Social Media Listening: Tools and Tips for your Business

Social media apps on iphone screen

Talkwalker and Brandwatch are the best social listening tools your business can invest in right now. They’re both highly sophisticated software programs that crunch the big data of social media like no human mind ever could.

Social media listening tools analyse posts, comments and tweets that mention your brand, your products, and your competitors. Many social listening tools come with AI-powered sentiment analysis revealing how users feel about your product or service.

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Top social media listening tools for your business

Social listening tools are important for gauging reactions to your marketing campaigns. Targeting keywords allows you to tap into the buzz about your business, and receive alerts about positive and negative mentions. The data-crunching capacity of social media listening tools far outweighs what any human team could manage. That’s why they’re invaluable for businesses, particularly those running large product launches.

To fully grasp what your audience says and how they feel about your brand, you’ll need to choose the right social listening tool. There’s a range of options on the market, each with slightly different strengths. We’ve summarised our top five picks here to give you a head start.

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Price Range


Price Range

From $108.00/month

Price Range


Price Range


Price Range

From £300/month

Best For

Image analysis

Best For

Sentiment analysis

Best For

Crisis alerting

Best For

Data visualisation

Best For

Audience segmentation

Key Features
  • AI-enabled sentiment analysis in 127 languages
  • 10+ social networks (including Weibo)
  • Image recognition tracks brand logos, scenes and objects
Key Features
  • Multi-lingual listening
  • Built-in sentiment analysis
  • AI alerts if mentions spike or drop
  • One year of historical data
Key Features
  • Track brand mentions
  • Continual competitor monitoring
  • Advance warning of breaking news
  • Create custom alerts with automated notifications
Key Features
  • Set up streams to monitor trends, topics and channels in real time
  • AI analysis identifies emerging trends
  • Visualisation of sentiment
Key Features
  • Very well established brand
  • Own business directory
  • Combines a range of paid, remarketing and tracking techniques
  • Suitable for any business size
Free trial?

Free demo

Free trial?
Free trial?

30 days

Free trial?

30 days

Free trial?

How to choose which social listening tools to use

Given the high price points of most social listening tools, you’ll need to think carefully about what exactly you’re going to use them for. Here are some points to consider:

  • Which upcoming campaigns (product releases, deals, collaborations, offers) do I need detailed audience insights for?
  • Are my current methods of data gathering significantly failing to achieve audience insights?
  • Are there significant blind spots in my understanding of competitors’ campaigns and products?
  • How could I use social media listening tools to gain insight into the above?
  • What PR issues have we faced in the past 18 months that could have been handled better with social listening tools?

We can see that the above questions effectively boil down into two:

  • What audience data do I need?
  • How can I get it?

In the next section we’ll look into some more detailed use cases of social listening tools for your business. We’ll include specific examples of how certain tools can address common business quandaries.

4 reasons to use social listening in your business

Why use social listening tools?

Social listening tracks sentiment towards your brand as opposed to just listing instances of brand mentions. That means you learn how customers feels about your products, not just how often they’re talking about them.

The software also tells you how customers feel about your rival brands. For instance, you could see if a competitor is running a promotion that’s got a lot of people interested.

Lotti Haxell headshot
Lotti Haxell Social Media Specialist, Expert Market

1. Damage control on PR disasters

Your brand is your business’ identity, and unless you’re tuned in on social listening you won’t notice when the winds change. A single incident can quickly turn viral and impact how thousands or millions of people view your brand. A simple example is the video of West Ham FC’s Kurt Zouma kicking a cat across a room in February 2022. The club released a statement showing they understood the emotional sentiment of reactions on social media regarding the incident. If West Ham had neglected to do this, more than likely public outrage would have continued to escalate.

Sponsors Adidas and Vitality immediately dropped their contracts with the player and club respectively in order to distance their brands from the negative backlash of public opinion.

It’s an extreme example, but it just goes to show the importance of having your ear to the ground on social media mentions of your brand and its significant figures for the purposes of damage control.

