What is social listening? Plus 5 tools to get started right now

Social listening tools and tips to help you improve your social listening strategy and improve your decision making process.

what is social media listening

It’s a well-known fact marketers are crazy for data – after all, the best decision you can make is based on it. Well, are you utilizing the social listening data? Are you spying on what your competitors are doing? The user-generated content they are creating? Or reading forums about what’s new in the industry you’re in?

Or simply said, do you every now and then type in the company you work for on Twitter and see what pops up?

If you answered yes, to any of the questions above – you are already doing some form of social listening.

But hey – since you’re already here, it’s fair to say we will cover everything in-depth, including how to create your beginner social listening strategy in five simple steps.

What is social listening?

The most simple explanation would be:

Social listening is the process of “listening” to what people are speaking for your brand across social media channels and why they are saying the things they do.

Or suppose we have put it more professionally. In that case, social listening is the process of tracking versatile social media platforms for mentions of your brand and analyzing those insights to uncover “hidden treasures” so you can make better data-oriented decisions.

Difference between Social media listening and social media monitoring

Although, according to the names – you might feel social listening and monitoring are the same things, we assure you – they are not.

Social monitoring is all about gathering data with the help of metrics such as brand mentions and unique brand hashtags. It also means gathering data about the industry, meaning tracking industry trends and competitors.

However, social listening is looking beyond the percentage and numbers and going straight to how people feel about your brand/your competitors.

Instead of tracking just the numbers of how much your brand got mentioned (social monitoring), you’re also tracking these relevant conversations and learning from them.

Long-termly – social media listening will help you make better decisions and create a strategy with actionable steps.

Imagine launching a new product/or upgrading your service – you could have an “avalanche” of social media mentions – but caring enough to go through them and analyze them one by one about whether they are positive, negative, or neutral is called a social media sentiment analysis, and it’s part of social listening.

social media listening v.s social media monitoring

5 reasons why social listening is important

Social media listening is important in many ways, and we will talk about it more – but our first and main reason why it’s so important – it’s that listening to what people are talking about your brand can help you get beyond valuable insights.

Besides this, having a social listening strategy will help you:

  • Get to know your audience better and engage with them– understanding your audience is key when talking about impacting them, and social listening is a simple and free way to do that. Instead of assuming what your audience likes, by monitoring and analyzing your social media channels – you can get to know your audience inside-out and predict how they will respond to certain marketing campaigns, slogans, or product/service updates.
  • Stay ahead of your competitors – social listening to your social media channels, but what about going the extra mile? Social listening is also about monitoring your competitors and the industry and learning from it. See what your competitors are doing and how they interact with their audience. Also, be bold enough to jump into these conversations (think Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola interactions or maybe Burger King vs. McDonald’s – this will give you inspiration).
  • Product development – overlooking the industry you’re in will uncover valuable insights into the direction in which the industry is moving, besides tracking your competitors. What works for people, and what not, what they are most satisfied with – and what are they avoiding? What are their greatest frustrations, and can you address them? This will help you modify and shape your product/service in the direction of your customers.
  • Improve your customer support and service – once you start listening to what your audience is saying about your brand (both positive and negative customer feedback) – you will have clear directions on how to improve. People complaining can be an opportunity for your brand to guide them through the problem they are facing.
benefits of social listening

5 Simple Steps to Create a Social listening strategy

Now that you’re aware of why social listening is so important – it’s only fair we move on to how you can get started with social listening.

There’s no need to feel overwhelmed – here’s a list with a few key steps to get started with social listening.

1. Choose a social listening tool

Choosing the right tool for your social listening strategy is one of the most important things.

Imagine manually going through millions of social messages across three, four, or five different channels. Not only will it take an eternity, but if you don’t have a strategic approach, you will soon find yourself lost in different Excel Sheets, not knowing where you placed what.

Stick with us in the following part – we will speak more about the best social listening tools on the market.

2. Determine your goals

Once you choose your preferred tool – the next key step is determining what to listen for or goals.

So do take time to think about it – What are your goals?

Are you looking into getting more information about your:

  • brand’s health and reputation – what’s the overall feel around your brand (more positive or negative) and why.
  • the industry you’re in – and learn more about its direction and how to develop your product in the future
  • your competitors and what are they doing – so you can be ahead in the game
  • key social media audience – so you can create a better strategy and content that will work best according to the trends and social media data

You could have one, two, or three of these goals or maybe even more.

What matters most is to sit down, talk with your team, look down, and even write down what you want to achieve.

3. Choose your social media platforms

You have your tool and goals – the next step is choosing which network to pull information/data from.

Although you might think pulling data from all sources available might be a good idea, chances are doing that will overwhelm you and the entire process with data that might be irrelevant.

So, think about which channel holds the most valuable data for your business instead of doing that. Find out where most of your audience is – or where they are having conversations and pull the data from there.

4. Choose your Listening topics and themes

The next step is choosing what topics you will listen to, on the channel you prefer, with your chosen tool to achieve your pre-determined goal.

You will need to build queries such as specific keywords, phrases, hashtags, handles, and mentions from users.

Also, you can even go the extra step and select exclusions or things you don’t want to listen to.

5. Gather data and measure results

And finally, we’ve reached the final step in creating your social listening strategy.

Once you set everything up and collect data over a longer period, the last step remaining is measuring how successful your social listening strategy was according to the goals you’ve set.

