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Social Media Monitoring vs. Social Listening

Social Media Monitoring vs. Social Listening

Social media marketing is still relatively new and we’re all learning as this marketing channel continues to blossom and boom. Just like any other industry, SMM operates in both more straightforward and more complex ways.

For example, “authentic content” is a term that is easy to understand (and also an important caveat in millennial marketing) — it is what it says on the book cover. But not every social media concept is as that clear. This is becomes vividly apparent when we talk about social listening vs social media monitoring.

What’s the difference between social media listening and social media monitoring (and why does it matter)?

As we dig deeper, the difference between social media monitoring and social listening is becomes extremely visible. It can be seen in the goals you’ve been setting, the approach you chose, scale, tools you’ve been using, and complexity.

Here’s a convenient table of all the differences:

Social Media Monitoring

Goal - Conversion

Customer Interaction



Possible Without Tools

Social Media Listening

Diverse Goals

Data Analysis



Requires Tools

Let’s go through these qualities one by one to fully understand the core distinctions between these two concepts.

Understanding Scale: Micro vs. Macro

Social monitoring occurs at the micro-level: When you see customer’s mention your brand and depending on its content, you aptly thank them for a positive review or address their problem and try to help just like any other customer care specialist would.
Obviously, this interaction may lead to more: another user might get involved, your customer might contact you later with questions or requests, but in its nature, it’s a short-term personal interaction.
Social listening works on a much larger scale. While with monitoring you observe, collect, and get involved in individual conversations, social listening considers how your company, your products, your representatives, competitors, and markets are discussed on the whole.
As opposed to interacting with separate conversations, you interact with large amounts of social data and analyze it to gain valuable insights into customers’ perception of your company, competitors, social events and so on. There’s a common saying in the social media marketing world; which goes like “social monitoring is the trees; social listening is the forest.”

Business Goals: Specific vs. Diverse

You need to have goals pertaining to your social media strategy. The business goals that are achieved by social media monitoring comes down to two business processes related to social media:
customer support

Social Customer Care

social selling

Social Selling

Both include direct interactions with people and both aim to help and please either existing or potential customers. Essentially, you can set two business goals to benchmark your social media monitoring efforts: customer satisfaction and conversions.

What’s unique about social listening is that its possible applications are extremely diverse. You can set a myriad of businesses goals for your social media listening strategy.

These goals can be raising brand awareness, modifying your product based on the competitors’ strategies, carrying out a successful marketing campaign that corresponds with your target audience’s values, etc.

reactive vs proactive strategy

Approach: Reactive vs. Proactive

Majority of the articles centered around social media monitoring start with the same, lame scary story of an unhappy customer being ignored by a company. Or, you sometimes receive a happy story, where a customer got a response in no time and noticed such excellent social media support. Brava!

While both these stories have a completely different outcome, they still have a common thread – they illustrate the reactive approach to social media. The principle of the reactive approach lies in being pre-emptive, meaning you need an instigating message to react or respond to. Even the process of social selling (when you use social media monitoring to find potential customers on social media) requires a post from a user indicating their interest in a certain product to respond to.

Obviously, the reactive approach is extremely important, we don’t think we need to tell you about the perils of ignoring your customers. What social listening allows you to do is to gather all these individual posts from people, see the bigger picture, and act on it.

For example, social media monitoring may enable you to help a customer with a pair of speakers not working properly, and social listening allows you to notice that the highest number of mentions you get is about wireless speakers, and make a conclusion that those are pretty popular.

Moreover, the social data you analyze doesn’t have to be based on your mentions. You can get tons of valuable insights by listening to conversations about your competitors, your customer’s needs, recent events in your industry and so on. Social media listening fuels new ideas and shows you the course of actions you need to take to improve your businesses — that’s why it’s proactive.

Tools: Manual vs. Automatic

Social media monitoring is not a new. Even if you haven’t heard the term before, you are probably already taking these actions on a regular basis: you probably check your notifications and direct messages daily to see if anyone has reached out. This is social media management 101 and can be done manually, meaning, you don’t need any specific tools to find and respond to these mentions.

Native search capabilities of the social media platforms even enable you to look for misspellings and untagged mentions of your company to make sure you don't miss a single customer trying to communicate.

We’re not saying that you don’t need a social media monitoring tool at all. Automation and integration is the key. Utilizing a tool enables you to:

Receive notifications every time someone mentions your company

Organize mentions chronologically

View negative mentions first

Group mentions, further simplifying your workflow

Also note; study after study shows that your response time is extremely important when it comes too engaging with customer’s — people literally expect to be answered within an hour. To further establish the point, if you get more than just a couple of mentions a day, a social media monitoring tool becomes essential — it’s impossible to deal with the influx of customer’s posts without it.

Social listening, on the other hand, is impossible without a social listening tool. You simply cannot gather large amounts of data and analyze it manually; life just doesn’t work like you’ve taken the limitless pill. According to research conducted by Forrester, 52% of social listening tool users considered social data analysis their top challenge. So utilizing such tools allow you to collect and analyze social data that is not directly related to your company, which proves to be vital for marketing research.

You can’t see patterns and trends just by looking at raw data. The true power of social listening lies in analysis and data visualization, which is done by a social listening tool. For example, the standalone number of mentions you get every day won’t tell you much, but if you look at the graph depicting the overall change in the number of mentions during the last quarter, the changes in your brand awareness level will be visible immediately. Your social media third eye awakes from its dormancy.

A social listening tool is what makes the meaning behind numbers visible, so trying to do social listening without a tool is like trying to cook without pots and pans.

We’ve laid out this dichotomy between social media monitoring and social media listening to illustrate their differences clearly, but the thing is, you can and should do both simultaneously AND with just one tool. Some tools that work with social mentions emphasize either monitoring or listening in their functionality, but the best of them offer features that enable you to do both at the same time.

social media monitoring

Social Media Monitoring Workflow

Needless to say, the first step for both monitoring and listening should be setting up alerts. An alert may contain several keywords and keyword combinations as well as some conditions. Let’s say you want to find mentions from a specific country. For monitoring, you’re probably going to set up an alert for your brand name. Don’t forget to include abbreviations, misspellings, and your social media handles.

You can then automatically sort conversations in chronological order so you can address the latest right away. You be able to get involved in these conversations right away. This also helps with lead generation as you can gauge a prospects interest in your product or brand’s services.

Social Listening Workflow

The first step is pretty similar: you need to create an alert. As we mentioned above, you can utilize social media listening in many different ways and they all come down to keywords you’ll choose to monitor. Your alert can contain:

Your company name

Names of your products

Your marketing campaign name and associated hashtags

Your competitors

Niche-related terms

Anything else your imagination and business needs may produce

A relevant event

In Conclusion

You should now be aware that the question of social media monitoring vs. social listening isn’t a question at all, but rather two sides to the same coin. Both should be a part of your social media strategy and both are easily done with if you work with us.

razan mahgoub
razan mahgoub