green to its advantage
  • You can use it to learn more about your customers. It’s vital to understand your target audience. Social listening can help you understand more about your audience including what they like, their hobbies and interests, and their pain points
  • You can use it to identify leads. By being proactive, you can find customers that may need your products or services, and signpost them to your business
  • You can use it to see what your competitors are doing. Social listening lets you spy on what your competitors are doing and what their customers think of their efforts. If you’re savvy, you can even find your competitor’s unhappy customers and persuade them to try your brand instead!
  • You can use it to identify issues before they turn into crises. Keeping track of what people say on social media means you can identify and manage small problems before they become major issues for your brand
  • You can use it to find user-generated content. As well as using social listening to measure brand sentiment, you can use it to source posts you can share with your customers. It’s also good for finding influencers to work with

Is social listening the same as social media monitoring?

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they refer to two slightly different things.

Social media monitoring is all about keeping an eye out on social media for mentions of your brand. Social listening takes things further and is all about analysing what you find.

So, you might use social media monitoring to keep an eye out for people complaining about your brand so you can reply to them. However, you might use social listening to get a more holistic overview of your business that you can use to inform your business decisions.

Search Engine Journal described the differences in the best way. Imagine that social monitoring is like tending your own back garden, while social listening is like walking around your street and listening to what your neighbours have to say.

Social media monitoring is a significant part of the social listening process, but social listening is much more proactive.

Tools to help with social listening

Social media listening can sound daunting if you’re new to the concept. Not only do you have to track what people say on social media, but you have to analyse and assess what they’re saying.

The good news is that there are tools that can do the work for you, saving time and ensuring you never miss an important piece of feedback. Here are some of our favourites.


Used by many as a scheduling platform, Hootsuite also offers social listening functionality.

You can set up streams to monitor specific keywords and hashtags and use the standalone Insights tool to track how people feel about your brand.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social works similarly to Hootsuite in that you can use it to manage and monitor your social media.

One of the things we love about Sprout Social is that it has built-in social listening templates so you can focus on the things that matter most to you.


Brandwatch is designed for enterprise clients and comes with a relatively hefty price tag.

However, it’s well-known and loved in the social listening industry sector for its powerful data analysis, ability to monitor multiple platforms, and flexible automated reporting.


Keyhole is an affordable yet highly efficient social media listening platform.

We like the predictions feature, which uses your data to identify any future issues or problems that may arise, giving you more time to put things right.


Buzzsumo isn’t just great for discovering new content; you can also use it to monitor trends, mentions, and specific keywords.

We’re also big fans of the Chrome extension, which provides valuable competitor insights wherever you are on the web.


Emplifi makes it easy to track your content, respond to customers, and see how your competitors are doing.

A cool feature we love is the ratings and reviews feature, where you can track your positive and negative reviews online from a variety of sources.


While Talkwalker is predominantly designed for PR agencies and media teams, social media teams can take full advantage of it too.

Like some of the other platforms on this list, Talkwalker uses AI to identify potential trends and issues that can help you make your social listening strategy more effective.

Can I do social listening without tools?

Yes, but there is extra work involved. Here’s how we’d do it.

The first step is to find posts from customers. Most social media platforms have a search feature where you can find out what people are saying. For example, you can type your company name or product into LinkedIn to see where you’re being talked about.

Once you have your data, it’s time to analyse it. The most cost-effective way to do this is to add all your posts to a spreadsheet. Google Spreadsheets is excellent for this, as everyone who has the link can access the data.

You can then assess the posts to see if the feedback is positive, negative, or neutral, and identify what changes you can make based on what people are saying.

If you’re not sure what the sentiment of a post is, an AI chatbot like ChatGPT can tell you.

Top tips for making the most of social listening

So we’ve looked at what social media listening is and what tools to use, but how can you capitalise on what you find? Here are our expert tips.

Understand what you want to achieve

Before you start social listening, what are your goals? This will help you understand what to focus on, what to monitor, and which software to use.

For example, if you want to use social media listening to become number one in your industry, you’ll want to focus on tracking your competitors. If you’re using it to find influencers and UGC, you may want to use a tool that specialises in finding potential accounts to work with.

Regularly revisit your social media listening strategy, as your goals may change over time.

Check all social media platforms

As a business, you may only be on a handful of social media platforms. However, it’s important to monitor all social media platforms, including the ones you don’t use.

This means you don’t miss anything that people are saying.

As well as social media platforms, you can use other websites to gather opinions and feedback from customers. Reddit and Quora, as well as review sites and forums, are fantastic sources of data.

Make improvements

The point of social listening is to use the feedback you receive to change how you operate. If you’re gathering data but not doing anything with it, you’re missing out on the benefits social media listening can bring.

Ensure everyone in the business is accountable – put a workflow in place and delegate tasks to the relevant people.

Want to find out more about how to take advantage of social media for your business? Check out our blog for valuable insights and actionable guidance!

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