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7 Tips to Boost Your Social Listening Efforts

social listening

As a business, one of the worst mistakes you can make with social media is using it as a one-way communication channel. Just as you can use social media to share content and information with your target audience, it can also act as a valuable tool to collect audience insights and inform your strategies.

That’s where social listening comes in. Social listening is the process of analyzing social media conversations and trends relevant to not just your brand but your entire industry. This provides you with insights that shape your messaging, content strategy, and marketing campaigns.

Although it works hand in hand with social media monitoring, social listening looks at interactions and conversations and focuses more on deciphering the intentions and the reasons behind them. On the other hand, social media monitoring looks at those interactions and conversations to come up with an appropriate response or action.

As a result, social listening could be the key to strengthening your brand’s overall strategy. This makes it crucial to boost your social listening efforts so you can get more out of it. Here’s what you can do:

1: Have a goal in place

With all that you can gain out of social listening, it’s also a bit easy to get carried away and lose sight of what’s important to you. If you try to do too much all at once, you could get overwhelmed and end up not learning anything at all.

That’s why it’s crucial to start with a clear goal to help you narrow down on what to look for. What do you want to get out of your social listening efforts? Focus on one main goal first so you can streamline your efforts and take an organised approach to social listening.

Here are a few ideas for the goals you can target:

  • Monitoring your industry or niche to keep up with the latest trends. For example, you could use social listening to identify influential leaders in your industry to partner with. You could identify trending conversations to participate in or content trends you might want to follow.
  • Understanding what makes your competitors successful or unsuccessful. For example, let’s say your biggest competition is CoSchedule. You could use social listening to understand how they deliver great customer service. Similarly, you could use it to analyze their content strategy, posting schedule, and more.

Social Listenin

  • Identifying who makes up most of your social media audience so you can improve your targeting efforts. For example, you might discover that women between the ages of 18 and 34 make up a majority of your audience base. So you can build your targeting with this demographic in mind.
  • Gaining a deeper understanding of your customers and prospects to find out how they think. For example, you might find that a majority of your audience holds a positive sentiment towards the topic you’re monitoring. But you can also further explore their conversations to gain a clearer understanding of their thought process.
  • Identifying the best types of content to share based on engagement insights. Perhaps you’ll find that people tend to positively engage with your posts that provide them with step-by-step guides, for instance.

2: Narrow down on valuable data sources

Just as it’s overwhelming to start without a goal, it can be counterproductive to use too many data sources in your social listening efforts. While collecting data from every possible source may seem reasonable at first, this leaves more room for getting overwhelmed with unnecessary data. So make sure you narrow down on the most valuable and relevant sources to pull data from.

Twitter is generally a good idea because it tends to drive a lot of trending conversations. Besides this, you can also consider other platforms where your business has significant presence.

3: Choose the right listening tools

Next, choose the tools you want to use for your social listening efforts. Native social media analytics tend to have limited insights when it comes to social listening, so you might want to invest in a comprehensive listening tool.

Tools like Sprout Social, Mention, and Brand 24 are some of the best options for this as they come with comprehensive features to track and monitor online conversations. They then analyze those conversations to derive valuable insights like interests and sentiments that can inform your strategy.

Social Listening

4: Focus on relevant topics and themes

Once you’ve identified your goal for a specific social listening campaign, you’ll have to come up with a list of topics and themes relevant to that goal. This is crucial to narrow down your listening efforts and will help you focus on the right conversations while filtering out the irrelevant ones.

Your focus topics and themes are also the keywords and phrases you will use to pull relevant data from your focus data sources. For example, let’s say you want to track the sentiment around the iPhone 11. So naturally, you’ll track keywords and hashtags such as “iPhone 11,” “new iPhone,” “Apple products,” etc.

Some of the listening tools suggested above such as Sprout Social will even provide you with suggestions for what keywords and hashtags are related to your topic. It will display the most common terms and hashtags in that topic so you don’t have to rely on guesswork.

social media listening


In addition to focusing on relevant keywords and phrases, don’t forget to specify the terms you don’t want to listen for. Most brand listening tools will provide you with an option to specify excluded keywords or terms. This is crucial because there may be words or phrases that are similar to your focus keyword but not necessarily relevant for you.

For example, when tracking sentiment about the iPhone 11, you’ll probably use the keyword “Apple” in your query. But since the term is also used for a type of fruit, you’ll want to exclude keywords like “fruit,” “delicious,” or “flavour” from your query.

5: Prioritize on the right insights

In spite of your best efforts to pull only the most valuable data, you’re still going to end up with a lot of noise and unnecessary information. And that’s where some of the manual work enters the picture.

While some social listening tools will highlight the most important conversations for you, you can’t solely focus on those because you could miss out on the opportunity to collect other valuable insights. You’ll have to manually go through your data to discover what insights will be of value for your goal.

And on that note, make sure you know when to prioritize certain insights based on your end goal. For example, you’ll need to prioritize sentiment analysis when monitoring your overall brand health. But to inform your content strategy, you’ll need to collect engagement data for different types of content and topics.

6: Know what to do with your data

One of the most challenging parts about social listening is knowing what to do with the information you’ve collected. At the most basic level, you can immediately join in on trending conversations. Or you could even try to add some value to the topic by sharing relevant content or insights. But the actual steps will also depend on the goal that you initially set out to achieve.

For instance, if your goal is to understand your target audience better, you could use the insights to shape your messaging and tone of voice. You could also use it to inform your social media content strategy, your posting schedule, your marketing campaign, and so on.

Similarly, if your goal is to identify potential leads, you could use the insights to manually reach out to them or even target them for your advertising campaign. But if you’re running an ad informed by your social listening efforts, make sure you use Rebrandly to tag your ad link and track the performance. This will help you measure the quality of leads from your social listening efforts.

Check out our video below to find out how to add UTM parameters to your links with the help of Rebrandly.

7: Know when to take immediate action

While a lot of the insights from your brand’s social listening efforts are intended to inform future action, there may come a time when you need to take immediate action. For example, you might notice an alarming rate of negative sentiment towards your topic. In this case, you might want to identify the reason behind the sudden influx of negative sentiment and see if there’s a way you can curb it.

For instance, maybe there’s an issue with the product you recently launched and everyone’s talking about it. Would it help if your brand just stayed silent until you come up with a solution? Or perhaps you want to get the message out that you’ve heard them and you’re trying to come up with a solution to avoid frustrating your customers.

This step essentially comes under social media monitoring. But keep in mind that there may be times during your social listening process that you come across such situations that need immediate action.

Final thoughts

Just like with every aspect of your social media marketing efforts, social listening also needs a structured and organised approach so you can make clear-headed decisions.

Make the most of the tips highlighted above to improve your social listening strategy and get more out of it. And if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Further reading: 

This article is about:

  • Social Listening
  • Social Media Listening
  • Social Media Marketing
Growth Marketing Manager at Rebrandly. +10 years in digital marketing, MBA, Volunteer, Team Leader.