What is Social Listening?

Social media

And why are more and more businesses using social media listening tools?

Back when brick and mortar businesses were king, feedback about your brand came from face-to-face customer interactions. Today, more and more purchases happen online, and your customers are turning to Facebook, Twitter, and other digital channels to share their experiences.

How are you supposed to hear what they’re saying above all the background noise?

Social listening tools can help you hone in on what’s important to your customers, and your brand. You can also use a social media management company to monitor your channels and respond to customers.

What is Social Listening?

Social listening is the process of monitoring what people are saying about your brand and industry online. Social media listening tools are services that help brands identify, collect, and make sense of this information.

Social media listening involves:

  • Finding channels where conversations about your brand are happening
  • Collecting data on specific topics, perceptions and sentiments
  • Analysing the data for actionable insights
  • Using these insights to inform future marketing and branding initiatives

Social listening differs from traditional market research via surveys or focus groups. Instead of inviting people to talk about your company, you’re listening to what they freely say to each other. It’s more about mining real-life discussions for insights than steering them.

Social listening tools enable you to zoom in on relevant posts, threads and comment chains on social platforms like Twitter, Reddit and YouTube. Their reach even extends to e-commerce platforms with built-in social features, like Amazon customer reviews.

Did You Know?

Every second, more than 6,000 Tweets and 40,000 Google queries are sent over the internet. That’s an overwhelming amount of information to interpret if you don’t have the right tools!

Why is Social Listening Valuable for Small Businesses?

Understand How People Perceive Your Brand

Social listening lets you know what your customers really think about your brand. Having this is essential for being able to make sure your marketing strategy is working as intended.

Show Your Customers You Care

Some companies listen to customers’ feedback. Others just pay lip service. Customers can usually tell the difference. Social listening tools arm you with the insights to deliver better products, services and customer support in the future.

Carry Out More Effective PR

Seeing customer complaints crop up in real-time on Twitter has helped many a company avert potential PR disasters. It can also help support agents go above and beyond to help out their customers. Just ask the Virgin Trains social media team who hand-delivered a toilet roll to a passenger in need.

How to Set up Social Listening

With all the information that’s out there, you’ll certainly need specialized tools for the job. But first, it’s important to decide what exactly you want to listen for.

Keywords, topics and sentiments are all sensible starting points. For example, you may want to:

  • Identify all Facebook posts that mention your company’s name
  • Gather all Tweets from the past year that mention your biggest competitor
  • Learn customers feelings about your latest product line – such as a rebranded soft drink with a new and improved taste (Real world example: Coca Cola)

Some important keywords and topics to monitor include:

  • Your/a competitor’s company name
  • Your/a competitor’s slogan
  • Product names
  • Ad campaign keywords
  • Industry buzzwords
  • Relevant hashtags

It’s also a good idea to research common misspellings of keywords so you can target these too.

Top Five Social Media Tools

Here’s our roundup of the top five social media listening tools on the market today:

Hootsuite Insights

Hootsuite is the world’s most widely-used social media management tool. As well as helping you schedule communications via a smart dashboard, Hootsuite Insights gives you a window into social sentiment surrounding your brand. It delivers real-time results and meaningful insights without even running a single report.

Pricing: Custom, on a quote-by-quote basis

Brandwatch Analytics

There’s a lot of complex stuff going on under the hood with Brandwatch, but you’d never guess it judging by how beautifully and simply the platform presents everything. Word clouds, bar charts and filters turn raw audience data into effortlessly digestible insights.

Pricing: Custom, on a quote-by-quote basis


Buzzsumo’s influencer marketing and brand monitoring tools come recommended by several industry experts – and for good reason. You can set up real-time mobile and email alerts to notify you about any relevant online activity. If a mouse so much as squeaks about your brand, you’ll know about it.

Pricing: $79-$499+ per month

Sprout Social

Sporting a cleaner dashboard than HootSuite and deeper integrations with Google Analytics, Sprout Social offers impressive social media management capabilities. At $99 a month, it’s also a steal for small businesses. That said, it’s not quite as adept at social listening or influencer identification.

Pricing: $99-$249 per month


Talkwalker is an insanely powerful web analytics tool that’ll keep you on top of emerging social trends. Brand analysis, crisis tracking and competitor monitoring are all part of the package. It’s towards the pricier end of social listening services, but it’s good value for money when you consider all that you’re getting.

Pricing: $700-$1,500+ per month

Social Media Management Services

While the social listening tools covered above are great, they still require you to oversee and implement their recommendations. If time is at a premium and you’re looking for a more hands-off approach, you’ll be pleased to know that professional social media management companies can take care of this part for you.

Popular providers like Hibu and Marketing 360 provide quotes upon request for their services. To speed up the process, complete our short contact form and we’ll put you directly in touch with top suppliers.

Written by:
Dan’s a Senior Writer at Expert Market, specialising in digital marketing, web design, and photocopiers, amongst other topics.
Reviewed by:
Robyn Summers-Emler, Grow Online Editor, Profile Picture
Robyn started working on Expert Market in 2021 as a specialist in business websites and digital marketing. As the Grow Online Editor, she ideates, commissions and optimizes content on Expert Market that helps businesses thrive in online spaces and maximize their ecommerce potential. Covering everything from choosing a website builder to scaling a social media marketing strategy - Robyn uses her expertise to help startups, SMBs, and larger businesses realize digital growth in an increasingly competitive landscape.