Is anyone out there listening? [Social Media Listening for Businesses]

2020 Social Media and Digital Marketing Tips For Businesses
December 24, 2017
social media training for employees alberta
Social media doesn’t happen in a vacuum (think, before you think, before you post!)
January 7, 2018
Show all

Is anyone out there listening? [Social Media Listening for Businesses]

What is social media listening and why should my business care?

Businesses and brands who are serious about serving their customers and evolving to meet their needs should implement some form of social listening. Here are a few reasons why.

What is social listening?

Quite simply, social listening is when you listen for specific mentions, words, phrases for your business or competitors online using software (free and paid.) It differs from typical monitoring based on action taken. Social Media monitoring is when you strictly monitor for words but don’t necessarily do anything with that intelligence. For example, you may get Facebook notifications that your business has been tagged in a post but you don’t do anything (*Not even reply… shudder.)

As we know, the internet is a big place, where you can be mentioned without knowing it. Certain monitoring software can pick up words and phrases in any place that’s considered ‘public’ space (social channels, blogs, reviews etc.) But Social Listening is more than just monitoring the mentions of your company directly (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube notifications or reviews on Google, Yelp, etc.) It shows you what’s being said, the sentiment (positive, negative, neutral) and the insights (areas you are doing well, areas where you can improve) to take action. Not only can you learn about your own business, brand – but you can learn competitor insights as well. (Imagine knowing pain point of their customers; talk about flipping that intelligence to your advantage!)

Universal Business Challenges:

  • Risk of losing customers. No matter what product or service we offer, there could be something bigger and better out there.
  • Increased/Decreased Sales. Both can be a problem. If you increase sales too much, you may not have the inventory or resources in place to service those sales. On the flip side, decreased sales is also a headache for obvious reasons.
  • Customer service satisfaction. We don’t have a business without our customers. A challenge is balancing their expectations with the business.
  • Retaining talent and reducing turnover. It costs a lot of money to find talent (and customers.) It’s more efficient and cost-effective to keep what we have.

Every business faces the above universal challenges. However, depending on size and resources the way that each business tackles these challenges can differ.Monitoring and listening allows you to react in real-time, potentially before the above begin to happen. But what if you don’t realize that a problem exists?

Imagine this:  You sign your business up for social listening software. In the first week you get a notification that someone on Twitter is complaining about your user manual – ‘it’s too complicated’. Your first step is to respond to them to thank them for feedback and let them know how you’re going to fix it. Your next step is to review that manual and make improvements. The beauty of listening is that we can get golden nuggets of feedback; chances are just because one person complained there are likely others who feel the same. Your final step is to email the list of customers who bought that product and send them the updated manual. In this situation, you accomplish a couple of things: (1) you show your customers that you listen and are responsive and (2) proactive; let’s say only a couple others complained about the manual but they may appreciate you proactively sending a fresh copy out.

Why should businesses of all sizes participating in social listening?

If you want to learn how the market really feels about your product, you’ll listen. Via social media listening you can:

Get a temperature check of the business or brand. The world would be marvellous if everyone loved everything about us, but the cold fact is that some people will love us, some will hate us. Getting a temperature check and learning the sentiment of our business helps differentiate between comments that are useful and comments that are not. One comment that your product sucks isn’t the same as thousands of comments.

alberta social media listening for brand health


Leverage insights to guide marketing and communications. Whether it’s content or campaigns, you can use these insights such as pain points, problems and positive posts to help guide your next move. If you’re WestJet you may learn that 90% of your customer service time on social media is spent responding to people about delays. Is there something you can do to get ahead of this through your marketing and communications? You may also learn about pain points your audience is having with a competitor. Perhaps you have the solution – leverage it!


west jet social media complaint response


Guide Product and/or Service Decisions. A few comments that your product is terrible isn’t necessarily critical. You need to take into consideration context (did you sell a million products? was it a defect?) or did you only sell a handful on easy and they are just garbage?


listen using social media to customer pain points alberta


Enhance customer experience. If you use software that allows for real-time monitoring and listening (*meaning that it picks up phrases and words immediately posted online) you have the chance to respond quickly. Currently, many customers expect a response within 60 minutes. Imagine how delighted your customers would be if you followed through on this?

example of social media customer service alberta

How does my business start social listening?

Here is a list of tools to check out. Some are free and some are paid. Depending on the tool, you’ll notice that some can be quite simple to set up and use, while others are a bit more complex (ask me about learning to appropriately boolean…) At this point I’ve tested many of the tools below, so if you have any questions I’d be happy to answer!

  1. –
  2. Google Alerts –
  3. Perch –
  4. SocialMention –
  5. Sprout Social –
  6. Similar Web –
  7. SEMRush –
  8. Brand24 –
  9. IBM Watson
  10. Sprinklr –
  11. TrueSocialMetrics –
  12. BirdEye –
  13. Sysomos

Final Example:

For example, let’s say your business launches a new line of wine called Housewives Rose (you must’ve known at some point I would sneak a RH example in!)

You know your audience, you’ve set up and optimized all your channels, you consistently post content, have great engagement that lead to lots of sales. Through social monitoring and listening, you begin to notice that every week people are commenting about having a hard time getting your wine. After a few weeks of monitoring, you see a trend: these comments come in on Fridays. You learn through listening that it’s one particular shop in Beverly Hills.

You backtrack. Every Monday, you supply and stock that particular shop with your wine.  When you look at your sales reports, sure enough, no sales on the weekend. Why?

As you start listening to the comments and digging into that particular audience you realize that sales peak earlier in the week in alignment with a an insanely popular reality TV series called “Real Housewives.” Locals in cities featured on the show pick up wine and have viewing parties. By the end of the week, the supplies are gone. Through social listening, you learn that sales cycles follow episodes of the Real Housewives reality TV series. When the show is on, the wine sells out. When the show is off-air, the wine sits on the shelves.

Through monitoring and listening, you learn how people are enjoying your wine; when you need to stock up and when you need to slow things down.

Other Blogs:

Get Started With Social Media Management
What is a social media competitive analysis and why does my small business need one?
How should businesses create a plan for social media and how will they track their success?
Social media training: where to start

Do you need help with social media? Give me a buzz!  🙂

Kat Macaulay, BA ADdPR BnC
Kat Macaulay, BA ADdPR BnC
Kat Macaulay is a Marketing Strategist, Writer + Speaker known for her no-nonsense approach to pretty much everything. Using data insights, she helps organizations market more effectively to get results that matter. She's also a high-scoring instructor at Mount Royal University, where she teaches Social Media Analytics and Google Analytics + Marketing Measurement. She holds certifications from Google, as well as Facebook and is currently working toward a specialization in Marketing Analytics and a certificate in Data Science from IBM. When she’s not busy juggling kids, volunteering + work, she’s busy planning her retirement to Cape Breton.