Social listening is the process of identifying and collecting conversations on the internet relevant to your brand or product, automatically and at scale. Social listening tools are obviously invaluable when it comes to audience research and understanding – they provide accurate answers to questions like what does our audience think about this brand/product/industry?
Listening tools also play a core part in community management and customer care as they allow rapid engagement with customers and audiences who are requesting support or simply attempting to connect with their favorite brands.
Also known as brand monitoring tools (although this term implies less robust functionality – for more learn about the difference between social listening and social monitoring), social listening tools are absolutely necessary for businesses because they play a core part in three crucial processes:
They mitigate risk and prevent brand crises by allowing marketers to identify and address negative sentiment before it spirals out of control.
They allow brands to engage with audiences and customers quickly and at scale, providing crucial aid when it comes to customer care and support. Good listening tools filter through noise and allow brands to respond to relevant, actionable posts quickly, which can result in quick positive results because, contrary to popular belief, many consumers are more likely to leave positive reviews than negative ones.
They provide invaluable insights regarding the sentiment of audiences and how they feel about specific products, features, competitors, etc. Social listening tools can be integral components of marketing strategy.
“If a customer leaves negative reviews or comments about our service, we’re able to send customer representatives to mediate and resolve the issue. This almost always can turn a negative experience around for the customer, and they stay loyal to our brand as an added bonus.”
Jamie Sheldon, founder of UK-based mail forwarding service MyUKMailbox
Ongoing social listening is a critical part of maintaining your brand’s reputation, and following the insights that you gather allows you to take actions that will create further positive engagement with your audience.
A basic social listening tool will give you a command center from which to observe all the relevant conversations taking place about your brand, your competition, and other related topics. A strong solution will allow you to monitor these conversations and intelligently filter through noise so you can identify and respond to relevant, actionable posts quickly and efficiently.
In addition, a good social listening solution will allow you to easily analyze and gain insights from tracked conversations and brand mentions by providing an overview of sentiment that can be broken down or filtered in any way the user wants. This allows marketers to use social listening tools for two more important functions:
Find and reach out to qualified sales leads. Whether you’re a B2B (mostly LinkedIn) or a B2C (Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, etc.) you can find the platforms where your audience and potential audience gathers and keep track of conversations between companies and prominent individuals. Some signs that a prospect can be a viable lead include: they post about your main competitor; they create industry-related content that you can support with your own service, they express interest in products related to your niche, or they ask questions about achieving certain outcomes that your offer can fill.
Identify brand influencers and evangelists. Fake influencers on social media, especially on Instagram, often pay for bots to respond to their posts and boost their engagement rate, but social listening tools can identify whether the engagement and responses to an influencer’s post is genuine or not. Social listening also lets you identify which customers are your brand evangelists, or those who talk a great deal about your business and have loyal followers. That way, you can also choose which influencer to work with who can represent your brand to a real audience.
As always, our definition of a good tool is one that doesn’t sacrifice functionality for ease-of-use. Here we’ve collected 15 of the best social listening platforms that offer robust features and functionality, in addition to being both simple and quick to use:
Socialbakers [now Emplifi Social Marketing Cloud]
Socialbakers (now Emplifi Social Marketing Cloud)
The Socialbakers platform harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to provide a solution that addresses all three of the aforementioned processes with ease and power.
An end-to-end solution, Socialbakers’ listening tool is designed to be easy enough for anyone to use, and robust enough to handle all of the different use cases required in a solution that can play a key role in every phase of the customer journey.
When it comes to marketing and pre-sale activities, Socialbakers makes it easy to leverage social listening in order to gain the intelligence you need for competitive research, audience research, content planning, and more.
When it comes to post-sale engagement and nurturing, Socialbakers’ listening solution seamlessly integrates with its suite of community management and customer care tools so you can boost customer affinity, minimize response times, and increase fan engagement with ease.
Brandwatch is a social listening solution hyper-focused on consumer and competitive intelligence. Completely focused on delivering high level insights into consumer sentiments and trends, and doing so in the fastest manner possible (i.e before the competition), Brandwatch parses millions of conversations happening online every day to deliver distilled insights to their users.
Brandwatch also has a trove of historical data available to its users, and invests heavily in its AI and ML capabilities. A cutting edge solution focused on a hyper-specific set of use cases, Brandwatch is an excellent tool for those who are looking for a consumer intelligence and trendspotting solution.
Digimind’s platform offers real-time social listening and brand monitoring with an emphasis on sentiment analysis over community management and customer care. Thus, Digimind’s solution focuses more on informing strategy and is not tailored towards actual audience engagement.
The platform’s emphasis on audience research and analysis shows in its functionality and design: Digimind works with millions of online sources (not just major social media channels), and features a robust dashboard that emphasizes insight generation in real-time. Digimind also supports Chinese data, like Weibo, WeChat, etc.
Sprout Social offers a holistic approach towards social listening and is a great tool for marketing teams that are lacking a social media strategy. The Sprout social listening platform offers several different listening tools, and proves a solid listening solution with decent functionality (limited support for listening outside of social media – for example review sites and certain websites).
Easy to use but lacking in functionality, bigger teams may struggle with the scalability of Sprout’s solution due to lack of advanced features and automations. For smaller brands in need of an end-to-end marketing solution with a solid keyword monitoring and listening functionality, consider Sprout Social. It has a 30-day free trial while pricing ranges from $99 to $249 per month.
