Watching Or Listening? The Differences between Social Monitoring and Social Listening

Watching Or Listening? The Differences between Social Monitoring and Social Listening

Watching Or Listening? The Differences between Social Monitoring and Social Listening

In the vast playground that is the world of digital marketing, there is much to learn – including a whole new language.  From SEO to SaaS and from CRM to CRO, it’s a full time job just learning the lingo – and, learn it you must if you want to keep up.  

As Sentiment Analysis becomes more and more vital, two of the most popular terms in the marketers dictionary are Social Monitoring and Social Listening.  Like a tourist with an out of date Spanish phrasebook, a lot of our marketers are using these terms incorrectly due to a basic lack of understanding; in fact, many are under the impression that the two are exactly the same. 

Social Media software example dashboard

In this, they couldn’t be more inexact. These two terms cover very different requirements, have different goals, are performed in different ways and, have different benefits. I’ve put together the following guide to help you navigate this much misunderstood arena  First, let’s take a look at each of these individually; what they are and, what they do:

Social Monitoring

Social Monitoring is largely reactive and, generally, has one goal – conversion.  When I say ‘reactive’, I mean this quite literally – social monitoring is the art of responding, or reacting, to messages and comments from customers and potential customers. 

A very simple example of this would be as follows; You hear a familiar ‘ping’ from your laptop and, when you check your company’s Facebook page, you see that a customer has commented on a post that you made about your latest mobile phone case. 

The customer is asking when the case will be available for sale. You respond by giving him or her the date of release and the outlets from which the case will be available. In this scenario, you’ve ‘monitored’ your social media by making sure that you’re aware of new communications and, responding accordingly. 

 

Social Monitoring usually involves short communications with customers and doesn’t require any fancy tools (although these are available for those with a large volume of communications) – all you need to do is to make sure that you have notifications set up so that you don’t miss any messages or comments. 

Social Monitoring is incredibly important as an ignored customer is never a happy customer – in fact, in most cases, they will cease to be a customer at all. A company which maintains a reputation of quickly and efficiently dealing with questions and complaints is one which is likely to receive good reviews and to, therefore, succeed.  

As I mentioned, Social Monitoring is all about conversion – converting unsatisfied (or undecided) customers into satisfied ones and, converting queries into sales.  These days, with everybody glued to their phones, people expect instant gratification – which means that customers expect a response to their query within an hour.

As such,  it’s really important to make sure that you keep on top of incoming messages by setting up visual and audible notifications as well as assigning responsibility to a dedicated member of staff. 

Social Listening

This is where things get a bit more complex and, a lot more proactive.  Where Social Monitoring is all about watching and reacting, Social Listening takes a more active approach – on a much larger scale.  Social Listening is centered around the analysis of data and so, for this, you’ll need one of those fancy tools we talked about earlier. 

This blog already has a post about the best social media listening tools, but, in the meantime, let’s take a closer look at Social Listening.  Unlike Social Monitoring, Social Listening can be used for a wide range of goals, including product development, UX and customer care.  

Social Listening is the art of scanning the world wide web for mentions – good and bad – of your brand and, then, sorting those mentions into an actionable and, easy to understand report.  For example, you’ve just released a new app and, you want to know how people feel about it. A Social Listening tool will creep around the internet, picking up on conversations and mentions of your app and collecting them. Below is such an example screenshot from Brand24:

Social Listening

The tool will then, a bit like a playground snitch, present you with a report on these mentions, graded by sentiment; Positive, Neutral or Negative.

As well as allowing you to see an overview of the feeling towards your app, some tools will also let you interact directly with the customer involved.  The huge benefit here is, of course, that it allows you to troubleshoot any issues as well as performing vital crisis management if the word on the web isn’t good. 

Keeping your ear to the ground

The great thing about Social Listening tools is that they can be used to collect mentions of your brand, product or service…………..but it doesn’t stop there.  These tools can also be used to earwig on what’s being said about your competitors.

Needless to say, this can be beyond value when developing a new product or giving your user experience a bit of an overhaul. 

