Lucy Zemljic

Lucy Zemljic

Content Creator

The Perks of Tuning in: Social Listening Benefits for Brands

We update, retweet, and double-tap. We follow, share, and friend. We go to social media to ask questions, express joy, or vent frustration. Sometimes, we gush about good or bad customer service experiences, express excitement about new products, or even talk about our favourite (or least favourite) brands.

User conversations offer a wealth of insight to brands around the world. The only issue? How to listen in on those discussions, and what to do with those insights.

Back in February, Associate Account Manager of Social at Catalyst, Qayam Sayani, explained why the time is right for brands to begin advertising on social media. And while paid social is a great way for brands to get their message heard – a megaphone, if you will – what about when brands treat social media like a telephone instead?

Enter social listening.

What is Social Listening?

Social listening is the active monitoring of user conversations on social media channels for specific words, phrases, or terms. It’s the practice of “listening” to online conversations happening on social media, then seeking to understand them. For brands, this also means leveraging the information gleaned from user conversations to inform their marketing strategy.

The terms “social listening” and “social media monitoring” are sometimes used interchangeably, although they shouldn’t be. The line between definitions can be a bit blurry – to help differentiate between the two, here is a helpful quote from Dan Neely of Marketing Profs:

Monitoring sees trees; listening sees the forest.

When you’re monitoring, you’re looking for every mention of your brand in the social stratosphere. When you’re listening, you’re taking it a step further – in addition to direct mentions, you’re noticing brand, industry or audience relevant patterns and sentiments then using these insights to inform your strategy.

Why Listen?

Statista reports that average social media usage worldwide per day has increased every year. In 2015, it was 106 minutes per day. All that time spent on social media means a lot of digital conversations, and that means a lot of data for brands to analyze – data that can prove immensely valuable for managing reputation, developing strategy, and more.

While only 24% of brands participate in social listening, a whopping 93% of shoppers admit that social media influences their buying decisions. What’s clear is that most of the time, brands miss out on the telling nuanced exchanges happening between customers and social media.

Social listening allows marketers to gain valuable insights that can actually improve the way their business functions – such as product development and customer service – and can help them to identify influencers, uncover sales opportunities, and build brand loyalty.

In a nutshell, social media listening should be one of several precursors to your brands’ overall marketing strategy, and should be conducted regularly.

What to Listen For

As you plan your listening strategy, your first step should be to figure out what to listen for.  Collect mentions of the following:

  • Your brand name misspellings and abbreviations
  • Your brands’ slogans, mottos, or key messages
  • Your competitors’ brands – including misspellings
  • Buzzwords or relevant keywords in your industry or to your audience
  • Key industry influencers
  • Names of key staff members (such as the CEO or public representatives)
  • Product names or keywords
  • Names of campaigns run by your brand

A great example of customer service – adding value to customer conversation in real-time – can be seen in this example highlighted by Sprout Social.


Zappos used social listening to monitor the digital world for any mention of their brand, before chiming in with a light-hearted comment.

The Best Listening Tools

While there are many platforms to help you listen in on social, we’ve whittled down the list to some top tools to add to your social-listening-toolbelt.

Google Alerts

The ever-adapting search giant offers a solid entry-level method for discovering what’s being said about your brand online. Simply set up an Alert for your brand name or any other relevant keyword, and you’ll be notified every time a website posts about you – a great way to begin your monitoring routine before taking a deep dive into conversation analysis.


Hootsuite allows you to consolidate and manage your social accounts, then monitor keywords and conversations in real-time. Afterwards, you can chime into a conversation yourself, or assign a response to another member of your team.


One of the newer tools out there, Mention allows you to monitor millions of sources – including social media, blogs, news sites, and even forums. It enables you to react in real-time, collaborate with your team, then analyze and report on your online presence.

If you begin your routine by using Google Alerts for social media monitoring, you can then use Hootsuite and Mention to go from monitoring to listening. This is where you can go from surveying to analyzing – from scanning the social stratosphere to evaluating your findings, identifying important themes, synthesizing data, and generating reports based on those findings.

If brands don’t pay attention to what’s being said on social media, they stand to miss out on a lot more than just some good conversation – and that’s something worth listening in on.

Lucy Zemljic

Lucy Zemljic is a Content Creator here at Catalyst Canada, working for globally recognized clients in the insurance and tourism sectors.

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