If you stop and think about it for a minute, you can trace almost every aspect of human society to news and social media, in one way or another. The media is a vessel for storytelling, and storytelling, is a mechanism for how we formulate opinions, make buying decisions, educate one another and express our identities as part of greater communities and beliefs. 

The news media is topical, locational and categorised, and consumers as a whole have varying levels of access to it, in accordance with their place in society. As that access grows, and the world wide web becomes a staple ingredient in the recipe for integrated communication, so it forms more of a crucial cornerstone to modern life as we know it. It is a place where brands must exist within their consumers’ lives as they do, physically. 

Defining Media Monitoring in a Brand Context

So, when we talk about “media monitoring” or “social listening” we are referring to ways in which we can take our offline activities online, and begin to listen to our consumers, where they are most likely to “speak” about our brands. 

At first, it might seem a little creepy. The act of listening is essentially passive and “monitoring” has a kind of big brother connotation to it that doesn’t quite apply in this context. But no, it has nothing to do with how uncle Zucc is listening to our innermost thoughts and fears and how Facebook somehow knew you wanted a new watch without you ever saying so out loud. 

Media monitoring, in this instance, refers to how we gain insight into the hearts and minds of our consumers, perceptions about our brand, topics and conversations related to the work we do or the services we provide and how our brand exists and performs in relation to the competition. 

It’s the complex-made-simple act of regularly consuming and sorting the information we find in the media, within specific parameters that we set – based on strategy. 

So, what’s the point and why do we care?

1. Media Monitoring is Crucial to Reputation Management and Business Growth

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” – Jeff Bezos

If we accept the idea that the media plays a crucial role in how we identify, agree, rally, communicate and evolve as a society – media monitoring becomes an absolutely key activity for brands that want a place in the digital landscape. More specifically and simply put, media monitoring helps you: 

Strengthen your brand. The strength of your brand can be defined beyond current sales and long-term projections. Awareness, sentiment, perception and risk mitigation are all factors in determining brand resilience. By understanding and planning actions and reactions to external factors, you can build stronger foundations and increase opportunity for your brand beyond its immediate environment.

Media monitoring is a crucial factor in determining how (potential) consumers feel about your brand and how they perceive it, as it makes information available to you that isn’t necessarily obvious. Also, media monitoring tools, such as a social media tracker, are able to analyse large data sets in order to give you a broader idea of how your brand is considered beyond your understanding.

Pro tip: Use media monitoring to identify and correct misconceptions and build greater awareness. You can do this by gauging sentiment and monitoring the media to get an idea of how your customers feel, through sentiment analysis. In doing so, you can measure the true strength of your brand.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said”. – Peter Drucker

2. Manage a Crisis

One of the most crucial elements of managing a crisis is responding to commentary immediately. The problem is that a media crisis can go viral in a short space of time. So, how do you identify and respond to vast amounts of commentary if it’s all over the place? With a media monitoring tool, you can quickly collate mentions, and address them individually.

Better yet, you can detect negative mentions early, which gives you the upper hand in containing an impending crisis. 

Set alerts for brand mentions, catch a crisis early, create personalised replies, then learn from the situation and adapt accordingly. 

“To be effective in crisis management in the digital age means being able to use social media strategically. There is no crisis management today without a full understanding of how to use new media to listen to conversations around your brand in real-time, and understand what you do and don’t need to respond to.” – Chris Syme

3. Increase sales and improve processes

  • Identify and create sales leads. Bridging the gap between needs and desires and a sale is a discipline within itself. But with an effective media monitoring strategy you can identify consumers who are, or could be, interested in your products.

    Specifically, your searches can show you users who ask specific questions, engage with product and service information that’s similar to what you offer and you can identify problems that your offering solves and speak directly to those who communicate with them on social or in news media.

    Pro tip: Use media tools to identify existing leads while generating new ones, and track how many instances of reaching out lead to a conversion.

    “Going viral is not an outcome; it’s a happening. Sometimes it happens; sometimes it doesn’t. Just remember, fans are vanity and sales are sanity.” – Lori Taylor

  • Improve customer services. In a connected world, consumers have changing expectations. They demand much more from the brands that they interact with. According to Smart Insights, “Over a third (37%) of consumers who use social media to complain or question brands expect to get a response in under 30 minutes”. With this kind of demand for engagement from brands, you  can’t afford to miss a mention, and this extents beyond mentions you’re tagged in.

    If we reference the old-but-good KANO model (1980), it’s important to delight your customers, and not simply address problems or concerns.

    Pro tip: Identify mentions where your brand hasn’t been tagged and address issues or reward user behaviour, preemptively.“Today, complainers – haters are the canaries in the coal mine. They are the early warning detection system for your business” – Jay Baer

  • Get inspiration to inform a better content strategy. Media monitoring and content marketing go hand in hand. The humdrum day-to-day posts and articles are a good foundation but they need spice to keep readers interested and they need to be topical to maintain relevance. If you’ve been owning brand content for a long time, it’s tough to stay inspired but the news landscape can offer you a plethora of interesting challenges, topics and memes to play into.

    Pro tip: Use your media monitoring tool to identify lasting trends and topics that are heavily featured over the course of a few days. Create content daily to play into these themes over and above your monthly content plan. 

    “Quality, relevant content can’t be spotted by an algorithm. You can’t subscribe to it. You need people – actual human beings – to create or curate it.”  ― Kristina Halvorson

4. Connect and capitalise

One of the greatest challenges we face as marketers is generating inspiring content that engages our consumers. In some instances, consumer-generated content is more powerful than brand-owned media, as it offers a sense of endorsement and relevance. It also doesn’t require a company-owned resource to create.