By using Social Listening, you can find out what’s being said about you, compare it with the chat about the competition and then take the necessary steps to get out ahead. Much more proactive than Social Monitoring, Social Listening is like having a cozy chat with your customer – but on a grand scale!  

As well as us lowly marketers, Social Listening is used to great effect by the rich and famous; many celebrities such as James Blunt and Gordon Ramsay employ Social Listening in order to interact directly with fans. 

Social listening example

By setting up the tool to detect mentions of their name on social media, these people can then respond directly to interesting comments or questions (without having to spend hours ploughing through the thousands of messages that they may receive each day).

Just as Social Listening allows a brand to appear proactive, it allows celebrities to appear interested and engaged in what their fans have to say. 

Spot the difference

Now that I’ve looked at each of these terms individually, it’s time to compare and contrast.  

Goal

Social Monitoring’s only goal is usually to convert unhappy or undecided customers into buying customers.  This is achieved by responding to messages and comments in a timely manner. 

Social Listening can have a wide and diverse set of goals which can include improving on product quality, customer care and the user journey.

The one goal each of these has in common is that it seeks to find out what the issues are in order to resolve them. 

Function

The main function in Social Monitoring is the interaction with customers who have reached out to ask a question or make a complaint. 

The primary function of Social Listening is to gather a large amount of data to get an overall view of the opinions of customers. 

Action

Social Monitoring is, for the most part, reactive – action is only taken in response to a message or comment from a customer. 

Social Listening is proactive – it sets out to find out what customers think without the customer actually getting in touch to share his or her opinion.  It also lends itself to finding out what people are saying about the competition, again, without invitation.  

Putting it into practice

Social Monitoring requires no more than the ability to set up social media with notifications to ensure that you’re aware of each and every communication, allowing you to respond quickly.  Social Monitoring requires no real financial outlay to be successful (other than your usual internet charges). 

Social Listening requires an online tool due to the fact that it works by collecting and analysing large amounts of data. Depending on the level of ‘listening’ required, Social Listening tools normally involve a financial investment. 

Benefit

The main benefit of Social Monitoring is the ability to react swiftly to customer communication – particularly in the case of complaints.  Social Monitoring allows a brand to ‘be seen’ to take its customers seriously and to care about what they have to say. 

Social Listening offers a myriad of benefits to a brand including the ability to gather the views of a large number of customers, deal with issues before they become problems and, to keep an eye on what the competition is up to. 

Conclusion

The easiest way to compartmentalize the two is to think of Social Monitoring as ‘Watching’ and, Social Listening as ‘Listening’.  This is accurate and straightforward as, with the former, you’re ‘watching out for’ messages and, with the latter, you’re ‘listening in’ on conversations that you are not a part of. 

A successful brand really ought to be actively engaging in both Social Monitoring and Social Listening as, despite their differences, both are incredibly important. 

In an increasingly competitive world – most of which is now online, no brand can afford to ignore its customers and that’s, effectively, what you’re doing without these two working in tandem.  It’s great to have an all-singing, all-dancing Social Listening tool set up but, if you’re not responding quickly to your customers, they’ll soon stop listening to you too.  

For more information on the key components of both social media monitoring and listening, check out this infographic from Buzzlogix.

For more information on the key components of both social media monitoring and listening, check out this infographic.

Do you understand the differences between Social Listening and Social Media Monitoring? If not you should - read on for why and detailed explanations.

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Milosz Krasinski
Milosz Krasinski is an expert on Social Listening. He is also an international SEO consultant, speaker, and blogger. Throughout his career, Milosz has been consulting and devising growth tactics for small and start-up businesses, particularly within financial services. His focus areas include link building, technical SEO, and overall digital strategies. Prior to the acquisition of Chilli Fruit Web Consulting, Milosz has been involved in growing Plus Guidance (an early-stage UK tech start-up, now acquired) and Sigma Digital Marketing Agency based in Oxfordshire. Found out more on his blog miloszkrasinski.com
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One comment

  1. thnx for this useful information

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