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What’s Social Listening, And Are There Free Tools To Help You Do It?

July 2, 2018

Man eavesdropping on group conversation worried I know they're talking about meblank vertical space, 16 pixels highI’m writing this particular post in response to a question: What free social listening tool can you recommend?

Social listening. Interesting term. What is it exactly?

Wait– there’s another term: social monitoring. Are they the same thing?

Not exactly. There’s a fine distinction. I like the way Amanda Walgrove makes that distinction:

Social monitoring is identifying and responding to individual brand mentions on social media.

Social listening, on the other hand, is collecting data from those social mentions and broader customer conversations, and pulling insights from them so you can make better decisions for your customers.

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highWhy should a business care about social listening? Christina Newberry puts it this way:

If you’re not engaged in social media listening, you’re creating your business strategy with blinders on.

You’re missing out on mountains of actionable insights from real people who are actively talking about you or your industry online.

If you have a target audience, it pays to know what they’re talking about. What they’re struggling with. What they expect from you and your competitors.

A big reason major brands monitor social conversations: a customer may have had a bad experience and is venting about it online. Imagine how Kohl’s must have felt when they spotted this tweet:tweet young woman venting online about very bad experience at Kohl's she's ready to switch loyalty to Amazon

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highNot the sort of thing any brand can afford to ignore. Because it could easily go viral. The brand needs to respond immediately and make things right.

But you’re not just listening for negative things. Social monitoring helps you figure out what content to create. How? By looking for trends and “pain points.” If a prospect is having a problem, create content that addresses that problem.

Social listening also helps you learn your prospects’ language– what keywords and phrases they use. Then, by speaking their language, you enhance your credibility.

So how does it work exactly? How do you listen in on social conversations? How do you find out if someone has mentioned you or your business?

You need a social listening tool— an app designed for that purpose. Some options are mentioned below.

Then you need to tell it what to listen for. Things like your brand and product names, those of your competitors, names of key people, industry buzzwords, etc.

The app will then crawl the web looking for those keywords and phrases, and report everything it finds.

Mention, Brand24, and BuzzSumo are some of the big names in social monitoring. Ditto Hootsuite and its companion apps Audiense and Brandwatch. They offer a lot of very sophisticated bells and whistles. But they all require a paid subscription. There are, however, some free alternatives.

Social Mention is a very simple monitoring tool, and it’s completely free.

Its regular Search function is open-ended and delivers somewhat unpredictable results. Its Advanced Search is much better: you can specify certain words, look for exact phrases, and exclude certain words.

Another free option: Talkwalker Alerts, which bills itself as “the best free and easy alternative to Google Alerts.”

And finally, that old standby, Google Alerts itself.

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highYes, it’s good to do some social eavesdropping— er, I mean, social listening. It’s important to know what people are saying about you and your brand…blank vertical space, 24 pixels higheavesdropping on people talking about illustrator Mark Armstrong he's brilliant genius bestblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. I create images that get content seen and shared.

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Claire Porter, PORTABLES, choreographer dancer performance artist

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blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 40 pixels high

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mia permalink
    July 2, 2018 10:37 AM

    Wonderful clarification! Thank you for this!


  2. August 19, 2018 9:10 AM

    Useful tools, Mark


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