2. Improve the services you offer

Successful businesses are ones that evolve. Listen to your audience through social platforms and you’ll be able to constantly refine, adapt and improve your services. This results in more than just a satisfying experience for the customer. It equates to better results for your business and adds fuel to your growth.

3. Get the edge over your competitors

Struggling to know what’s setting you apart from your business rivals? How they interact with their customers, and what they’re doing better? Understand what the public are saying about your competitors and analyse how you can go beyond them.

Brandwatch is particularly useful in this regard; with their in-depth listening technology you’ll benefit from a year’s worth of detailed sentiment analysis on your brand and its competitors. You won’t have to guess whether customers prefer your products or your competitors’, because the AI-powered analytics will clarify that for you.

4. Don’t miss out on any mentions of your brand

Facebook sees around 317,000 status updates shared every minute, while on Twitter there’s an incredible 200 billion tweets shared yearly. With so many conversations taking place, you can’t possibly check each one manually. Big data tools like Brandwatch provide excellent in-depth insights into brand and product mentions across multilingual domains. That means you can monitor whether your products are hitting the mark in Mexico but falling short for Filipinos.

If you’re looking for a simpler overview at a lower price point, then Hootsuite is the time-tested timeline tool you need. Back in 2009 when it was first named “HootSuite”, the program was one of the very first to let social media enthusiasts manage tweets from multiple accounts. It was a godsend for Twitter users looking to schedule posts in advance, before Twitter began to allow users to do that manually (as late as 2019). Hootsuite has since evolved to incorporate all the major social media channels, giving you an easy-to-use set of streams to manage social listening for your own brand and others.

Social media listening tool Hootsuite dashboard screenshot

How to use social listening: top tips for your small business

So how can social listening work in practice? Let’s look at some of the key methods involved.

1. Attract the big influencers

Social listening involves identifying and engaging the key influencers in your industry. An influencer can be an individual with a large social media following, a blogger, or a well-connected businessman with a large network. The best influencers can reach an audience of millions. And their impact is clear. 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers trust influencers over traditional celebrities, and over 80% of marketing teams found it to be effective.

2. Target the right keywords

You’ll need to identify the most relevant keywords for your business. Whether you want to hone in on conversations about your brand, a competitor, or the industry in general, you’ll have to choose the right words. You can also target the names of platforms that offer your product, spelling variations of your business name, and related events.

3. Engage with your audience

Good social listening practice means responding to what your customers are saying about your business. Start up a conversation with users. Address criticism openly. Boost your public image among those that matter most by responding to complaints and comments. Never underestimate how lucrative it could be to get connected to a new social media platform.

Did You Know?

Brits use more than six different social media platforms each month, on average.

Next steps

Social media listening tools empower you to track and influence the conversations about your brand and products. With more than ten social media channels in regular use among UK users, it’s no surprise that social listening is a time-consuming process. And time is money! There’s not enough hours in the day to monitor all the mentions of your brand online. So why not invest in the best tracking tools to help you out.

  1. TalkWalker: Best for image analysis
  2. Brandwatch: Best for sentiment analysis
  3. BuzzSumo: Best for crisis alerting
  4. Hootsuite: Best for data visualisation
  5. Yell: Best for audience segmentation

If you’re hesitant over investing thousands of pounds into social listening tools, we can understand why. They seem expensive, and perhaps you’re worried the investment won’t be profitable. To overcome this, why not hire a social media listening expert who already has access to tools plus the skills to make full use of them?

To request assistance from qualified social listening professionals, simply fill in our form and we’ll match you with the best experts for your specific needs. There’s no time like the present to get listening to your social audiences.

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Written by:
Sabrina Dougall
Sabrina is a business journalist whose career began in news reporting. She has a master's in Investigative Journalism from City University London, and her work has appeared in The Times, The Daily Express, Money Saving Expert, Camden New Journal, Global Trade Review, and Computer Business Review. She specializes in writing about SEO (search engine optimization). Having run her own small business, Sabrina knows first-hand how critical digital marketing is to building a client base and local reputation.
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.