5 tools for social listening

An essential step in creating and implementing a social listening strategy is using the proper social listening tool.

To help you make the most informed choice – we’ve created a list of the five best and most popular social listening tools.

So without further ado – here are the best tools on the market:

1. EmbedSocial

control your social media presence with EmbedSocial

EmbedSocial is the number 1 user-generated content platform. You can automatically generate social media feeds, reviews, stories, or photos and embed them on your website.

The way you can showcase your social media content on your website is both vibrant and functional.

The editor provides endless opportunities to create custom social feeds, reviews, and story widgets that are very easy to showcase on any website.

It has different pricing plans, starting from a free account to PRO, PRO Plus, and Premium accounts. Prices vary from $29 to $99 per month, and each package includes different features.

EmbedSocial is a powerful yet easy-to-use platform for managing multiple social media channels and generating reviews.

FYI: You can automatically embed an Instagram widget with a social media aggregator, bringing your website to life with fresh content.


Display your Instagram feed on your website automatically!

Generate and embed Instagram widget with your feed, mentions, or hashtags directly to your website.

Start 7-day free trial

2. Talkwalker


Talkwalker is a super powerful tool that can analyze blogs, news and review sites, videos, and social networks and do it all in a single dashboard.

This tool pulls data from 150 million sources, and these conversations can be sorted with the help of more than 50 powerful filters to get to the data you need.

According to reviews, Talkwalker has powerful visualizations and analytics-focused abilities, and the dashboards are easily created; on the other side – the cons are it’s not glitches-free, it’s difficult to learn, and the tool it’s not user-friendly.

3. Sprout Social

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is an all-in-one social management solution and not only a social listening tool. This tool empowers customers to connect with their audiences more, streamline publishing workflows, improve collaboration, and turn data into powerful insights.

Or said simply – it’s “a social media manager’s one-stop-shop.”

This tool has 3 pricing levels starting with $89 per month, and according to the reviews, it’s easy to set up and integrate with other tools, it’s user-friendly, and packed with versatile features; the main disadvantage people are mentioning is that the listening tool still has room for improvement.

4. Brand 24

Brand 24

Brand 24 is a tool suitable for individuals tracking a small brand, so it’s perfect if you are a beginner.

For less than $50 per month, you will get to track 3 keywords and have 2k mentions/ month. It’s a one-user account, data updates every 12 hours, has Facebook and Instagram integrations, social media, newsletter and podcast monitoring, sentiment analysis, and a mobile app.

According to reviews, the pros of this tool are that it offers a complete toolkit, the reports are detailed and customizable, and it’s on the affordable side; on the contrary – the cons are the control panel is not as simple, the usage of negative keywords is not as accurate, and the initial setup process is a bit challenging.

5. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is one of the most popular social media management software with more than 21 million users in 175+ countries and is suitable for both the smallest businesses and largest enterprises.

It has 4 different pricing levels. With its help, as a marketer, you could schedule content, share posts on various platforms, streamline your workload, deliver and monitor communications with customers, and analyze the data you gather.

According to reviews, the platform is fantastic for bringing all the social channels together. Still, sometimes it can get a bit confusing. The basic package offers very little value for the money, and customer support takes a lot of time to respond.

FAQ about social listening

What is an example of social listening?

Here is a slideshow with examples from Semrush. The examples show their team engaging, educating, and solving issues for their customers and target audiences.

In the background, surely they must be doing this according to a social listening strategy, with a tool that eases up the entire process and according to their goals.

social listening examples
Semrush example from Twitter

What are the three types of social listening?

The three types of social listening are:

  • basic social listening – covers listening to and learning from your own audience
  • deep social listening – an advanced form of listening covering a wide range of social media posts about versatile topics in the industry
  • combined social listening – is a combination of listening to your social media channels and deep social listening to the industry

What is the purpose of social listening?

As we’ve mentioned, social listening can be done to achieve various goals. However, the primary purpose of social listening is to help companies understand the conversation surrounding their brand/products/services.

What are social listening tools?

The social listening tool is software to help you monitor and analyze online conversations/mentions around your brand online, the industry you’re in, your competitors, and any other relevant topic.

How is social listening measured?

The main KPIs around social listening are:

  • brand awareness – how recognizable your brand is measured through reach
  • market share – how much your brand is mentioned side by side with your competitors measured through a share of voice
  • customer satisfaction – the ratio between the positive/negative/neutral feedback measured with a sentiment score; and
  • number of leads measured with conversion rate

Key takeaways

Regardless of your industry, having a successful business starts when you fully understand your customers, their needs, and problems, and social listening is the perfect strategy to help you with this.

Listening to social media channels will help you better understand your customers and the industry you’re in. Also, it will help you catch negative feelings on time and prevent a PR crisis.

It will also help you stay ahead of your competitors and show you the way to further product/service developments.

Listening to your customers saves tons of valuable time, money, and effort.

So, what are you waiting for? Have you started creating your social listening strategy? If yes, what part seems most challenging and why?

We would love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to drop a line below.

Thank you for reading, till next time.

FYI: You can automatically embed an Instagram widget with a social media aggregator, bringing your website to life with fresh content.


Display your Instagram feed on your website automatically!

Generate and embed Instagram widget with your feed, mentions, or hashtags directly to your website.

Start 7-day free trial