Social Listening: Listening and Engagement

Imagine that you are responsible for the social media marketing for a small company. Unfortunately, one of your company’s products has a small defect and customers have been complaining about this product on social media. If you aren’t aware of these posts and don’t take steps to address the issue, your company’s reputation could be jeopardized. But because you listen to your customers on social media and engage with them to address their concerns, you’re able to keep your company’s reputation intact. That brings us to the 3rd pillar of social media marketing: listening and engagement.

The important of social listening

You’ve published multiple posts on the social media platforms you’ve selected for your campaign, now what? To find out how people are reacting to these posts, you need to use social listening. Social listening refers to tracking and analyzing conversations and trends related to your brand. It helps you understand what people think about your brand, which can inform your marketing and product development decisions moving forward.

Social listening is a two steps process. Step one involves monitoring social media platforms for mentions of your brand, product services, competitors, and any related keywords. Step two is when you analyze the information you’ve collected and plan actions based on what you’ve learned. These actions can be as small as responding to a dissatisfied customer or as big as adjusting your entire social media strategy.

Social listening is a key part of your social media marketing for several reasons. To begin with, social listening helps you understand the social media sentiment around your brand. Social media sentiment is the attitude and feelings people have about your brand on social media. Learning how people feel about your brand helps you identify what’s working with your social media marketing strategy and where you need to make changes.

Social listening also provides an opportunity for you to engage with your customers and followers about your brand. For example, if a customer comments about how much they love your product or asks a question, this is a great opportunity for you to engage with them directly. Customers want to feel heard on social media, and responding to them can elicit brand loyalty and increase customer retention rates.

When there is negative social media sentiment being expressed about your brand, social listening can help you pinpoint its cause and address the issue. What are your customer’s pain points? Can you offer a solution to the problems people are talking about? You can escalate the issues to other departments in the company. Let’s say there is an issue with ordering from several users. You can alert the IT department and let customers know that you are addressing it. You want to be mindful of what message you share to respond to individual users directly versus those you post publicly. An issue impacting a small group of people may not be affecting the majority of your audience and posting publicly about the issue may bring more attention to it.

Social listening is a great tool for analyzing the competition. It allows you to learn what your competitors are up to and find out how their customers feel about it. For instance, you might learn that your competitors’ customers are unhappy with a particular product. Then you could strategize ways to improve upon a similar product. Or you might find that some of your competitor’s content outperforms your own. You could analyze why their content resonates well with your shared audience and make adjustments to your content accordingly.

You can also use social listening to increase customer acquisition. Social media provides many opportunities for reaching potential new customers. After all, your followers aren’t just your existing customers, they’re also people who simply have an interest in your content.

Using social listening you can discover the kinds of content your followers enjoy. Then you can create content that appeals to them and potentially draws them into your brand. Social listening will be a key component of your social media campaigns. The insights you gain from social listening can help you create content your followers are interested in, come up with new ideas based on trends in your industry, and adjust your marketing strategy to fit the current marketplace.

Social listening strategies

Now that you know what social listening is and why it’s important, let’s discuss how to do it.

To get started with social listening, you’ll need to identify the keywords people use most when discussing your brand. In the previous post, you learned about doing keyword research for search engine optimization. For SEO, you find the keywords customers search for the most and put those on your webpage to help people find your content. For social listening, you identify the keywords that will help you find conversations about your brand. You want to use the keywords that are most relevant to your and your competitor’s brands. Brand and product names include any variations or common misspellings, slogans, names of key people in the company, industry buzzwords, and hashtags related to the brand. Hashtags are the kind of digital label that help people find content across social media platforms.

What is hashtag? Designed by Lylyna Heng
What is hashtag? Designed by Lylyna Heng

Once you’ve identified the best keywords to use, you’ll need to determine where you’re going to listen to them. For example, people may talk differently about your business, on LinkedIn than they do on Facebook. Or they might mention your business more frequently on Twitter than on Instagram. To develop the best strategies for different platforms, you’ll need to listen to how people are talking about you on each of them.

Next, you’ll want to find out what people are saying about your brand. Search for the answers to questions like what customers like most about your brand. What are their most common issues? What are their most frequently asked questions? What are the associations people have with your brand? What kind of content do people share about your brand? These questions help you identify customer comments, issues, and sentiments around your brand. Understanding how people feel about your brand and products can help you improve your strategy. You’ll get insights into the feelings people have around your brand and the specific product or features they’re most interested in. Instead of just acting on your assumptions, you’ll understand what your customer truly needs.

You’ll also use social listening to assess your competition. Evaluate things about your competition, like which of their content is performing better than yours. And how could you improve your content to resonate better with your shared audience? Which of their products are customers dissatisfied with? And what learnings could you apply to improve your products? What new products or solutions they are offering and how do they compare to your offerings? Social listening can also highlight what your competitors do and don’t do well. Thereby, it saves you time and money not making the same mistake.