If this media exists, there’s an opportunity to capitalise on it and directly benefit from it, without having to spend time or money on its existence. Find existing posts about your brand as a starting point, then connect with the owner to discuss how you can use their content.

“The next wave of the Web is going to be user-generated content” – John Doer


“Eventually the consumer will come to appreciate the editorial point of view of every different brand. User-generated content without editorial oversight will simply be background noise”. – Michael Eisner

Align your brand with key influencers. If you’re on top of the media landscape, it will quickly become clear who has the most influence in your immediate network. But, this can be a particularly difficult exercise if you’re looking to enlist influence for a niche product or service. Typically, influencers with highly specific interests and followings are a valuable connection for reaching said audiences and are adored by their fans. They tend to have greater impact on buying decisions than those who appeal to a mass of only semi-interested viewers. 

Part of your media monitoring strategy can include using tools to identify influencers from specific databases, that allow you to look within categories and learn more about who you could potentially build a relationship with. 

Standard metrics like reach and engagement can give you an idea of what you’re working with but you also need to consider their audience demographics. 

Pro tip: Use media monitoring services to identify key influencers in conjunction with an influencer database. This can give you quick access to summary information that will help you narrow down a pool of potential influencers you’d like to work with. 

“There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them”.  Malcolm Goldwell

Align your brand with relevant news. Staying relevant is a challenge that even the edgiest of brands face. No matter how “cool” or current you are today, you can’t rely on that to be the case tomorrow. Cutting through the noise means standing out and captivating audiences who are constantly bombarded with information. A great way to do this is to align with current news that’s relevant to your brand, using commentary, humour or related media. 

In order to understand the current landscape and know what your most relevant trending topics are, you’ll need to monitor what people are talking about most passionately and often. 

This is also true for brands which are not afraid to align themselves with social and political causes that are close to their proverbial hearts, but more accurately their values. 

Pro tip: Choose your causes and allegiances carefully. Ensure they align with your values and that they resonate significantly with your target audiences. You can establish this through monitoring the media and identifying connections in topics, the number of mentions from a specific audience and their sentiment towards it. 

“Bring relevance to the people before teaching them to be believers” ― Sunday Adelaja


5. Do Better Business

  • Improve product and service offerings.  Social listening is particularly effective in helping you improve your ecommerce experiences for consumers.  For example,Facebook influenced 52 per cent of consumers’ online and offline purchases, up from 36 per cent in 2014”. (Source: The Drum, 2015). So, we know that social media plays a key role in helping consumers make buying decisions and in their overall customer experience.

    This information helps us make a strong case for targeting and retargeting but it’s also directly related to how we speak to consumers. By responding to brand mentions, related queries and posts, you can start to build a relationship with potential buyers and guide them towards engaging with your products and services.

    Use media monitoring to find questions about your industry, and respond with helpful answers, incentives and information.

    “Conversation with customers will increase sales, even if the product or service is never mentioned.” George Farris

  • Futureproof. The concept of using big data for futureproofing isn’t buzzworthy for nothing. It also isn’t new but few companies use this tactic as effectively as they should. Collecting information on who your users are and what appeals to them can help you identify trends and prepare for future campaigns.

    It can help you prioritise behaviours and consumer desires you want to speak to and formulate product and service strategies for the future. Conversely, it will also give you the insight you need to mitigate risks, and prepare for future hazards – giving you the competitive edge now, for later.  This is particularly useful in the digital space, where being unprepared for change makes your brand vulnerable.

    Use media monitoring to identify trends, learn about developments in your industry and to inform a change management plan.

    “Being aware of the digital horizon – even if it’s way off in the distance – is one of the best things a business can do for its future.” Dan Monaghan

  • Understand your industry and competition. In today’s world, brands are often too focused on their own efforts, internally motivated and tunnel-visioned. It takes one excellent campaign to put your competition ahead, which can mean everything from a small loss of business to catastrophic irrelevance in  a matter of days.

    Your competition matters, and wherever you can get a competitive edge you should – even if that means aligning with other brands to create something better or playing in the same space, amicably.

    You won’t be able to formulate an effective strategy without an intricate understanding of their work, where they differ from you in terms of objectives and how the public perceives them. So, how do you stay on top of what competing businesses are doing and manage your own campaigns at the same time?

    Take  the time to understand your competitors as well as you understand your own business. Use media monitoring to identify which audiences you share, how their content is performing, where you want to compete, and with whom – based on  the data.“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting in above average effort” – Colin Powell

  • Measure your work. We all know that measuring your work is important but few people get specific about why, beyond the basic narratives of good or bad performance. Specifically, measuring your campaigns can give you more insight than “good job marketing team” “bad job marketing team” and the devil is truly in the details here.

    At the end of the  day, a brand’s purpose has some relation to ROI. And while that may not be a primary concern in the beginning, it will become increasingly important. A business can’t survive or thrive without positive changes to the bottom line, and we can’t assess those changes or encourage them without the data.Identify what’s working and what isn’t, basing your insights and decisions on the data instead of assumptions.

    “That which cannot be measured cannot be proven.” ― Anthony W. Richardson“It isn’t just a pat on the back. Measurement is about marking, but evaluation is about improving.” – From PR Week, Panel Discussion.

  • Identify new markets. Identifying new markets is an important part of business growth and creating a safety net. Business growth can be achieved by extending your marketing efforts and reaching more relevant audiences.Media monitoring allows you to do this by helping you strategically identify emerging markets and potential new audiences through related topics, identifying growing needs and giving you the data you need to think outside the box.

    The key to identifying potential markets lies in the specificity of your search terms. Use a combination of everything from keywords around your brand to buzzwords, related products and services, competition names and slogans.

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

Companies Doing Media Monitoring right, globally