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Social Listening for Digital Marketing Success


An old proverb says, “Listen before you speak”. Social listening follows this wise approach. When wanting to understand your target group, you first must listen to them. Social listening is not a new concept but has been practiced since the emergence of social media. Nevertheless, the term is currently being used increasingly often. Yet this still does not clarify how exactly social listening works and why this concept can lead to a true marketing turnaround for many companies.

What is Social Listening?

Social listening describes the observation and monitoring of one’s own social media presence concerning mentions of one’s brand, product, and competitors. This means that the company and its closer environment are observed in detail.

This data is regularly compiled, evaluated, and analyzed, with the results subsequently being incorporated into practical implementation. By doing so it is possible to determine how the target group thinks about the company and their competitors and whether there are any changes in this regard. Thought leaders, pain points and new trends in the branch can be identified reliably. Tactical and strategic developments of campaigns are also clearly and relentlessly visible. Missteps, as well as hits, are recognized in real-time and appropriate measures can be taken.

Social listening is fundamentally similar to determining the share of voice. However, social listening goes far beyond that. It fulfills the function of generating specific content and analysis that can help form the tactical approach.

How does Social Listening work?

Often, social listening is associated with expensive tools that take over the entire evaluation in a very short time and provide efficient analysis. Depending on the size of the company, such tools can be quite useful. However, as long as the social media presence is still manageable, they can be dispensed with.

In social listening, it is important to clearly define in advance what is being searched for. There are different ways to do this:

  • Own company name or products
  • Company name or products of competitors
  • Industry-specific buzzwords
  • Your advertising slogan and the slogans of your competitors
  • The names of key people in your company and your competitors’ companies (CEO, spokesperson, etc.)
  • Your brand hashtags and those of your competitors
  • Non-branded hashtags that relate to your industry
  • Campaign titles or keywords

As soon as the search targets are clearly defined, all social media platforms have to be searched by using the appropriate search function.

A systematic approach is essential here to work effectively without losing the overall view. The initial point is usually the comment section under one’s posts. Then there are the social media profiles of competitors and industry-relevant sites. These can be magazines and influencers or thought leaders that cover various topics in your industry. It is important here not only to pay attention to the content of the publishers but also to dive into the crowd and pay attention to the opinions and thoughts voiced in the comments section.
In conclusion, the selected keywords should also be searched in the hashtags to find more opinions that go deeper in the trenches of the social media platforms.

It quickly becomes obvious that such an analysis, if done correctly and effectively, is very time-consuming and extensive. Therefore, without professional support or tools, a social listening analysis is usually not done weekly. Bi-weekly, monthly or another set rotation is recommended. However, a quarterly analysis is not advisable in the fast-moving social media world, because this way the most important information might be irrelevant or too late already when being found.

In our next article we will cover more on the appropriate tools for efficient social listening, as well as further application tips.

Social Listening vs. Social Monitoring

Finally, the question remains how social listening and social monitoring are different from each other. After all, both deal with the analysis of social media presence.

Both terms are very close to each other in reality. Social monitoring is also performed on an ongoing basis to keep abreast of current developments. The big difference, however, is that social media monitoring is based on key performance indicators such as likes, interaction rates and the number of comments.

Social listening, on the other hand, looks at the content of comments as well as mentions and aims to identify the mood and motives behind them. This allows conclusions to be drawn about current events on a less technical and mechanical, but more human and psychological level.


About the author

Lukas Huber HBI

Lukas Huber

Marketing Assistant at HBI Helga Bailey GmbH – International PR & MarCom

Lukas Huber has been part of HBI’s marketing team since 2020. As Marketing Assistant, his responsibilities include the development of marketing campaigns, social media management and the creation of specialized articles.

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