As entrepreneur Richard Branson once said, “success comes from listening to your customers.” If your brand isn’t listening to what your customers think, feel, and want, you’re guessing.Every marketer understands the value of listening to what customers are saying. But figuring out how to do it at scale has always been a challenge.Thanks to the meteoric rise of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we now have a solution – social media listening.

In this post, we’re going to explain exactly what social media listening is and why it’s important. We’ll also show you how to use it to develop your marketing strategy and improve your customer service.

Stick around until the end to find our top recommendations for social media listening tools!

What’s social media listening?

Social media has dramatically changed the way people communicate over the last 20 years. More people today share their experiences online than ever before. In doing so, they provide brands with a valuable window into what they’re really thinking.

We often talk about social media marketing in terms of how we talk to our customers. We concentrate on engagement and brand awareness. However, it’s not only about how many mentions, likes, or shares your posts get.

You can get greater benefits by understanding exactly what is being said about your brand and industry, who is saying it, and where. That’s where social listening comes in.

At its core, social listening is about listening in on the conversations your customers are having on social media. You can use the insights you gather to make more strategic marketing decisions.

It involves:

  • Monitoring social media platforms for mentions of your brand, keywords, topics, competitors, or industries.
  • Analyzing the information and taking relevant action based on it.

Why does social listening matter?

For any business to be successful, it has to provide its customers with what they want.

Social media listening can help you do that. You’ll be able to pick up valuable insights about your brand or industry. You can then use those insights to stay focused on providing customers with the best service or product.

Knowing the context of social media conversations will allow you to build better business strategies and improve your social media reputation. The keyword here is context. Contextual information is what makes social listening so valuable.

Social listening vs Social media monitoring

People often mix up social listening with social media monitoring – but there’s an important difference between the two.

While both marketing practices are similar, social media monitoring only involves capturing the headline metrics, such as how many shares, likes, or mentions your brand gets. Social media listening looks beyond the numbers. It establishes the reasons behind the communication and uses this information to implement action or change.

The benefits of social listening

If you’re not already taking advantage of social listening, you’re missing out on some game-changing insights.

Imagine you just launched a new product: would you be content with only knowing there was a spike in social media mentions over the first few weeks or would you want to know more?

By applying social media listening, you’d be able to find out where those mentions came from. You’d know who was talking about your product, what they were saying, and why they were saying it. You could then use that information to inform your next move.

For example, it might help you identify a new market, pick up on a faulty product that’s impacting sales, or simply allow you to respond to customer feedback.

The benefits of social listening don’t stop there. Here a few more for you to consider.

You’ll gain knowledge of your competitive landscape

You don’t have to only apply social listening to your own brand. Understanding what people are saying about your competitors can be equally useful.

You can use social listening to learn where you fit within your industry. You can also learn what your competitors are currently working on. This can help you identify whether there’s anything you need to react to or take advantage of.

For example, have your competitors had any negative press or launched a new marketing campaign? The ability to react quickly to these kinds of developments could help you put plans in place that’ll increase your slice of the market.

Customers appreciate when brands respond to them

A response to customer feedback can go a long way towards building brand reputation and goodwill.

Research has shown that 48% of customers will make a purchase from a brand that responds to customers on social media. 83% of people prefer it when brands respond to their questions.

They also found that 47% of consumers who have complaints will voice it on social media. Every unanswered complaint is potentially a customer loss.

Social listening allows you to identify and respond to customer queries and complaints quickly. If you want to build true brand loyalty and advocacy with customers and increase retention, this is the way to go.

You’ll acquire more customers

Social listening will ensure you’re always up-to-date and able to adapt to changing consumer needs. The insights you gather can also help you acquire new customers in your industry.

For example, you learn that a certain segment of your social audience is frequently viewing or mentioning your content, but they’re not making purchases. You can use social media listening to develop your relationships with them by reaching out and sharing useful information.

Applying insights from social listening will allow you to establish your brand as the best option for them when they’re looking to buy.

Social listening strategies

Okay, now you know what the benefits of social listening are. So let’s talk about how you can use it as part of your social strategy.

Engage with your customers

Social listening creates opportunities to engage directly with customers about your brand. Taking advantage of these opportunities can lead to better customer engagement. It can also build your brand’s social media reputation.

It’s important to have an understanding of what’s being communicated and by whom.  Communications could range from a simple mention or endorsement to customer service requests or complaints.

Tailoring your approach to each customer is key and goes a long way towards keeping customers happy.

Social media listening will also help you understand if there are any trends emerging in your industry, which can be then be addressed immediately. It’ll also let you know if there are any negative communications that you need to respond to.

The Hilton Hotel Group is an example of an organization that does this effectively.

Hilton receives around 1.5k Twitter mentions a day. Social listening allows them to quickly sift through these tweets and understand which, if any, they should react to. On average, they answer 3.3 tweets per hour. The average time between a tweet and a response is just 37.3 minutes.

Monitor competitors

Social listening also allows you to understand what people are saying about your competitors.

