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Social Listening: How to Use Customer Conversations to Drive Growth

Social listening can supercharge your business with ideas and inform your entire strategy. Here's a guide to help you use social listening to your advantage!

Danielle Hixenbaugh
By Danielle Hixenbaugh
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Edited by Mayple staff

Updated November 20, 2023.

Social Listening: How to Use Customer Conversations to Drive Growth main image

When you want to know what people say about your brand in their conversations, social media is the playground -- and social listening is the name of the game.

Think of it this way: social media platforms are a goldmine of data that can provide insight into how people feel about a particular topic (or business -- yours, for example.)

When you tap into this data, you can adapt your business to improve customer experience, create a more positive workplace for your team, and enhance your brand.

But to make the most of this treasure trove of information, you first need to listen. And that's where social listening comes in.

So, what exactly is social listening, how does it work, and how can you use social listening tools to gain a deeper understanding of your customers?

In this post, we'll dive into the difference between social listening and monitoring, explore the top tools, and provide eight easy steps to get started. Plus, we'll highlight the top social listening metrics to track for each campaign.

Ready to optimize your social listening strategy? Let's get started.

What is social listening?

Social listening is a branch of social media management that allows businesses to monitor and analyze key online discussions about their brand, competitors, or industry. Unlike the more "traditional" social media management (where you build social media posts and measure engagement with them), social listening relies on "eavesdropping" into conversations people are having outside of your main social pages.

What is the difference between social listening and social monitoring?

Both social listening and social monitoring are essential in social media management. However, there's a key difference between the two.

Social media monitoring tools track your brand's social accounts and help you respond to questions, customer service issues, or complaints. The whole concept is a reactive approach that allows you to better manage your brand's reputation online.

On the other hand, social listening is a proactive approach that involves monitoring online discussions about your brand on social media channels. It helps you understand your audience's needs, interests, and preferences by tracking mentions of your brand, industry trends, and competitor activity. This information can help you make informed decisions about your social media marketing strategy and improve customer engagement.

In short, social monitoring is focused on managing customer service issues, while social listening is focused on gaining insights to improve your overall social media plan.


The benefits of using social listening for your business

According to the State of Social Listening 2022 by Social Media Today, nearly 61% of businesses have implemented a new social media listening strategy and are monitoring social conversations for keyword mentions. In addition, over 82% of businesses view social listening as a key planning element.

Below are some key benefits of using social listening for businesses and how to leverage this powerful tool to achieve your social media marketing goals.

Understand your audience

Social listening can help you better understand your audience's needs, preferences, and pain points. For example, you can analyze conversations about your brand on social media and discover that your audience expresses negative sentiments towards your unsustainable packaging. With this information, you could take action and source more sustainable packaging solutions for your products.

Develop better products

You can identify areas where your products could be improved by analyzing customer feedback and reviews. For instance, some customer social media posts may contain negative mentions concerning the number of toxins in your products. This should indicate that your customers would appreciate more eco-friendly ingredients in your skincare line.

Research your competitors

Social listening can also help you understand your competitors and their actions. For example, by tracking mentions of your competitors on social media, you can stay up-to-date on their latest product releases or marketing campaigns.

Increase customer acquisition

Identifying potential customers who talk about your brand on social platforms can help you reach out to them and engage them in a conversation. For instance, if someone tweets about wanting to try a new skincare product, you could reply with a personalized recommendation for one of your products.

Discover industry trends

Social listening can also help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends in your industry. For instance, you can monitor conversations about clean beauty on social media and discover that this is an emerging trend that your brand should capitalize on.

Improve campaign targeting

Social media listening can help you gain insights into which types of messaging and content resonate best with your audience. For example, if you notice that your audience responds well to humor, you can incorporate more of a humorous tone into your content strategy.

Improve your online reputation

Social listening can also help you monitor and manage your brand's online reputation. For instance, tracking social media brand mentions can help you quickly and professionally address negative mentions or reviews.

Top 7 best social listening tools to use

Having the right tools is essential if you want to do social listening the right way. To help you choose from the myriad available social listening tools, we've narrowed your search and highlighted 7 of the top ones:

Sprout Social

Sprout Social offers a comprehensive social media management platform with advanced social listening capabilities, including sentiment analysis, competitor analysis, and a Smart Inbox.


