The amount of data that is shared online every second of every day, across all corners of the world, is now as hard to comprehend as the size of the galaxy is. Every hour, millions of Tweets are sent and Instagram and Facebook posts are uploaded, leading us to an amount of information available on social media that is impossible to keep track of. Widely referred to as “content shock” or “information overload,” this bombardment of data is making it increasingly challenging for brands to get themselves heard on any platform at any given time, let alone make sense of all the customer information at their fingertips – as it is just too much.

What Happens Online in 60 Seconds

Social media listening

Every day around the world, 1.4 billion people log on to Facebook, 500 million Tweets are sent and 95 million photos are shared on Instagram. How can companies possibly make sense of all this information and then go on to use the data to make decisions about their business?

Enter social media listening.

This allows companies to track, manage and analyse billions of ever-changing data-points to learn from and ultimately, to make better decisions. This article will cover the basics of social media listening and how you can use it to benefit your business and your brand.

In particular, it will cover these categories:

  1. What is social media listening?
  2. Why we should use social media listening.
  3. The benefits of social media listening.
  4. What types of data can be measured on social media networks?
  5. How is this data recovered?
  6. The different ways of using social media listening.
  7. How to start your social media listening project.

What is Social Media Listening?

Social media listening refers to the activity of monitoring and analysing messages published on social media networks, around a chosen subject. This includes all of your big social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, but also smaller community-based and consumer-opinion websites, such as blogs, vlogs, forums and comment sections.

This monitoring is done to gain an external and broad understanding of what is happening around a company, including its competitors and industry. With a strong social media listening tool, companies can, to name a few, monitor their online reputation, competitive intelligence, predict and analyse trends and search for consumer insights.

Thanks to the implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning into today’s best social media listening tools, the monitoring is now automated and done in real-time. Analyses are usually presented in the form of dashboards, to facilitate easy understanding of the massive amount of data.

social media listenining

Why We Should Use Social Media Listening

We’re all aware of the massive expanse that is the online world.

Social media platforms with billions of users are only increasing, companies without an online presence aren’t trusted, and even niche social media networks are on the rise. There is a multitude of online platforms that all have their own audience, editorial line, content and purpose. From messages to images shared, all of these online exchanges leave traces on the Web which companies can analyse to better understand their audience and identify social insights: consumer insights from social media.

Social Insights?

“Insight” is a word that is commonly used in the language of marketing and communications professionals, although it has an ambiguous meaning. An insight refers to the interpretation of an observation. This interpretation opens up a field of investigation, discovery and hopefully action. Today, when we talk about insights it’s largely focused on consumer insights – they seek to solve a problem that the consumer faces on a daily basis with a product, service or solution.

Social insights are based on an observation and analysis of social conversations around a brand or problem and, as we will see, can lead to strategic decision-making.

The Benefits of Social Media Listening

It has been said that social media listening replaces the good old market studies – there is no need for marketers to send out surveys and forms for consumers to check boxes anymore – but it’s actually a whole lot more.

  • Social media listening makes it possible to listen to a wide audience – of several million, from any corner of the globe, in a range of languages.
  • It avoids the risk of response bias commonly found in surveys and interviews.
  • It’s a quick process as the entire system is automized. The data is monitored and analysed in real-time.
  • The process requires less budget, less time and less human resources – only a computer and a social media listening tool are necessary.

However, even though social media listening tools provide more qualitative analyses such as sentiment analysis and identification of emerging trends, market studies are not completely redundant. It is a collection and analysis of data about target audiences, competitors and environments that aim to increase the deeper understanding of a company. The two complement each otther: social insights can be used to prove a trend revealed by a market study.

What Types of Data Can Be Measured on Social Media Networks?

Simply put, quantitative data gets you the numbers to prove the broad general points of your research. Qualitative data brings you the details and the depth to understand their full implications. The two are complementary and, in order to fully understand data, both are usually needed.

1. Quantitative Data

  • The number of mentions: the number of times a specific keyword (a product, brand, expression or hashtag) is mentioned on social media.
  • The scope of the mentions: the number of Internet users potentially exposed to a message, calculated according to the audience of the people that have shared the message.
  • The number of engagements: the number of interactions between users and content.

Quantitative data can be divided into two categories:

  • Descriptive data: Gives you a trend or key figure such as the number of new subscribers, engagements, impressions or clicks.
  • Actionable data: Contextualizes this information by deepening the analysis. Answers questions such as; Where do my new subscribers come from? What type of content receives the most engagement? At what time are my impressions the most numerous?

