Tuesday 17th of November 2020

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In a recent article, we dived into the world of search listening and its untapped potential. Today we’re going to look at social listening, which is basically search listening’s friend. It's as exciting as the latter, and at the end of this article, you will probably want to learn more about it, so let’s get started. 

Social media experts at Sprout Social define social listening as the process of “analysing the conversations and trends happening not just around your brand, but around your industry as a whole”. Does it sound a bit unclear to you? No worries, in this article we will give you a good idea of what search listening is, the benefits of it, and the basics if you want to do it yourself. 

What is social listening
Imagine you run a small clothing shop and want to find out more about your customers. Now imagine you were able to listen to every conversation they have on social media, find out the most discussed topics, their favourite clothing items, or even what they think about your competitors. How easy would it be to create your next product line, or to figure out what item is overpriced? 

In simple terms, social listening tracks any conversation you want on social media. This means you can not only track discussions around your audience and your brand, but also around other brands, audiences, influencers, topics. You can then break this down by locations, demographics, themes and get very specific.

What are the benefits    
Big or small, your business can definitely benefit from social listening, here’s how. As an SME, you can use social listening to grow your following, find the right product-market fit, define your audience, and even compete with bigger brands. The opportunities are countless. Sprout social has identified 5 key elements of business that social listening can help you with.

Brand health
This is about tracking and assessing what people say about your brand to figure out if they have positive or negative feelings towards it. This is done by analysing the content that your audience shares about your brand, and whether the sentiments associated are positive or negative (see picture below). On top of helping you uncover customers’ perceptions of your brand, search listening can tell you if these perceptions are trending up or down. Tracking this sort of information can be very helpful to counter the next wave of negative sentiment by knowing what caused the previous ones. It can also tell you very clearly what people like and dislike about you and who these people are. For example, you can dig really deep into the people who think your products are too expensive, find out where they are located, what age group they belong to, and more.

Industry Insights
Social listening is the perfect way to spot trends before everyone else, and according to Sprout Social, before they even become trends. Through careful analysis of industry-specific discussions, hashtags, and influencers, the precious data can tell you which influencers are trending up, which topics are most discussed, which topics engage the most people, or even, which can for example help you find gaps in the market and figure out which social networks are best for your next marketing campaign. The picture below is an example of the types of analytics you can get.

Competitive Analysis
You probably already spy on your competitors through social media, we all do it, but social listening is taking this a step further, making it much more helpful than you can imagine. Thanks to social listening, you can get an idea of your share of the social media audience, and compare your volume of interaction to theirs. You can also easily discover why your competitors’ customers are or are not happy with their product, or what sort of content works best for them, so that you can in turn create better products or create content that resonates with your audience. Word clouds like the example below can give you a rapid overview of the most frequently discussed topics to inform your content marketing decisions.

Other key elements that social listening can help with include campaign analysis, and event monitoring. Obviously, the benefits you can get from social listening will differ depending on the industry you are operating in. In the hospitality industry for example, it can help you find out which locations have more travel intentions, or which of your accommodations is experiencing a downward trend using sentiment analysis and geolocalisation. In the education sector, it can help you find which department is the most popular, get insights around events such as graduation or enrollment.
How to practice social listening

Fundamentally, you don’t need any tool if you wish to practice social listening. However, the process itself involves so much data and so many different metrics that you would quickly get lost in a sea of numbers and hashtags. Fortunately for us, some software companies have been thinking about all this before us, and have already added a social listening feature. If you are looking to get a deep understanding of the social media landscape, platforms like Sprout Social or HubSpot offer a comprehensive social listening service. If you are looking to get a broad overview of the social media landscape, tools like BuzzSumo and Keyhole are great tools.

If after all this you’re still not convinced about the power of social listening, read this article about how Sprout Social predicted the Oscar winners

In sum, social listening and seach listening provide different insights but both can be used for similar purposes. Both social listening and search listening can give you some valuable insights about what your audience thinks of your brand, how people talk about you or your products, how they use your products, what they would like you to improve… You got it, the list is virtually endless! 

As we just said, both techniques also have their very own advantages. Social listening tells you not only what but also why people think, act and feel a certain way towards your business or your brand. On the other hand, search listening can help you plan your Adwords campaign through helping you find the right keywords to bid on.

In an ideal world, you want to combine both techniques in order to get the largest amount of information possible. We know this can be a relatively time consuming process and we’re here to help. If you need our services, let’s talk.


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