Social listening can help you learn what’s happening in your industry, such as trends or how the market is performing. Are there any gaps in the industry that a new product or solution could help solve? Are there any major events or issues happening in the world that are relevant to your brand? Which frequently asked questions could you create content around to address your audience’s needs?

To help you implement all of these social listening tactics, you could use a social listening tool.

Social listening tool designed by Lylyna Heng
Social listening tool designed by Lylyna Heng

Case study: HowEatMoveRest improves content with social listening

This case study describes how Erin and Dusty Stanczyk, founders of the Omaha, Nebraska-based healthy lifestyle brand EatMoveRest, successfully incorporated social listening to improve their content.

Company background

EatMoveRest operates under the belief that people do three things every day–eat, move, and rest. They should be doing them as best as they possibly can. EatMoveRest was established to coach people to achieve healthy and sustainable lifestyles. As part of its business model, EatMoveRest offers vegan meal planning, plant-based recipes, expert advice, coaching, and practical tips for sustainable living.

The challenges

Social listening is a big task for a business of any size. However, the main challenge for small businesses, like EatMoveRest, is there is too much feedback and not enough time to go through all the data, much less analyze it to make business or content decisions. Three of the challenges are:

  • A large volume of user comments
    YouTube and Instagram comments are endless. Users are free to give feedback whenever they choose, and it can be overwhelming to read, track, and respond to it all.
  • No barriers or limits on expression in a feedback
    Many user comments are positive and constructive, but there are plenty of negative and sometimes hateful comments, too. There are no barriers to expression. It can be hard to identify useful feedback from thousands of people.
  • Inability to reply to or address every comment
    Addressing the input from a large number of followers can be a difficult task to navigate. With the sheer volume of YouTube and Instagram comments, it’s impossible to post replies to all users.

The approach

The Stanczyks recommend these best practices or tips for social listening:

  • Identify which channel is a priority to review comments.
    EatMoveRest prioritized the comments on its YouTube channel over other social media channels. The Stanczyks prioritized reading through and responding to these comments to make their viewers feel like they are a part of the EatMoveRest community. The opinions of these subscribers matter the most to the brand. 
  • Offer followers designated times to provide feedback via chosen methods.
    EatMoveRest started providing its followers with designated times and methods to provide feedback. It encourages more constructive feedback and less noisy comments.
    Having a Q&A feature on Instagram is another method. It allows them to create a submission box right below their posted content. It organizes the feedback in one location so it can replay to the user promptly.

The results

By prioritizing the review of YouTube comments and implementing designated times and methods for social listening, the Stanczyks discovered two problems and addressed them accordingly.

Reversing changes to content

Much of EatMoveRest’s social media content takes the format of “a day in the life of the Stanczyk family.” Many young families find these types of videos to be a reflection of their own lives. They appreciate the vibrant colors and uplifting music results in positive reinforcement of their lifestyle choices. When one of their music videos sounds darker, subscribers let them know about it. The off-content like animal agriculture was not preferred by their subscribers. These feedbacks allow EatMoveRest to reflect and work on what is working for the brand.

Improving the meal planning app

EatMoveRest also discovered an issue with its new meal planning app through social listening. After the launch of the app, Stanczyks started getting Q&A feedback on Instagram that the recipes displayed were old. EatMoveRest heard the customers and started to update the recipes in the app more frequently.


A business needs to actively listen on social media to understand how users are interacting with its brand. Feedback will be positive and constructive, negative and biased, or sometimes contentious. The business can benefit a lot from social listening in improving its content to ensure a positive user experience.

Popular social listening tools

There are countless social listening tools on the market, and choosing the right one can be a big task. Let’s look at the most popular tools out there. Feel free to browse their sites and test them out to see which tool you prefer.

HubSpot Social Media Management Software

HubSpot does many things, but as a social listening tool, it offers integration for all types of marketing and analytics in one place. Users can target specific audiences using the contacts database built into the customer relationship management tool, and then track and manage the engagement their brand gets from those interactions. HubSpot allows you to reply directly to any tags, mentions and comments directly in the interface. The best part is that you can try it for free for an unlimited time before getting serious about upgrading.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a comprehensive social media management tool with features similar to HubSpot. It’s comprehensive in that users can post content via their publishing tools, and users can manage social listening and customer service needs. Users find Sprout Social favorable because it allows them to discover trends from within their mentions and comments. It provides valuable insights into their audiences. allows for direct communication between social media users and your business’s internal team members when necessary. also includes a feature called the Engage inbox, which allows users to handle private messaging communications effectively.


Hootsuite allows you to create and schedule content, monitor activity and mentions, and manage communication across all your supported social accounts in one dashboard. Hootsuite also suggests the best time to post, based on your data, and allows for team collaboration on all messages in Hootsuite Inbox.

Happy learning and good luck!

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