In a recent Twitter chat with Mick Griffin (@MickGriffin) of Brand 24(@Brand24), DIY Marketers discussed the topic of social listening, a necessary tool for any business in the modern era. The chat discussed some of the tools and benefits of social listening along with tips for best practices. (To get a replay, feel free to check out “How to Listen for the Sale: Secret Social Listening Strategies“.

In this article, we’re going to dig a little deeper into social listening so you can get an even better picture of what social listening is and how it can help your business.

What is social listening?

Social listening is often associated with a similar concept in social media marketing, social monitoring. There is a slight difference, however. Social monitoring is the “hearing” aspect of social media marketing. It involves receiving the online signals (social media mentions, reviews, etc.) that your business might need to respond to. Social listening is the “listening” aspect of social media marketing that responds to those signals with action.

Just like you need ears and a brain to hear and listen, your business needs social monitoring and social listening to make sense of the vast amount of data out there.

Why is social listening important?

You might be wondering why businesses are getting involved in social listening in the first place. After all, social media is just a place where customers post selfies, share videos of their family and brag, right?


Social media is a multi-faceted communication channel that showcases a lot more of the human experience than you think. People use social media to ask questions, give advice, promote their personal brand, find jobs, connect with like-minded colleagues, discuss business and social issues, voice their opinion, and more. (We’ll skip the spam and other negative sides of social media for now.)

Social media offers plenty of opportunities for businesses to engage where customers are. Customers leave all kind of data, directly or indirectly, that can be analyzed and responded to by a business for a potential profit. The key is to make sense of the data that is relevant to your business out of all of the data that is being published every single minute.

That’s where social listening comes in.

What are the benefits of social listening?

Social listening can do a lot of things for your company, especially in the areas of sales, public relations, and marketing. It can even help out with recruiting, management decision-making, and more.

At the basic levels, social listening can:

  • Handle customer issues before they become problems (Example: A customer’s detailed review about a business’ bad customer service that could negatively impact sales)
  • Generate and nurture leads (Example: A new customer asks for recommendation for a service/product that your business provides)
  • Connect with influencers, advocates, and professional consumers (aka prosumers) (Example: Asking highly-dedicated superfans to test out a new product/service release before it is officially launched)
  • Help you keep an eye on competitors (Example: Get advance notice of a sudden change in your competitor’s offerings that could be a threat to your business)
  • Identify trends and new marketing opportunities before market research does (Example: You discover that your customers don’t really like a new product you released because of a new change in “what’s popular”

How does your business start social listening?

Social listening isn’t a “set it and forget it” process. It is an active process where your business is proactively deciding what data is relevant and what you will do about it.

Level 1: Basic social media monitoring

To start social monitoring right now, you can set up alerts free of charge on sites like:

  • Google
  • Social media channels-Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
  • Social media tools: HootSuite, TweetDeck, or Buffer
  • Sites that search more than one place: Social Mention, Toptal, etc.

Hint: To set up these alerts, put your business in quotation marks. To set up a Google alert for your business, visit and type in your business like this “Business XYZ”. Add any preferences that you might have, save it and you’re done!)

At a minimum, you want to have:

  • Google alerts on your business name,  unique products or service names like “The Marketingnator”), and your business founder
  • Social media alerts on your business name (in quotation marks) and any unique campaign hashtags. You can set this up on Twitter directly, on a tool like HootSuite, or use another service to email you with search results.
  • Alerts on your business name in sites that track content over the web like TopTal.

To get all of your social listening in one convenient place, feel free to check out Buffer’s “Track Every Important Conversation” article.

Level 2: Advanced social listening options

You can go a little further with social listening than basic social monitoring. You can use social listening tools to help you find leads, influencers, copy trends, and even find your next job candidate.

What’s the next step after you collect data?

So what do you after you start collecting data? What do you do after a Google alert with your business names arrives in your inbox?

That is the next step in social listening. Once you collect data, you have to figure out what to do with that information. This part is actually easy. You have a couple of responses to choose from:

  • Respond immediately
  • Save it for later
  • Do nothing
  • Archive it for record

Your response depends on how you view the data you receive and who you think is best to handle it. Do you have a customer praising your business in a Tweet? You can respond immediately with a “Thanks” or some other comment of gratitude. Is a customer blaming your business for something? See if there is anything you can do to address any immediate concerns. If this is a recurring problem, you might also consider saving it for training opportunities.

The opportunities are endless. That’s the point.

Summary: Social listening involves listening & responding to the right social media data

So, let’s recap because we’ve covered a lot of data so far.

Social listening involves two parts, listening to the right social media data and responding to the right social media. At a minimum, you want to track Google alerts related to your business, any particular keywords specific to your business, and social media mentions. You can branch off to more categories as you wish.

Once you start collecting data, your next step is to respond to that data. You have four basic options (respond, ignore, save, or archive i). With those four options and basic setup mentioned above, you have all of the tools you need to begin social listening and proactively managing your online presence in order to market and protect your business.