Falcon.io is a comprehensive social media marketing platform. Its listening component goes beyond social media channels, and is advertised as monitoring over two million online sources for keywords and brand mentions.
Falcon.io features a great interface, with plenty of metrics provided in a simple and digestible view. Falcon.io treats each listening query as an individual “Listening Project”, with its own dashboard presenting a variety of metrics related to the search. As such, Falcon.io isn’t as strong as other options when it comes to continuous, “always-on” listening.
While not a flagship product for Sprinklr, its listening solution works well and extends its coverage beyond social media to forums, certain news sites, and review websites. Since Sprinklr is an end-to-end, enterprise-focused solution, its listening functionalities can integrate with other social data processed by the Sprinklr platform, and existing users can rest assured that they won’t have to stress about consolidating data and working in multiple different platforms.
Sprinklr also leverages AI in an attempt to summarize and present useful information and insights to users. However, the scale of their listening solution means that for the most part, deeper analysis with Sprinklr’s listening tool still remains more of a manual process when compared to solutions like Brandwatch.
YouScan offers five detailed searches for topics across all its plans. Each search is entered through a Boolean operator, so some upskilling might be necessary. YouScan then provides you with a page of all the mentions of your brand depending on your search criteria which you can also filter.
YouScan also offers visual insights, which search through images using an AI engine. You can also use smart alerts to get specific notifications about brand mentions depending on your preferences. You can use these features to learn more about the people using your brand and engaging with your business.
YouScan plans start at $1,000 per month.
BuzzSumo is commonly used for content marketing analytics, and it also does social monitoring. It gathers insights about content and keeps track of how your content performs, particularly as regards sharing. BuzzSumo offers a great solution for doing content research and auditing because it measures the number of times an article is shared online.
BuzzSumo features a content analyzer that provides keyword search and content engagement analytics, metrics generation for question-based websites like Reddit and Quora, as well as engagement stats for the biggest social media sites.
BuzzSumo has a free trial and paid plans start at $99-$299 per month.
Mention focuses on real-time searches. It sets up an alert that will give you results based on the last 24 hours. But you can also request historical data through the custom plans.
You can also look for influencers on Twitter and Instagram using a quick keyword search. Plus, you can keep track of these influencers and even import them to the CRM tool that you use. Using Mention’s insights center, you can create custom reports about content performance. It supports all major social media platforms as well as blogs and YouTube.
Mention offers a trial plan while paid plans range from $29 to $99 per month aside from a custom plan available upon request.
BrandsEye combines crowd-sourcing and AI to filter the messy feedback and responses on social media. Its customer service solution lets you quickly respond to the most important and urgent customer interactions on social media platforms. The tool also provides insights about customer experiences so you can decide on the best strategy to address the concern.
Agorapulse offers social media management and simple monitoring features. You can search for mentions of your brand using keyword searches on Twitter. With this tool, you can also identify the top influencers of your brand on social media. You can assign conversations to your team members to keep track of. Even though it doesn’t feature web monitoring, you can use Agorapulse for tracking social mentions.
Agorapulse offers a free trial and pricing ranges from $49 to $299 per month.
Brand24 gathers social insights about what people say online about your brand. It shows you a timeline of brand mentions so you can act on opportunities and address issues in real time.
The discussion volume chart provides a graphic representation of your brand’s mentions for easy tracking and analysis. They even have an influencer score for your brand’s main influencers on social media so you can connect with them further. Sentiment analysis lets you see if brand mentions are positive, neutral, or negative.
Brand24 offers a $49 per month package for small or new businesses.
Buffer offers an omnichannel management experience for marketers. Using Buffer’s shared inbox, you can post content and engage directly in the replies from a centralized dashboard. You can easily find and join in on the most important conversations about your brand and even listen in on your competitors. Like the other tools on this list, Buffer has reporting and analytics features and also monitors stories on Facebook and Instagram.
Khoros’ listening product markets itself as being extremely insight focused, with competitor and audience analysis being use cases often mentioned in marketing or promotional materials.
Khoros provides standard multi-channel listening data, with a pricing model that doesn’t charge based on the number of queries run. Khoros offers on-demand access to “live” social listening data, and their interface is user friendly and efficient to use.
Sysomos Listen (now Meltwater Social)
Sysomos Listen, now Meltwater Social, is a social monitoring platform that is less focused on higher level strategic insights, and more centered around monitoring and tracking critical metrics related to brand health and competitor performance.
When it comes to brand monitoring, Sysomos is a strong option for its clear and concise presentation and surfacing of key alerts. For those looking for a tool that helps surface new trends and insights, Sysomos is not the best option as the product’s strengths are monitoring and alerting users to more specific and manually defined keywords and metrics.
Social listening tools provide the intelligence needed to understand your brand, market, and audiences. The ability to listen to and parse the conversations that happen about your brand play a critical role in generating positive customer experiences at every possible touchpoint – from marketing (pre-sale) to community management and customer support.
Now that you know the options you have for social listening tools, it’s time to get started. If you think that Socialbakers [now Emplifi Social Marketing Cloud] might be the right solution for you, contact us today for an expert consultation!
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.