The difference between social media monitoring and social listening

Spotler Engage • 6 minute read • 01/09/2021
Media monitoring
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As social media professional you have probably heard about social listening and social media monitoring. These two terms are often used interchangeably. What is the difference between social media monitoring and social listening? With social media monitoring you keep an eye on what is being said about your brand or product, so that you can proactively anticipate on this. With social listening you focus on a broader set of data, or on the entire conversation about an industry or product. In this blog, we compare the two terms and tell you what to consider when looking for a suitable tool for your monitoring purposes.

There is a lot of confusion regarding what exactly is social listening and what is social media monitoring. Our media analyst, Danielle Janssen, also experiences this in her work at Spotler Engage.

“Everybody has kind of an idea but finds it difficult to clearly separate the two concepts. This is not surprising as there is also a lot of overlap between them. You can’t really see them as two separate entities. They rather flow into each other”

When people try to explain the difference between the terms, they often refer to social media monitoring as “seeing the trees” and social listening as “seeing the forest”. For Danielle this also makes sense:

“Social listening gives a layer to the data, it gives the things you monitor a meaning so that you can see the big picture (the forest).

To dive deeper into the differences between social media monitoring and social listening it helps to look at the different goals that you want to achieve within your organisation.

What is the objective behind social media monitoring?

Social media monitoring enables companies to observe what individuals say about their brand, product or service on social networks so that they can proactively respond to all relevant online conversations. By monitoring relevant keywords network-wide companies are able to respond to messages even if they are not addressed directly to them. All relevant questions, comments, complaints and feedback are collected in real time and can be answered by community managers or customer service staff via one single platform.

“Social media monitoring is more functional and less abstract then social listening. It helps customer service departments to offer a great service experience to their customers. This makes it also very important for your brands online reputation” says Danielle Jansen.

What is the objective behind social listening?

Social Listening helps companies make strategic decisions based on a broader set of data based on search queries around the brand, products, relevant topics, competitors and the industry as a whole. For more information on how to set up search queries check out this 10 steps guide. For Danielle social listening is closely connected to the story telling of your brand:

“You look at what is happening around your brand, customers, the market and relevant topics in society and then you combine the different knots to make sense of it. Social listening helps you give context to what is happening and answer the “So what question”. So you interpret what you are seeing and create a meaningful story”, Danielle explains.

For instance, the monitoring and analysis of current issues can help in finding the right communication strategy and preventing a bigger social media crisis. Social listening does not focus on individual cases, but provides insights from collective data across social networks to improve products and services and keep track of the company’s reputation.

“Many organisations that we work with use social listening to become more data driven and to take strategic decisions based on data rather than gut instinct. They monitor their core values and strategic themes over time and measure the effect of their efforts”, says Danielle.

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