On the other hand, Hootsuite focuses on direct mentions of your brand and industry keywords with its Insights feature, while its Analytics feature provides detailed engagement metrics. leverages artificial intelligence to assist with social media content creation but also includes sentiment analysis, and tracking of brand and industry keyword mentions across social media.


Hubspot's Marketing Hub includes a Social Monitoring tool and Social Inbox to track social media conversations and mentions of brand and industry keywords.


Awario offers social listening across social media, blogs, forums, and more, with customizable alerts, sentiment analysis, and competitor analysis.


Buffer's Analyze plan includes sentiment analysis, keyword tracking, and customizable dashboards to visualize data.


Keyhole offers a comprehensive social listening and analytics tool with influencer tracking and real-time analytics to monitor social media campaign performance.

Each tool has unique features, making it essential to choose the one that best fits your specific needs.

Getting started with social listening in 8 easy steps

Social listening may sound like something out of a spy movie, but it doesn't have to be that complicated. Here are eight essential tips to help you maximize the efficiency of social listening and reach your business goals.

1. Choose your social media listening tool

When choosing a social listening tool, it's important to consider your budget, the features you need to support your business strategy, and the platforms you want to monitor. Some tools may have advanced sentiment analysis capabilities, while others focus more on influencer tracking. It's essential to do your research and choose a tool that fits your specific needs and budget.

2. Pick your goal

Defining your goals upfront is crucial for any social listening strategy. What are your initial goals? Are you looking to track brand mentions and sentiment? Monitor your competitors? Identify emerging trends in your industry? Run consumer research to understand your consumer pain points better?

Having a clear goal in mind will help you stay focused and measure the success of your efforts.

3. Get tactical

Once you have a clear goal, it's time to get tactical. Decide which social media platforms you want to monitor and how frequently you want to monitor them (but remember this will likely influence your average response time too.)

Assign someone responsible for your social listening efforts to ensure consistency and efficiency. It may sound easier and more cost-efficient to just put this on your social media manager's or content manager's plate -- but it can wear them out very fast and it won't lead to actually insightful results.

4. Choose your data sources

Identify the social platforms and online sources you want to monitor, such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogs, and news sites. As a general rule, you want to focus on the platforms your audience is likely to go to more frequently (regardless of whether you're already concentrating your marketing efforts there.)

5. Build your topics and keywords

Determine the relevant topics and keywords you want to track. This could include your brand name, industry keywords, competitor names, consumer pain points, etc. Be specific and intentional with your keyword choices and topics so that you can track the right conversations.

6. Gather data

Use your social listening tool to gather data on the popular topics and keywords you track. This could include direct social media mentions, sentiment analysis, and more. Regularly check your data to stay up-to-date on any changes or trends.


7. Measure the results

Once you've gathered data, it's time to analyze it to see what social insights you can glean. Look for emerging consumer trends or patterns, and pay attention to what people say about your brand, products, or industry. Use this information for in-depth consumer research, marketing, and social media strategy moving forward.

8. Optimize

Use your insights to make informed decisions about your social media strategy. This could include adjusting your messaging, targeting, or product offerings to better fit your consumer pain points.

Remember that this needs to be a continuous effort: the more you hear about your target audience in your social media consumer research, the more you should implement it in your overall business strategy.

There's no finite game in social media monitoring and listening. You need to be listening to positive comments, as well as bad comments, to really learn more about your buyers, what drives their customer loyalty, and how you can drive more meaningful insights to inform your marketing efforts.

Top social listening metrics to track for each campaign

Eavesdropping into customer conversations is one thing -- but if you want to scale your insights and assess them correctly, you also need to know how to measure the right metrics. Here are some of the social listening-related numbers to keep an eye on:

Share of voice

Share of voice is a social listening metric that measures the volume of mentions and conversations about your brand compared to your competitors. It's an important metric to track because it can help you determine your brand's market share and identify gaps in your strategy. By analyzing your share of voice, you can understand how your brand is being perceived in the market and whether you are effectively reaching your target audience.

To calculate your share of voice, you need to track the number of mentions your brand receives compared to your direct and indirect competitors. This can be done manually or by using a social listening tool that provides share of voice analytics. Once you have this data, you can calculate the percentage of total brand mentions that belong to your brand and your competitors.