It’s important to know what your competitors are up to, so you can plan your business strategies accordingly. Are they receiving praise because of a new initiative? Are they getting lots of complaints about a product? Or have they started a new marketing campaign?

Listening into communications about your competitors will highlight any potential threats or opportunities for your brand.

It can also help you:

  • Identify where you sit in the industry by, for example, comparing the volume of mentions between your brand and competitors.
  • Identify competitor content that’s outperforming your own, so you can adapt your approach.
  • Spot popular new products and set your own performance goals.
  • Identify the failings of their products and offer alternatives that better meet your customer’s needs.

Managing crises 

Engagement is usually good news, but if the mood behind it is negative, it’s a concern. With social listening, you can see which of your social posts are generating the right kind of engagement and which aren’t.

If you’re getting good traction with some of your content, it’s important to review the reasons behind it. You can then build the correct strategy to deal with any potential fallout or to take advantage of any opportunities it’ll bring.

To illustrate how important this is, let’s look at how Nike used social listening to mitigate the impact of an incident back in 2019.

The brand was at the center of controversy after a Nike product exploded during a televised basketball game. The player wearing the Nike footwear, Zion Williamson, was injured, and viewers took to social media to voice their concern.

Nike picked up on this thanks to social listening. They realized how bad this could be for their brand image, so they immediately mobilized their social media team and took the time to respond to customers.

Their PR team released an official statement wishing Zion well and promising the matter would be fully investigated. They even reached out personally to Zion with an advertising deal.

Using the power of social listening, Nike managed to turn the tide and turn a crisis into an opportunity.

Monitor growth

Social listening can help you monitor business growth and track the success of your campaigns. For example, you can use social listening tools to analyze the context of your brand mentions and whether each mention is positive or negative.

This allows you to track and measure social media sentiment and get a picture of whether yours is trending up or down over time.

If you notice a rise in negative comments on social media due to some recent brand scandal, you can investigate whether those comments correlate with a decrease in other important metrics, like sales. This allows you to determine what measures you need to take in response.

Identify pain points

Social listening is a useful way to uncover what’s working for your brand. It can also be used to identify what’s not working.

If you notice a lot of customers complaining about the same problem, voicing the same concerns, or asking the same questions, it’s a sign that something needs to change.

When you identify pain points, you might want to:

  • Update or improve existing products or services
  • Adapt your customer service approach
  • Launch a targeted marketing campaign
  • Adjust prices

For example, if you notice most of the negative brand mentions involve complaints about your customer service, it might be time to have a refresher course on customer service for your team. Or if you run a restaurant and a particular dish seems to be missing the mark, you might want to take it off your menu.

Fitbit is a great example of a brand already doing this. They use social listening to identify “emerging issues” and gather customer feedback on ways they can improve. They then pass these ideas to their engineering team to inform future product development.

In fact, customer feedback led Fitbit to add the “Reminders to Move” feature on their wearable devices – a vibration that reminds Fitbit users to move around.

What’s a social listening tool?

Now that we’ve covered what social listening is, why it’s beneficial, and how you can use it, let’s talk about the tools that are available to help.

A social listening tool is a software solution that will help you monitor all of your social media platforms with ease. They can be set up to scan the social stratosphere for brand mentions, keywords, and topics. They’ll generate useful reports on what’s being said.

The tools can also group all incoming social communications across platforms in one dashboard, so you’ll never miss an opportunity to engage your customers.

3 social media tools to use

There are lots of different tools to choose from. We’ve highlighted some of the best options below.

1. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a tried-and-tested tool that has been around a while. It combines social media management and monitoring. With Hootsuite, you can set up unlimited streams across all the major platforms and search for keywords, topics, and locations. They also allow integration with other social listening tools.

Key features

  • Platforms monitored: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and more.
  • Capabilities: Publishing, sentiment analysis, search by location, and integration with other social media tools.
  • ‘Signals’ feature highlights best-performing content. It helps you identify the hottest topics in your industry and the influencers who mention your brand.


3 available plans from $29 per month.

30-day free trial available.

2. Talkwalker

Talkwalker is another listening tool that gives you real-time insights into what’s happening across social media channels. Their Quick Search feature allows you to quickly spot trending stories related to your brand or industry.

Key features

  • Platforms monitored: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and more.
  • Capabilities: Sentiment analysis, demographic insights, and content themes identification.


Paid plans from $9,600 per year.

Free personalized demo available on request.

3. Mentionlytics

Mentionlytics is a powerful social listening tool that’s ideal for SMBs. It uses intelligent algorithms to analyze your mentions and uncover insights.

Key features

  • Platforms monitored: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, LinkedIn, Blogs, the web, and more.
  • Capabilities: Keyword cloud, customizable and informative graphics, and outputs.


Paid plans from $39 per month.

Free trial available.

Final thoughts

Social media is one of the best sources of information for your brand, competitors, and industry.  Social listening will help you make sense of the noise, ensuring your brand will thrive in this environment.