2. Qualitative Data

Qualitative data helps to better understand these numbers. This is done by listening to online exchanges and conversations by consumers, which are undoubtedly full of useful information. If the quantitative data tells us what’s going on, the qualitative data helps us understand why this is happening.

There are two primary, or most useful, examples of qualitative data: sentiment analysis and trend analysis.

  • Sentiment analysis: The development of semantic analysis technologies has made sentiment analysis possible. This lets us know if a keyword, phrase or name is mostly negative, positive or neutral, and is an extremely useful indicator for assessing the perception of a product, update, company, campaign or CEO. By identifying peaks and dips in sentiment, we have a much better chance of understanding how audiences feel about a particular topic. It’s also useful in determining high positives – which may be due to an influencer having posted about you – or extreme negatives – which is often the tell-tale of a crisis.

social listening

  • Trend analysis: No one has the ability to read through the millions of posts shared every day, but it is possible to automatically analyse correlations between exchanges to extract conversational tendencies. It is then possible to find out the context in which your brand or product is being talked about and with which themes it is associated.

social listening

How is This Data Recovered?

  • On social media networks: Most of the main social media networks have their own range of statistics and analysis tools which are great for understanding the performance of your profiles. This data allows you to understand the performance of single posts and the evolution of the account.
  • With social media management tools: Many social media management tools provide more advanced automated analysis for a more in-depth understanding of the data on social media. For example, Meltwater Engage enables companies to manage all social accounts from one platform and schedule posts to targeted audiences – saving social media managers time and effort – as well as benchmarking against competitors and measuring the impact of media strategies.
  • With social media listening tools: For the most exhaustive analysis possible, which focuses not only on your current community but on everyone online (i.e. millions of people), we need social media listening. This allows for more comprehensive analyses that go beyond just social media networks to blogs or forums too. With Meltwater’s social media listening tool we can, within minutes, analyse billions of pieces of data and be ready to make informed, strategic decisions.

The Different Ways of Using Social Media Listening

  • e-Reputation: Keep track of all mentions of your brand and products to understand how your company is being perceived and what topics are surrounding it.
  • Crisis Management: Anticipate crises by monitoring your sentiment and all potentially negative keywords to react as quickly as possible if something comes up. In the event of a crisis, this search will allow you to measure the scale of the damage and the impact of your recovery.
  • Competitive Intelligence: Analyse the communication, news and reputation of your competitors. Social media listening can enable you to predict trends to stay up-to-date with industry innovation and stay ahead of competitors.
  • Trends Report: Identify key topics that drive the market, and relevant themes your target audience is talking about to discover technologies or trends that your company could be pioneers in.
  • Business Intelligence: Discover exciting new business opportunities by monitoring any aspect of your product or business along with “How To” or “Which Tool Do I Choose,” and engage with these consumers and their community.

How to Start Your Social Media Listening Project

Define your goals: What do you want to get out of the tool – do you want to know your consumer better, stay ahead of your competition, protect your reputation?

Determine channels to monitor: Depending on your goals and what you want to achieve, the social media networks you use will differ as will the number of and nature of your keywords.

Choose the right tools:

  • The search mode: searches can become quite complex, so it’s imperative that you filter your searches to only what is most relevant (especially if you are a company with a generic name like Baked Goods). Get to grips with how the Boolean searches work to really amplify the impact that social media listening can have on your brand.
  • The number of spinoffs: does the tool limit the number of spinoffs to a certain heading where they are unlimited?
  • Customer service: Some social media listening tools, like Meltwater’s, comes with a dedicated consultant to enable you to get the most out of the tool – they are especially helpful in times of a crisis, which you never know might hit.

Set up alerts: To really stay on top of your game, set up alerts so that you never miss a beat. You can choose whether you want to be alerted on all mentions or as soon as a crisis or major trend emerges.

Analyse and compare your data: The analysis comes in with the dashboards – here, you can create, in a couple of very simple steps, a visually appealing page of insights that can be understood with ease. Because it’s custom-made, you can choose whether to portray trending themes, media exposure, sentiment analysis or share of voice, amongst many others – depending on what your goal is.

Share your results: These insights then go into an insights report. These reports are compiled specifically for you and include whichever stats and insights you choose. You can then choose to share the results with colleagues, clients or whichever department the results concern. Meltwater offers a dedicated, hands-on reporting team to help you with the design, compilation and circulation of these reports.

Deduce an action plan: Social media listening is not just about monitoring, but also about taking action. Some tools provide such thorough analysis and actionable insights that deducing a plan of action is quick and easy – in the fast-paced, digitized world we live in, being able to make these kinds of plans and decisions quickly is crucial.

Want to make the change to analysing external, multi-faceted data about your company? Get your free Meltwater demo today.