What is Social Listening? Understand Customer Sentiment to Drive Marketing Success

Have you ever wondered how successful companies manage to stay on top of customer preferences and needs? Well, it’s no secret—they rely on a powerful technique called social listening.

In this blog post, we’ll delve deep into the world of social listening and discover how understanding customer sentiment can drive marketing success for your business. 

Keep on reading to uncover valuable insights, gain a competitive edge, and connect with your audience like bigger brands do.

Let’s Start by Understanding the Basics of Social Listening

At its core, social listening goes beyond monitoring social media—it involves actively tuning in to online conversations and understanding the thoughts, opinions, and emotions expressed by your target audience. 

Instead of simply collecting data, social listening focuses on analyzing and interpreting that data to derive meaningful insights.

David Owens, Digital Marketing Expert at CPR Training, says, “Imagine yourself at a bustling café, intently listening to conversations around you. You’re not just hearing words; you’re understanding the sentiment, identifying trends, and gaining a deep understanding of people’s preferences. That’s precisely what social listening does in the digital world—it allows you to tap into the collective voice of your customers.”

In fact, 61% of businesses now have a social listening system in place. 

Credit: Social Media Today

This statistic shows that social listening is becoming increasingly important for businesses of all sizes. By monitoring social media conversations, businesses can gain valuable insights into their customers, competitors, and industry trends.

Why Does Social Listening Matters in Marketing?

Effective marketing is all about meeting customer needs and expectations. And social listening helps you evaluate those needs and expectations. 

What happens if you don’t listen to them? Well, not trying to scare you, but stats show 96% of unhappy consumers won’t complain to you, but will their 15 friends. 

This highlights the importance of customer satisfaction. If a customer has a negative experience with your brand, they are very unlikely to do business with you again. Social listening can help you identify and address customer pain points before they escalate into negative experiences.

By embracing social listening, you gain a powerful tool to accomplish just that. Here’s why social listening matters:

1. Understanding the Voice of the Customer:

Lara Acosta, Chief Marketing Officer at AED Training, says, “Your customers are talking, and social listening enables you to listen attentively. By capturing customer sentiment, feedback, and preferences, you gain valuable insights that shape your marketing strategies, product development, and customer service.”

You can identify pain points, anticipate needs, and deliver experiences that truly resonate with your audience.

2. Uncovering Trends and Opportunities:

Social listening helps you stay ahead of the curve by identifying emerging trends and opportunities. Sumeer Kaur, Founder of Lashkaraa, says, “By monitoring conversations within your industry, you can spot shifts in customer behavior, changing preferences, and new market segments.” 

Armed with this knowledge, you can tailor your marketing campaigns, launch innovative products, and position your brand as a trendsetter.

3. Improving Brand Reputation and Customer Satisfaction:

Your brand reputation hinges on how well you listen to and engage with your customers. Michael Sanders, Finance Expert at SmartFinans.no, says, “Social listening allows you to actively respond to feedback, address concerns, and resolve issues promptly.” 

And by being attentive and responsive, you build trust, enhance customer satisfaction, and cultivate a loyal customer base.

How to Set Up an Effective Social Listening System for Your Business?

To harness the power of social listening, here are some essential tips to guide you along the way:

1. Set Clear Objectives and Goals:

Before embarking on your social listening journey, define your objectives and goals. What specific insights are you seeking? Are you aiming to improve customer service, refine your marketing messaging, or identify new market segments? Having clear goals will help you tailor your listening efforts and measure success effectively.

2. Choose the Right Social Listening Tools:

Numerous social listening tools are available, each offering unique features and functionalities. Research and select a tool that aligns with your needs, budget, and level of complexity. Popular options include Brandwatch, Hootsuite, and Sprout Social. (We’ll talk about them in just a minute)

3. Define Relevant Keywords and Topics:

To ensure your social listening efforts are targeted, define relevant keywords and topics. These could include your brand name, product name, industry-specific terms, or even competitor names. By refining your listening parameters, you can filter out noise and focus on conversations that matter to your business.

4. Monitor Multiple Social Media Platforms:

Steve Elliott, the Franchise Owner of Restoration1, shares an important insight: “Your customers are active on various social media platforms, so it’s essential to cast a wide net.” Monitor conversations not only on popular platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram but also on niche-specific forums, review sites, and industry blogs. This comprehensive approach will provide a holistic understanding of your audience.