Sentiment analysis

Sentiment analysis is a crucial social listening metric because it helps you understand your overall brand perception. Positive comments or sentiment indicates that people have a favorable opinion of your brand and are likely to recommend it to others. Negative comments, on the other hand, suggest that there are issues with your brand that you need to address.

It's important to note that sentiment analysis is not always 100% accurate (as social intelligence tools can only go so far.) While many social listening platforms use algorithms to analyze sentiment, they may not always correctly identify a social post's tone.

This is especially true for posts that use sarcasm, irony, or other forms of figurative language social media users may employ. It's important to manually review posts flagged as negative or positive to ensure the sentiment is accurate.

Despite its limitations, sentiment analysis is still a valuable social listening metric that can provide insights into how your brand is perceived online. By monitoring the tone of online conversations about your brand over time, you can track changes in customer perception and make strategic decisions regarding your marketing.

Engagement rate

The engagement rate measures the level of interaction your content receives on social media. It includes likes, shares, comments, and other interactions that users have with your content. By tracking engagement rate, you can gain valuable insights into the types of content resonating with your social audience and adjust your social media strategy accordingly.

A high engagement rate indicates that your content connects with your target audience and generates interest in your brand. Conversely, a low engagement rate suggests your content is not resonating with your audience, and you may need to refine your social media strategy.

To improve your engagement rate, you can experiment with different types of content, such as videos, images, and blog posts, to see which generates the most interaction. You can also try to increase engagement by encouraging your audience to participate in conversations, asking for feedback, and responding to comments.

Conversion rate

This metric measures how effective your social media marketing is at driving users to take a specific action, such as purchasing, filling out a form, or subscribing to a newsletter. By tracking conversion rate, you can determine which types of content and campaigns are most effective at driving conversions and optimize your social media strategy accordingly.

The conversion rate is calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the number of clicks or interactions. For example, if you run a Facebook ad campaign that generates 100 clicks and ten conversions (such as ten sales), your conversion rate would be 10%.

Knowing your conversion rate can help you decide which social channels and campaigns are worth investing in and which ones may need improvement. By identifying the types of content and campaigns that drive the highest conversion rates, you can focus on creating and promoting similar content that is more likely to convert users into customers. Additionally, by monitoring conversion rates over time, you can track the effectiveness of your social media strategy changes and adjust your approach as needed to improve results.

By tracking these social listening metrics, you can gain valuable insights into your brand's online presence and make data-driven decisions to improve your social media strategy.

Unlock the Power of Social Listening to Connect with Your Customers and Transform Your Business

Social listening is a powerful tool to help your brand stay on top of customer conversations, identify emerging trends and pain points, and ultimately create more meaningful and effective social media advertising strategies. By listening to your audience and analyzing their conversations, you can gain valuable insights that will allow you to optimize your approach and build deeper connections with your customers.

So why wait? Start implementing social listening into your social media strategy today and see the difference it can make for your brand. Remember, the key to success is not just talking, but listening.


What is the goal of social listening?

The goal of social listening is to keep track of pertinent discussions on social media networks, comprehend the underlying mood or attitude, and devise a marketing plan that positively influences the sentiment.

How can you improve my social listening?

You can improve your social listening with the help of social listening tools. This will help you monitor multiple sources and use relevant keywords and hashtags to analyze social listening data. Eventually, social listening will help you engage with your audience and identity new opportunities for your business.

What is an example of social listening?

By engaging in social media listening, you can better understand what your audience desires from your brand. Here is an example of social listening: a current customer expresses their satisfaction with your product on Twitter, or you may come across a discussion where individuals seek solutions that your product or service can offer.

What is the most important aspect of social listening?

The most important aspect of social listening is achieving a balance between listening and speaking, especially when comprehending the requirements of the other individual, as you are attuned to their emotional state. Just like in relationships, where attentive listening is pivotal to maintaining a healthy dynamic, social listening plays a similar role in social media marketing.

What are the main limitations of social listening?

Despite the benefits of social listening, there are several main limitations to consider, such as incomplete data, lack of context, language barriers, and privacy concerns. Furthermore, you may sometimes find it difficult to measure sentiments, especially when considering slang, sarcasm, or irony, which can skew your results.