Rick Barron
Rick Barron 3 September 2019

There Is A Difference

The difference between social monitoring and social listening isn’t just semantic. Despite the fact that the two terms are often used interchangeably, they represent two entirely different strategies.

What is social listening?

Social listening is a way to track conversations about your business or industry that are happening in the digital space. If you aren’t doing social listening, you might only see direct mentions of your business when people write on your Facebook page or tweet at you – but there are so many more conversations happening that you may not see if you aren’t looking. With a strong social listening strategy, you can properly respond to trending topics in your industry, you can learn about any issues your customers might be having even if they haven’t taken the time to tell you about them, and you can keep an eye on competitors in order to find a way to outmaneuver them.

So, what’s the difference between social listening and social media monitoring?

The difference between social listening and social media monitoring is social listening dives into the unknown. It’s not just the comments or wall posts on your owned pages, it’s also mentions of your business or industry in blogs, on review sites, and in conversations, you aren’t tagged in. Social media monitoring is checking to see who’s talking to you and responding to them, while social listening is learning how your audience is talking about you when they think you aren’t listening.

Trees and the forest

Social monitoring addresses customers on a smaller scale. This is when care representatives or social media managers respond to incoming queries, issues, and comments. They monitor a feed of notifications and provide an answer or refer the person to the right department, as they might in a call center.

On a wider perspective, social listening looks at how customers discuss your brand on social media. It gathers that data from social monitoring and customer interactions, and pools it to build a more comprehensive view of what customers are saying and how your brand can help.

Think of it this way. Social monitoring is the trees; social listening is the forest. Social monitoring is the pixels; social listening is the picture.

Being proactive

Social monitoring is reactive. The customer makes the first move and reaches out to the brand on social media. In reaction, the care representative responds in a timely manner to solve an issue or answer a question. It’s a crucial social strategy to have. But those customer interactions shouldn’t stop there.

That’s where social listening, which is proactive, comes in. Social listening allows brands to take those short-term interactions and build them to glean insights for a long-term strategy.  Through social listening, you can also unearth trends among your industry, competitors, and consumer experiences. You can then make the necessary changes to stay ahead of the curve and keep customers happy.

Social monitoring can be done manually. That is, you can use Twitter or Tweetdeck notifications to easily monitor your mentions. But other than that, you can pretty much keep track of every incoming query.

Social listening, by contrast, requires more automation and robust technology to collect and measure data. In fact, Forrester found that 52% of social listening tool users considered measurement their top challenge. The right technology will allow you to automatically track keywords, trends, and brand mentions (with or without your handle). It can then aggregate and present that data in a way that is easy to understand and draw insights from. From there, you’ll be able to find patterns, uncover trends, and understand your audience without missing a beat.

Use the data wisely

People are talking about your brand on social media – whether you’re aware of it or not. That means they’re providing you with valuable data about what they need and want from your brand. You just have to be there to collect it and respond.

Helpful reading on social listening and social monitoring

  1. Social Media Monitoring vs. Social Media Listening
  2. The Top 25 Social Media Monitoring Tools
  3. What is Social Listening, Why it Matters
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