5. Analyze and Interpret Data Accurately:

Sam McKay, CEO of Enterprise DNA, says, “Collecting data is just the first step; the real value lies in how you analyze and interpret that data.”

Look beyond surface-level metrics and delve deeper into sentiment analysis, emerging themes, and patterns. By accurately interpreting the data, you can extract meaningful insights that drive informed decision-making.

3 Powerful Tools for Social Listening

Now let’s explore some popular tools that can enhance your social listening endeavors:

1. Brandwatch

Brandwatch is a comprehensive social listening tool that allows you to monitor mentions, track sentiment, and analyze customer conversations across multiple platforms. Its advanced analytics capabilities provide actionable insights to shape your marketing strategies effectively.

2. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a widely used social media management platform that offers social listening features. With Hootsuite, you can monitor keywords, track brand mentions, and engage with your audience seamlessly from a single, intuitive dashboard.

3. Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a powerful social media management and listening tool that enables you to monitor conversations, track sentiment, and measure the impact of your social media efforts. It provides detailed reporting and collaboration features to streamline your social listening workflow.

Experts Share Strategies for Successful Social Listening

To maximize the impact of social listening, consider implementing these strategies:

1. Establishing a Listening Framework:

Kenny Kline, President at Barbend, says, “Create a structured framework that outlines how you will approach social listening. Define roles and responsibilities, establish protocols for engaging with customers, and set benchmarks for measuring success.” 

A clear framework ensures consistency and streamlines your social listening efforts.

2. Engaging with Customers and Influencers:

“Social listening isn’t a one-way street; it’s about engaging in meaningful conversations. Respond promptly to customer feedback, acknowledge positive sentiments, and address concerns with empathy and transparency.”, shares Mark Valderrama, CEO and founder of Aquarium Store Depot

Engaging directly with customers and influencers builds trust and fosters a sense of community around your brand.

3. Tracking and Measuring Social Listening Efforts:

“To gauge the effectiveness of your social listening initiatives, establish key metrics and track them over time. Monitor changes in sentiment, track customer satisfaction levels, and measure the impact of your responses.”, says Joseph Passalacqua, CEO of Maid Sailors

By evaluating your efforts, you can fine-tune your strategies and ensure continuous improvement.

Talking of tracking… 

8 Important Social Listening Metrics to Track

When engaging in social listening, tracking relevant metrics is essential to measure the impact of your efforts. Here are some key metrics to consider:

1. Sentiment Analysis:

Sentiment analysis measures the overall sentiment expressed in customer conversations about your brand. By tracking sentiment, you can assess whether the majority of mentions are positive, negative, or neutral. This metric provides insights into how customers perceive your brand and helps you gauge the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

2. Share of Voice:

Share of voice refers to the proportion of conversations and mentions your brand receives compared to your competitors within a specific industry or market segment. Laura Capon, Lead Researcher and gardener at Price My Garden, says, “By monitoring your share of voice, you can understand your brand’s visibility and identify opportunities to increase your market presence.”

3. Reach and Impressions:

Reach and impressions measure the number of unique users exposed to your brand’s content and the total number of times your content was displayed, respectively. By tracking these metrics, you can assess the visibility and reach of your social media posts and campaigns.

4. Influencer Engagement:

Tiffany Parra, Owner of FirePitSurplus.com, shares an important insight: “Identifying and engaging with influencers relevant to your industry can significantly impact your brand’s reach and credibility. Measure the number of interactions, mentions, and engagements your brand receives from influencers.”

Tracking this metric helps you understand the effectiveness of your influencer marketing efforts.

5. Conversation Volume and Trending Topics:

Monitoring the volume of conversations related to your brand or industry helps you understand the level of engagement and interest among your audience. Additionally, identify trending topics and hashtags within your industry to stay updated on the latest discussions and adapt your marketing strategies accordingly.

6. Customer Sentiment and Satisfaction:

Gerrid Smith, Chief Marketing Officer, Joy Organics, shares, “You often see companies taking feedback surveys on socials. There’s a reason for it. Tracking customer sentiment and satisfaction metrics allows you to evaluate the overall perception of your brand.”

