Social listening vs social monitoring: The key differences

Danny Rodriguez

8 min read Last Updated Feb 3, 2023

Marketing professional trying to understand the differences between social listening vs social monitoring.

Social listening and social monitoring are often used interchangeably, but there are some big differences between the two. By understanding these differences, companies can create highly effective marketing strategies and gain a better understanding of their social media presence.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the key differences between social listening vs social monitoring so that you can make informed decisions when it comes to your business’s digital presence. But first, let’s take a look at each term for a better understanding of the concept.

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Defining social listening

Social listening refers to the process of monitoring conversations about your brand, product, or industry across all digital channels. It’s an active process used by companies to identify and analyze conversations about their brand that are taking place on social media platforms to better understand customer sentiment and interests. With this kind of analysis, companies can achieve a better understanding of their customers and provide a more tailored experience that improves customer satisfaction and retention.

3 ways companies use social listening

Gauge sentiment

By tracking conversations across social networks, companies can gain valuable insight into how their customers feel about their brand. For example, if a large number of followers are expressing negative feelings towards a certain product or service, this could be a signal that improvements are needed. Positive comments, on the other hand, can help inform marketing strategies and identify areas that resonate most with followers. By understanding what customers are saying about your brand online, companies are able to understand how their social media efforts can be adjusted to provide a better customer experience.

Social listening can also help you identify trends. By studying the data from social media conversations, companies can uncover their customer’s current interests, preferences, and buying behaviors. This helps you recognize trends that can be used to inform product development, research direction, marketing strategies, and even build relationships with influencers who can help expand your reach to promote the brand.

Competitor analysis

Social listening can also be used to keep tabs on competitors and monitor how they’re interacting with their followers on social media. Companies can use this information to learn from their rivals’ successes and failures, which can influence the direction of upcoming social media campaigns.

Defining social monitoring

Social monitoring involves regularly tracking conversations and interactions on social media as it relates to your brand. This practice helps organizations connect with customers to address concerns as well as provide thoughtful feedback which can help you make any appropriate changes. Social monitoring keeps brands engaged with their audience, while they obtain insights that allow them to deliver better service and experiences.

3 ways companies use social monitoring

Address customer service questions

With the rise of social networks, organizations now have the ability to monitor posts and conversations about their brand in real-time, allowing them to answer questions or address customer concerns quickly. For example, let’s say you run an auto shop and a customer tags your company in a post asking about available appointment times. By actively monitoring your social channels you can quickly respond to this question, resulting in a positive customer experience for all to see.

Social media post of a company responding to a customers question about store hours.

Resolve issues

Companies are using social monitoring to easily and quickly identify customer service issues. By tracking conversations on social media platforms, companies can quickly detect when a customer is experiencing difficulties with their product or service. This allows you to respond and provide support in a timely manner to resolve any issues and prevent further escalations.

Social media post example of a business responding to a customer issue and solving the problem.

Show customer appreciation

Social monitoring can also be used to identify positive customer feedback. This can act as a prompt for you to reply and show appreciation for the encouraging messages. It also highlights what your organization is doing right and could be an indication that more resources should be allocated to those efforts.

Social media post example of a business responding to happy customer feedback.

Comparing social listening vs social monitoring

A chart listing 3 main differences between social listening vs social monitoring.

The differences between social listening and social monitoring might appear to be subtle, but they’re actually quite different. While both focus on pulling information from social media conversations, the similarities pretty much end there. Let’s take a look at a few specific areas where social listening and social monitoring differ.

Proactive versus reactive

With social listening, organizations are taking proactive steps to better understand their customers, their interests, and how they generally feel about the brand. Social listening can also serve as an early-warning system for potential customer service issues because it lets you anticipate a need you weren’t aware of. As a result, you’ll be ready with solutions before problems arise.

Social monitoring is more reactive because it mainly focuses on responding to current customer feedback and issues. This means that businesses can react quickly and efficiently to changing consumer sentiment about their brand and provide timely responses to customer complaints or questions. These efforts will help the organization maintain a positive online reputation.

Macro versus micro

Social listening is more of a macro approach. It’s a high-level overview of your social media conversations with the purpose of identifying trends, measuring sentiment, and studying consumer behavior. These insights can help inform your marketing strategies for long-term gains.

Social monitoring is considered more micro because you are assisting customers on a case-by-case level. Such as responding to comments, answering questions, and resolving complaints. These actions are short-term gains.

Business-facing versus customer-facing

Social listening lets you gather data from social media conversations while data analysis is what lets you extract actionable insights. Now, you can deliver relevant data-driven information to internal stakeholders to support decision-making processes.

Social monitoring helps you stay on top of any customer feedback. Answering questions or solving problems not only helps the customer in need but also shows potential customers what experience they can expect when dealing with your organization.

The social media cycle

Social media listening and monitoring also play a big role in what’s known as the social media cycle. This is a framework that helps companies interact, engage, and convert their social media followers into paying customers. It lets companies realize the full potential of their social media marketing efforts and maximizes the return on their investment. The social media cycle can be broken down into four distinct stages:

A graphic showing the 4 stages of the social media cycle: listening, influencing, networking, and selling.

Stage 1: Listening

As we’ve mentioned, social listening will help you get a pulse on what people are saying about your brand so you can create or adjust your marketing strategies and keep it relevant to your target audience. Without listening, you run the risk of creating a strategy that people don’t respond to and wasting your time, money, and effort.

Stage 2: Influencing

This can be done in a number of ways, including creating and sharing high-quality content, engaging with influencers and thought leaders in your industry, and running targeted social media ads. The goal is to make sure that when people are talking about your products or services online, they see your brand name front and center.

Stage 3: Networking

You can do this by joining relevant online communities and forums, participating in Twitter threads, Facebook Groups and webinars, and attending offline events like conferences and meetups. The goal is to establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry and build relationships that can further your company’s goals.

Stage 4: Selling

There are plenty of ways to make sales through social media, including running targeted ads, using social media to drive traffic to your website, and leveraging influencer marketing to promote special offers or discounts. The goal is to turn casual followers into paying customers.

FAQs for social listening vs social monitoring

What are the main limitations of social listening?

Limitations of social listening include potential privacy issues related to user data, isolating relevant information from large data sets, and difficulty identifying the source and accuracy of information.

Does social listening encompass social monitoring?

Yes, both social listening and social monitoring pull information from shared social networks so the same data is tracked and measured such as identifying trends, topics, and opinions related to a given brand.

What are the benefits of social listening and monitoring?

Social listening and monitoring let companies respond quickly to customer issues to provide better customer service. It can also help inform product development and anticipated market shifts.

What is an example of social monitoring?

An example of social monitoring would be tracking conversations on social media platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook, to better understand how customers feel about a product or service offering.

Why is social media monitoring and listening important?

Social media monitoring and listening help companies better understand their target audience’s behavior. It also helps identify potential industry opportunities, connect with customers more effectively, and stay ahead of emerging trends.

What social listening and monitoring tools are most effective?

Social media software is equipped with monitoring tools, automation, and sentiment analysis that helps you track conversations, respond faster, and gain valuable customer insights.

Social media listening and monitoring with Birdeye Social

Organizations typically use multiple social media accounts to reach their customers. This can be overwhelming and time-consuming for companies managing multiple accounts for multiple locations. With Birdeye Social, you can funnel all your social media conversations into one, easy-to-use platform. Speak to one of our experts today and learn more.

2023 social media toolkit

Originally published Jan 19, 2023, updated