Quick Tips for Listening in Social Media

social media listeningListening in social media is more than jumping online, setting up a Twitter or Facebook and reading the instructions and then pumping out updates. Listening in social media is monitoring, reading and comprehending the conversations online. You have to know about the conversation through monitoring, read what is being said and understanding it to be able to engage. Listening. There are conversations happening everywhere – some are brand direct where others are indirect as they are specific to the industry or a competitor. Both are equally important to listen to.

How to Start Listening

How do you listen? You listen for opportunity to engage. In social media we are here to engage and build relationships with people. Hearing their conversation allows us to be able to jump in and engage in a non-intrustive way.  The first step in learning how to listen is to set up a listening station where you monitor the conversations about your brand, competitor and industry as a whole.

Where to Listen

Setting up a listening station by knowing where to listen is a tough one as there is not a clear cut answer. This varies for each client and industry and each has its own community. Everywhere is pretty much the overall answer but this is not always practical as a small business owner. There are some excellent monitoring companies that do capture the conversations online but for those that are just starting out or have budget constraints, a great place to start listening is where your customers are by cross checking on platforms. Jay Baer discusses the 4 Ways to Find out where your customers are in social media in his article on Social Media Examiner.

What Should You Listen For?

Opportunity. We are listening for opportunity. Mentions of our brand whether positive or negative need to be heard; mentions of our competitors need to be heard as well as what is going on in the industry. Ignoring these is passing up opportunity. What should you listen for as it relates to your brand, competitor and industry?

Your Brand & Competitors

  • Inquiries
  • Praise
  • Complaints
  • Recommendations/referrals to others
  • Mentions of: company name, abbreviations, key players, product and specific services.

When we listen we find a wealth of information. People talk this we know. The gal who just got laid off from  her job will be talking.

Postive: Ugh, Just got laid off at ABC Company. Sucks. Wish them well with the launch of (new product) as it is a really cool product.

Negative: Dumb asses at ABC Company just laid  me off. Let’s see how much of a disaster the launch of (new product) will be without me.

Both mention the name of the company and also the product. People talk. By listening you have learned what they are up to and also if this gal is someone you would consider hiring when her resume comes across your desk.

Listening in your industry is a bit different as it is on a broader scale. This should yield more results however analyzing the conversations and filtering them over time will bring the desired results. In the beginning, you would listen for:


  • Broad keywords that are used to describe your industry
  • Targeted core keywords for your specific services and/or product
  • Non-industry used terms – if the general public calls it something different or abbreviates you listen for that as well.
  • Industry leaders

Listening in social media is the foundation for any social media plan. How do you know how to even begin engaging if you have no idea what the online community is talking about, how they liked to be talked to or where to best place your message? Success in social media does not come from a free for all. It is about listening and engaging but you cannot engage until you listen and continue to listen. Every conversation is opportunity. Your customer service team has to listen for inquiries, your lead gen team  has to listen for brand and industry mentions so that they can be proactive and also reactive.

How do you listen? Is listening a big part of your social media strategy?

photo credit: Thibodeau

  • Hi Suzanne,

    Thanks for the tips. The BDPA Social Networking Team is just learning the value of “listening”. We're promoting our National Conference using social media and we're finding that the “old school” methods of press releases and email blasts don't work that well anymore. Thanks for sharing your best practices and techniques for listening.

    Milt Haynes
    BDPA Social Networking Team

  • Milt

    Thank you and I hope this is helpful. I am a bit shocked that the email is not working so well. Have you performed some tests on the email to see if one was more effective that the other one?

    Listening is ongoing and a driver for social media plans. It all comes together.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  • Hi Suzanne, I don't have a strategy for listening by setting up searches and alerts for kep words. I do it organically by scanning FB or Twitter to see what people are talking about, chipping in to help out where I can, introducing them to other like-minded people or someone who can help, congratulating people on achievements and thanking people who've helped me out. It's a natural approach that's really just good manners. I think my mum would be proud. I know you do this stuff too and it's appreciated by me and many others! Thanks for sharing your tips here:)

  • Annabel

    That is usually how I start the day – scanning and also reading other blogs. I actually do both but not to the point that it consumes me. I tend to get a bit too engrossed in the listening part and have to come up for air sometimes.

    Taking a minute to check in or thank someone goes a long way. It is always a pleasure to my day when you pop up in my twitter stream.

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