Assess sentiment and satisfaction scores based on customer feedback, reviews, and surveys. This data helps you identify areas for improvement and measure the effectiveness of your customer experience initiatives.

7. Response Rate and Time:

Measure your response rate and average response time to customer inquiries, feedback, and complaints. A prompt and attentive approach to customer interactions can significantly impact customer satisfaction and brand reputation.

8. Conversion and Sales Impact:

Lisian Ajroni, CTO of AJRONI Web Design Agency, says, “Most companies just track socials and call it social listening. This is half of the game. Social listening can indirectly influence conversion rates and sales. Track after-sale or after-interaction conversations, too”. 

Analyze how customer conversations and sentiment correlate with changes in website traffic, lead generation, and sales figures. This metric helps you understand the direct impact of social listening on your bottom line.

By tracking these metrics and analyzing the data, you gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of your social listening efforts and can make data-driven decisions to enhance your marketing strategies, says Ritika Asrani, Owner and Broker of Century21.

Social Listening in Action: Examples of Brands Doing It

1. Beauty Brand Example: StarSurface

Let’s take a look at StarSurface, a popular beauty brand that effectively utilizes social listening to discover user-generated content. Sarah Lugor, a well-known content creator, recently shared a video on TikTok featuring StarGlow’s innovative pimple patches. Although Sarah didn’t directly mention the brand, StarGlow’s social listening strategy enabled them to find her content and repost it on their Instagram profile. 

This showcases how StarGlow leverages social listening to identify valuable user-generated content, providing them with authentic social proof. 

You can see the original TikTok post on the right and StarGlow’s repost on the left in the image below.

2. Restaurant Example: Chipotle

Chipotle, a popular fast-casual restaurant chain, effectively uses social listening to identify content creators within their target audience. In a recent instance, they engaged with The SpiceSquad, a well-known TikTok creator duo, by challenging them to create a video of sending a burrito into space. 

When The SpiceSquad shared the TikTok video, FlavorBowl reposted it on their Instagram as user-generated content. This showcases Chipotle’s ability to leverage social listening to engage with content creators who align with their brand and enhance their social media presence.

3. Traveling, Home, and Hoteling: Airbnb

Airbnb’s success story in leveraging social listening highlights the immense value of monitoring and responding to customer experiences in real time. When a video featuring a stranded group went viral, Airbnb’s social listening efforts allowed them to identify the opportunity swiftly. 

@alixearle Heres the storytime … stay tuned for updates 🤣🫶🏼✈️ #positano #girlstrip #italy ♬ Young Folks – Shindig Society

With remarkable agility, they took immediate action, arranging alternative accommodations for the group within just 24 hours. By addressing the issue promptly and effectively, Airbnb not only resolved the customers’ problem but also transformed a potentially negative situation into a positive brand experience.

The impact of Airbnb’s social listening strategy became evident as the viral video garnered over 3.9 million views. Recognizing the potential for positive publicity, Airbnb’s social media team capitalized on the opportunity by reaching out to the content creator, Earle, and arranging for her group to stay in a nearby villa. 

This gesture of exceptional customer service resonated with Earle, prompting her to share another video expressing gratitude and showcasing the villa provided by Airbnb. This subsequent video received over 3.8 million views, further amplifying Airbnb’s positive brand image.

Ethical Considerations in Social Listening

While social listening offers incredible opportunities, it’s essential to navigate it ethically and responsibly. Consider the following ethical considerations:

1. Respecting Customer Privacy and Data Protection:

Adhere to data protection regulations and respect customer privacy. Obtain consent for collecting and using personal information and implement robust data security measures to safeguard customer data.

2. Transparency in Data Collection and Usage:

Be transparent with your customers about your social listening practices. Clearly communicate what data you collect, and how it will be used, and provide opt-out options for customers who prefer not to participate. Honesty and transparency build trust and foster a positive relationship with your audience.

3. Avoiding Bias and Maintaining Objectivity:

When analyzing social listening data, remain unbiased and objective. Be aware of your own biases and preconceived notions, and focus on interpreting the data accurately to derive genuine insights.


By actively listening to your customers, leveraging the right tools, and implementing effective strategies, you can unlock valuable insights, strengthen your brand reputation, and outshine your competitors. So seize the opportunity to embrace social listening, connect with your audience on a profound level, and propel your marketing efforts to new heights. 

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