Request A Demo

What Is Social Media Listening and How Should You Use It?

The State of Social Marketing 2017 Annual Report

It was Stephen Covey who said, “Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply.”

These words are both brilliant and questionable when applied to social media marketing and the reasons social marketers listen to their audiences. Social media listening enables us to identify key topics of conversation that are of highest interest to our audiences, providing insight into the minds of the two types of people that matter most to our organizations: (1) our customers and (2) the people we want to become our customers. While our primary goal is to understand our audience, we also use the information gained from social listening to create new, engaging content that will attract more people to our brands and keep our current customers engaged.

A more fitting quote for social marketers might be, “Listen with the intent to understand, then create content like a rockstar.” Too much?

Social Media Rockstar

When we mention the concept of social listening, I’m sure many questions come to mind: “Who should I listen to? On which channels should I listen? What should I listen for?” Or even more generally,

“What exactly is social listening, and what can it do for my organization?”

Throughout this post, I’ll walk you through the basics of social listening and how you can use it to boost your social efforts.

What Is Social Listening?

Social listening, as a general term, refers to tracking key conversations happening on social media regarding your brand, your products, or the broader industry in which you operate. From these conversations, you can tailor your content to align with the interests of your audience and use your brand’s voice to add value to the topics that matter to them.

Here are a few questions we are going to answer regarding social listening.

  1. What does listening help my brand accomplish?
  2. What should I listen to?
  3. How will listening impact my social strategy?

What Does Social Listening Help My Brand Accomplish?

Discover Popular and Emerging Conversations

There is a ton of noise on social media. Millions of conversations are happening simultaneously, and it’s important for your brand to identify which conversations are most relevant to your brand.

When you begin your listening quest, listen to the conversations happening on a broader scale. Listen to the conversations regarding your industry first, then dive deeper into those brand- or product-specific conversations. For example, Gymboree can identify trending conversations regarding children’s clothing or clothing retail in general before finding trends in the conversations relevant or including their brand in any of their products and offerings.

Layers of Social Listening

Identify Influencers to Reach New Audiences

When you find relevant conversations to join, you can pinpoint people within those conversations who are creating a lot of noise and engaging others. These influencers can benefit your brand in many ways. Influencers can:

Benefits of Influencers

Using listening solutions, you can determine who is most engaged on relevant industry topics or who is already an advocate for your brand. You can leverage these influencers to increase engagement with your social content, create awareness for your brand and its offerings, and extend your brand message to a wider audience.

Create Content That Resonates with Your Audience

When you build your social strategy, you want to be sure that the content you create won’t get lost within the overcrowded social arena. When you’ve identified trending or emerging conversations, you can tailor your content to align with those topics. This means it is essential for social marketers to stay on top of their research and actively monitor social media on a regular basis.

We wanted to see what types of conversations were happening regarding Nabisco’s Oreo product. Using Simply Measured Listening, we’ve identified a list of hashtags that people use when they talk about Oreos. We found that many people use #recipe when they mention Oreos on social, and Nabisco can leverage that hashtag in future content creation. Here we see that Nabisco produced a recipe for an Oreo cupcake that received nearly 2,000 likes, which aligns with the interests of their audience while promoting the Oreo product.

Learn More About Your Target Audience

Social listening can help you learn a lot about your audience to inform a more strategic social strategy. Social listening allows you to analyze how your different audience segments (by age, gender, location, etc.) participate in trending conversations. You can identify trends in their behaviors and use of social media, determine which topics they are most interested in, and pinpoint which social channels they are most engaged with.

What Should I Listen To?

The short answer to the question, “What should I listen to?” is that social marketers and social media managers should listen to everything relevant to their brand. Social media listening solutions can help you navigate the busy social media space and filter social conversations based on your brand needs. Using Simply Measured, you can filter these conversations in a number of ways.

By Location

Social listening solutions can provide insight into the conversations happening around very specific locations, which can be helpful when you are creating hyper-localized social campaigns. For example, we can see that recently on social, when people were talking about Seattle, they were talking about the Seattle sunshine, posting content regarding their summer experiences in Seattle, and generally including Seattle in their conversations regarding the Pacific Northwest (PNW).

By Brand

You can easily identify the most popular hashtags or keywords that people are using when talking about your brand. Using Simply Measured Listening, we were able to identify popular hashtags used when people talk about Simply Measured. The hashtags #influencermarketing and #marketing are used frequently when people are talking about Simply Measured, but the most-used hashtag is #SOS2017, referring to the release of our State of Social Report earlier this year.

By Product or Offering

As you focus your listening to your specific brand offerings, you can gain insight into what people are saying about your product, and you can identify any other hashtags used alongside your brand’s products. Listening solutions can determine which posts saw the most engagement during specific time periods.

Once you understand the conversation about a brand and its products, you can then do deeper analysis on that brand’s social content. For example, we combined our Listening product with our Social Analytics product to take a deep-dive on Gymboree. We discovered Gymboree’s most popular posts between October and December of 2016, some of the busiest holiday months of the year (I know, holiday season is fast approaching!). We can pinpoint Gymboree’s most popular posts by platform and view each post’s total engagement, which is further broken down into replies, shares, and likes.

On October 16, Gymboree posted a picture of their new product, Halloween-themed Gymmies. This Facebook post asked families to share their favorite Halloween film for a chance to win $150 to purchase their new Gymmies. This post received nearly 1,700 likes and more than 2,700 comments.

As Gymboree starts planning their holiday campaign for 2017, they can use listening to identify engaging topics of conversation, then create their own content that reflects their audience’s interests of the season. Next, by combining what inspired their content in Listening, with profile analysis in Social Analytics, they can measure the engagement outcomes on that content.

How Will Social Listening Impact My Social Strategy?

Ultimately, listening should become the first step you take as you create your social strategies. As social media continues to evolve, and inevitably becomes a staple in our marketing strategies, we can address (and hopefully solve) many of the pain points that social marketers experience. If you are experiencing any of the following challenges, listening may be just the tool you need to start building more effective social campaigns.

  • I sometimes get stuck in the same cycle of content creation—publishing the same types of messages and assets over and over again.
  • I sometimes hit creative road blocks and need inspiration.
  • I struggle to find influencers who have extensive reach and can increase engagement and interaction with my brand on social.
  • My competitors have an effective social strategy and I’m worried we aren’t keeping up.
  • I struggle to measure how earned media extends the reach and engagement of my social campaigns.

By becoming an active listener, you can fine-tune your social strategies and increase the effectiveness, resonance, and reach of your brand messages.

As mentioned above, actively listening to your audience helps you identify those loud voices – those influencers – that can help boost your brand conversation. Take a quick read from our blog post, “A Cheet Sheet for Working with Influencers.


Get everything you need to analyze the metrics that matter

How to Boost Content Creativity Using Social Data


Bryan Blackburn

Bryan is the Content Marketing Manager at Simply Measured. He spoils his dog, is a fitness fanatic, and loves research and writing.

Never Miss a Post!

Request a Demo