10 min read
Sep 06, 2017
Social Media Marketing

What Is Social Listening? Amp Up the Volume With These Tools

The internet is a noisy place. What is social listening, and how can it help you cut through the noise? Read on to find out and see which tools you can use.

Suzie BlaszkiewiczAnalyst

The internet is a noisy place. Between social media, blogs, news outlets, videos, review sites, comments sections, and forums, you'd be hard pressed to get a clear idea of what everyone is saying about any topic at all times. This can be scary when you're a business trying to manage your online reputation.

Or maybe you're just wondering if people are talking about your brand at all. With that many places to look, it's easy to become overwhelmed and give up the search before it even begins. It's times like these when social listening becomes an indispensable tool.

In the article below, we'll cover:

  • What is social listening?

  • How social listening works?

  • 7 tools that can be used for social listening, depending on need.

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What is social listening?

Social listening is like online eavesdropping - it's a way to track and monitor what's being said online, whether that be on social media, blogs, news sites, or any of the other outlets where people go to "talk" online. Social listening tools are generally targeted toward social media (hence the "social" half of its name), but social listening has evolved to include outlets outside the realm of social media. This means that tools have also expanded to cover more online ground.

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How does social listening work?

Social listening tools vary greatly in functionality and scope, but (generally) social listening tools:

  • Scan social media for specific keywords or hashtags that you can set up searches for

  • Provide a feed showing where and how often you're being mentioned

  • Highlight who's talking about your brand the most, and assign a score for those that have the biggest influence (or reach) within their networks

  • Gauge the sentiment of what's being said about your brand (is it positive, negative, or neutral?)

  • Give details about emerging trends or themes among mentions

  • Give overall stats into the reach of content and volume of mentions

Once you have this information, social listening gives you the ability to:

  • Find influencers to promote and amplify content

  • Find advocates for advocacy marketing

  • See which topics around your brand gain the most traction online and plan content strategy around that

  • Track competitors to see how your brand compares to others in the online space

  • Get overall insight to help improve your product or service offering

Once you know what you're trying to accomplish by putting your ear to the ground, you'll be better able to find a social listening tool that's right for your company.

Social listening tools range widely in functionality and price - it's a matter of knowing exactly what you'll be needing from them in order to invest in the right product. Below are some options for different levels of need, features, and price range.

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Social listening tools for startups

Free tools can be clunky, slow, and have features that are few and far between, but there are some free options worth looking at if you're just starting out with social listening.

Google Alerts

Price: Free

Google Alerts is one of the most basic options to start on your social listening journey. The service is free, easy to set up, and owned by the Goliath of the online search world. It's as easy as choosing which terms you want to scan the web for and setting up how frequently you want to get notified when those terms are available.

Social Mention

Price: Free

Social Mention is an online tool that lets you search any term in blogs, microblogs, videos, or images. While it may take a bit longer than Google to deliver its results, that's only because it spits back a lot of info, including mention results, sentiment (positive to negative mention ratio), strength (the likelihood that your brand is being mentioned on social media), reach (how many unique users are talking about your brand), and passion (how likely people are to talk about your brand repeatedly). You'll also get a list of related keywords, hashtags, and sources with the option to export data. It's definitely one of the more robust free tools out there.


Price: Free for 1 user, 3 social profiles

Hootsuite is one of the most popular social media marketing and management tools on the market, and it has a free option that'll give you insight into what the social universe is saying about your brand. The free version can be set up with up to three social profiles and one user. From there, you'll have a feed that shows you when your brand is being mentioned, get access to basic analytics to see your growth on social media, find out which content performs best, and have the ability to schedule content at the most opportune times.

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Social listening tools for growing businesses

Once you've tried out some free tools, you may want to take the next steps in social listening and find something with a bit more search power. Both of the tools below offer monthly plans starting at less than $100 a month.


Price: Starting at $29 a month

Mention is a media and social media monitoring tool that gives you a bit more insight into what people and organizations online are saying about your brand. Its media monitoring feature lets you scan major (and lesser known) publications for mentions of your brand's name as well scours social media for mentions so that you can join in on conversations and find influencers. Its web tracking feature lets you set up alerts, rules, and search modifiers to help find the most relevant mentions of your brand.


Price: Starting at $49 a month

Social listening and monitoring tool Brand24 is a step up in your foray into social listening. Besides showing mentions, it also gives details of how many people are talking about your brand and sends custom and specific alerts when the discussion volume or sentiment changes. It also gives the option of filtering by source and shows an influencer score so that you can see what the heaviest hitters are saying. You can also export all of your data to draw conclusions about what's being said and use it to make informed business decisions.

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Social listening tools for power users

The next step up in social listening software includes tools for power users and big brands looking for extensive online excavation of brand mentions. These tools offer robust suites (and pricing to match).


Pricing: Available on request

As one of the leaders in social listening, Brandwatch is a powerful tool aimed at big brands looking for consumer insights and a way to steer decision making. It gives a deep analysis of demographics, trending topics, and share of voice across media, as well as robust insights and reporting features to analyze collected data. Because the system crawls and stores all of its own data, it has a really robust engine that even lets you go back to look at historical mentions.

Salesforce Social Studio

Pricing: Available upon request

Coming from the Salesforce family, it's no surprise that Social Studio is aimed at bigger brands looking for deep listening capabilities. As part of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Social Studio lets you share listening data with other Salesforce tools, provides text and semantic analytics, and even has multi-language sentiment analysis. It also offers tools for managing and scheduling social media, making it an all-around tool for social media marketing and monitoring.

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More about social listening

Now that you know more about social listening, read more about what you can do with it:

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