Want to know why social media listening should absolutely, 100% be part of your marketing plans right now?

Well, let me give you an example. Imagine you own a bookshop. One day, you overhear two customers chatting.

The first says: “I love this place!”

“Me too,” says the other. “I just wish they sold food and drink too – I’d spend all my time here!”

So you start selling coffee and brownies. Soon, people are queuing out the door to buy a book, a hot drink, and a snack. Business is booming!

Social media listening is the same as this but on a massive scale. It lets you discover, learn from, and get involved in online conversations about your brand, on whichever platform they’re happening. That’s vital intelligence you just can’t afford to overlook.

What Exactly is Social Media Listening (& Why Should I Care)?

Social listening involves tracking words and phrases across social platforms and websites, then analyzing and learning from the results.

The use of the word “social” is a little misleading because it’s not limited to platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Social listening can cover the whole of the web, often focusing on sites like blogs and forums alongside social media.

As you can likely imagine, monitoring the entire internet is no easy task. About 6,000 tweets are posted every second, not to mention all the activity on every other social platform and website. Fortunately, there are a bunch of social listening tools designed to handle all the heavy lifting – more on them later.

Having found where those conversations are happening and what’s being said, marketers use social listening to make smarter decisions. According to one survey, brands primarily rely on it for audience feedback, but there are lots of other use cases:

Source: Clutch

3 Examples of Social Media Listening in Action

That’s all the theory out the way. Now, let’s look specifically at how brands are using social media listening to improve their marketing strategies. Here are three practical examples of social listening in the wild:

1. Tylenol Uses Social Listening to Identify a New Audience

Identifying new audiences can be a big win for brands, enabling them to reach and optimize additional revenue streams. And social listening can help you do it.

Pharmaceutical brand Tylenol did exactly that when it discovered headaches are a common complaint in members of a sizable niche: knitting. Forums and messaging boards devoted to the hobby were also awash with people discussing migraine treatments.

Evidently, while knitting is a comforting, mindful activity enjoyed by millions of Americans, it also puts a lot of strain on their eyes, which over time causes headaches and migraines. In other words, they’re an ideal market for a brand like Tylenol.

Having identified this key learning, Tylenol made its new audience a focus of its SEO and marketing plans, leading to an increase in traffic to its site and greater awareness around its products.

2. Netflix Goes Viral By Identifying Trend Through Social Listening

Netflix makes no secret of its belief in the value of social media listening. Indeed, in an award entry for the social media-focused Shorty Awards, the streaming platform explained:

“When we aren’t posting, we’re listening, looking for the new trends igniting the entertainment world, or in some cases trends that are inspired by Netflix itself.”

What did it find from all that listening? One key insight was that a lot of Netflix subscribers regularly fall asleep while bingeing their favorite shows.

Netflix hit on an ingenious solution: smart socks that can effectively detect when you’re drifting off and automatically pause whatever you’re watching.

This wasn’t about monetizing “Netflix socks”. The brand wasn’t selling a new product – in fact, it published a full explainer on how to make them yourself. Instead, the brand wanted to put itself at the center of a conversation, demonstrating its creativity and caring side.

The result? The company signed up seven million new Facebook fans, 500,000 new Twitter followers, and 800,000 new Instagram followers in a year.

3. Cloudera Leverages B2B Social Listening to Assess Market Sentiment

Social listening isn’t just for B2C brands – it has a big part to play in B2B marketing strategies too.

Demonstrating this, software company Cloudera relies on social media listening to gauge audience sentiment. Corporate Communications Manager Shelby Khan explained:

“Social media moves much faster than traditional journalism, which makes it a great real-time barometer for how we are perceived. So we use social listening to keep a finger on the pulse of what people are saying and how they feel about us to better understand what the sentiment is in the market.”

Applying those insights has paid off, with the brand enjoying big uplifts in followership, engagement, and impressions.

Source: Sprout Social

6 Tips to Get the Most Value from Social Listening

Keen to start leveraging the benefits of social media listening? Here’s how to do it.

1. Monitor the Right Keywords & Topics

Clearly, any social listening strategy is only as effective as the keywords you track. If you’re an enterprise SaaS company exclusively tracking phrases about interior design, chances are you’re not going to learn anything useful.

So what exactly should you be following? Here are some key examples of phrases and topic to consider (not forgetting to track common misspellings too):

  • Your brand name
  • Your product name
  • Your slogan
  • Your campaign hashtags
  • All of the above, but for your competitors
  • Industry-specific terminology and hashtags
  • Geographic terms related to the places your audience lives or works

2. Measure Key Social Listening Metrics

You’re monitoring the right keywords. That’s a good start, but there’s more to social listening than just the “listening” element – you also need to draw meaning from the conversations you’re monitoring. That involves tracking key metrics like:

  • Sentiment: On balance, are the conversations you’re tracking more positive, negative, or neutral?
  • Influencers: Who are the most prominent accounts or authors talking about you? What are they saying?
  • Popularity: How frequently are the terms you’re tracking being discussed?
  • Engagement: Which of the topics or keywords you track are generating the most likes, replies, and shares?

3. Choose the Right Social Listening Tools

As we mentioned earlier in the article, to do social listening effectively, you need the right tools. Without them, you can really only focus on a tiny proportion of conversations happening online, which could give you a skewed impression of the terms and topics you’re tracking.
Fortunately, there are tons of effective social listening tools on the market. Here are three of our favorites:

  • Falcon.io: A one-stop social media management shop, Falcon.io allows marketers to glean insights from 2.7 million online sources.
  • Awario: An affordable social listening tool that incorporates Boolean logic operations to weed out unnecessary or irrelevant mentions.
  • Brandwatch: At the upper end of the market, Brandwatch is an enterprise-grade tool that does all the basics, as well as offering advanced features like image analysis to find pictures containing your brand’s logo.

4. Cast the Net Wide

You might know your audience has one or two preferred platforms. But that doesn’t mean they exclusively use those platforms.

Conversations about your brand and topics that are relevant to you could be happening anywhere online. If you’re only paying attention to the big social sites while ignoring forums, you could be missing a ton of key insights. What’s more, you’re unlikely to be getting the full picture, because discussions that happen on Facebook could be very different from those on LinkedIn or Twitter.

For that reason, it’s important to cast the net as wide as possible. That way, you’ll be able to build up the clearest overview of what’s really being said in your industry, making it easier for you to react and join in with the conversation.

5. Keep Tabs on the Competition

Sure, you don’t want to copy your rivals – after all, you’re a unique brand with your own tone. However, you can definitely still learn from what people are saying about them (and possibly also from how they react).

On one hand, it’s helpful to understand what people love about your competitors; it’ll help differentiate your own brand.

On the other, it’s extremely useful to be on hand when they trip up! If they release a product update people don’t like, or introduce an unpopular new policy, or respond poorly to a customer service issue, you definitely want to know about it. At worst, it’ll help you avoid making the same mistake. At best, it might help you win a bunch of new customers.

6. Use Social Listening Insights to Step Up Your Marketing Strategy

This is the key point. What separates social media listening from simple monitoring is what you do next.

From a vanity perspective, it’s always nice to see people praise your brand. But what really matters is how you leverage insights into brand perception – and all the other metrics you’re tracking – to drive your future strategy.

For instance, maybe a new ad campaign has put you in front of a wider audience. What do these new customers think about you? Do they behave exactly the same as your existing audience, and engage with the same content? If not, you might need to rethink your marketing plans.


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