There are many different areas of digital marketing that require attention from teams.
A large area of this landscape is social media. Social media marketing requires an incredible amount of time and effort from team members in order to successfully manage and run a social media program.
Two terms commonly used in social media marketing are social monitoring and social listening.
Both of these phrases are used to refer to types of social media strategies, and they are often used interchangeably.
However, social monitoring and social listening are both distinct approaches and should be addressed as separate entities.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what social monitoring and social listening are, and why they are important for your digital marketing strategy.
Then we’ll take a look to see which approach will be the best fit for your team and learn how you can use it in your own social media marketing strategies today.
What is Social Monitoring?
Social monitoring is a term used to describe the process of finding, tracking, and responding to brand mentions on social media platforms.
When customers post or comment about things specifically related to your brand, campaigns, or company, your team finds those mentions using social monitoring and replies accordingly.
The Importance of Social Monitoring
Social monitoring is important to your business because it helps you create connections and build relationships with customers on a one-to-one level.
Your team responds to posts or comments that mention your brand name and communicates directly to customers or prospects.
Social monitoring is a great way to engage with your audiences and answer questions, quickly rectify complaints and manage criticism, and give shout-outs to those who are positively commenting about your brand, company, products, or services.
The importance of social monitoring comes from the fast and quick connections you make with your audience rather than a long-term relationship or building.
After the first interaction, you typically won’t continue to follow up or engage with the contact you made.
Social monitoring is also a cheap and efficient way to manage your customer base and keep tabs on your social profiles.
What is Social Listening?
Social listening refers to the much more complex process of using data from social monitoring interactions and other social metrics to draw broad conclusions about your brand’s identity and performance among target audiences.
It helps you gain critical insights about your brand through broad keywords, topics, industries, or trends rather than direct brand mentions.
The Importance of Social Listening
Social listening is key to your brand’s social media success because it allows you and your team to take a broad approach to understand your brand’s impact.
Rather than instantaneously responding to comments and posts as they appear, you can identify the patterns and overall tone of your brand mentions.
By listening rather than responding to brand mentions, you also are able to develop a better idea of what steps need to be taken to improve your engagement metrics and improve your social media marketing goals.
Customer perceptions and sentiments towards your brand go much deeper than the surface-level posts and comments that drive most of the social monitoring interactions.
Listening and gaining insights into your brand through social tools is key to getting the most out of your social media strategies.
Social Monitoring vs Social Listening: What’s the Difference?
As discussed above, social monitoring and social listening are different strategies that are, unfortunately, often used as interchangeable terms.
While there are differences in the definitions, there are also a few key factors in which social monitoring and social listening impact your social media strategies in separate ways.
1. Reactive vs Proactive
The first key difference between social monitoring and social listening is in the types of actions they take.
Social monitoring is a reactive activity that is all about quick responses and fast, personalized messages.
This is important because it helps to create those valuable connections with customers, but doesn’t ultimately require any long-term strategy or thought-out approach.
Social listening, on the other hand, is a proactive activity as it requires you to take a step back and think through the implications behind brand perceptions and overall brand sentiments.
As a proactive strategy, social listening also requires self-initiation to enact the strategies you develop rather than a quick-fire response to someone else’s action.
2. Narrow vs Broad
Social monitoring is a very narrow approach to social media management.
The responses you give and interactions you monitor aren’t part of a larger approach, but are representative of an individual’s thoughts posted on social media.
Even outside of one-on-one interactions, monitoring your brand or campaign through mentions is also a narrow approach to social media marketing.
Social listening provides a broader take on your place in the industry or market landscape by looking at the big picture rather than individual opinions or campaign results.
Listening by definition requires you and your team to try and think beyond the immediate mentions and find a broader understanding of your brand’s reputation on social media platforms.
3. Manual vs Automated
Another key difference between social monitoring and social listening is the methods in which the two strategies are completed.
Social monitoring is a very manual approach. It requires team members to set notifications or search through hashtags and profiles to find specific brand mentions.
While there are tools to help your team catch brand mentions as they happen, the process of responding and monitoring on an individual or micro level still has to come from a manual process.
This is why social monitoring often takes the time and effort of multiple team members or even entire departments to manage for brands.
In contrast, social listening can use marketing tools like AI and social media reporting tools to help identify trends and parse through large data sets to find insights into your brand.
These types of tools help marketers by presenting data in helpful ways that can’t be reached through human observance.
In fact, it’s nearly impossible to correctly manage social listening without the power of AI and automated tools .
With the help of tools, social listening becomes easier and uses automation rather than valuable time to make things easier for you and your team.
Finding patterns, understanding broad implications within your audience, and uncovering key trends are much easier with the use of tools rather than your best guess.
4. Short-Term vs Long-Term
Social monitoring is often viewed as a very short-term strategy for managing social media marketing.
After all, after the first interaction with an audience member, there typically isn’t any further communication.
However, this approach does help brands meet customer demands. As the digital world continues to grow, customer expectations change as well.
Most customers expect fast, if not immediate, responses to inquiries or direct messages through social media.
The fast responses and quick replies from social monitoring meet those demands and keep your customers satisfied.
Social listening is a more long-term approach to social media marketing and often takes place over days, months, or even longer periods of time.
Because the focus is on trends and patterns rather than direct communication, you have time to strategize and think through social listening approaches.
Social Monitoring vs Social Listening: Which is Best for Your Brand?
Now that you understand that social monitoring and social listening are two different approaches rather than interchangeable terms, you might be wondering which is best for your brand.
Social monitoring and social listening both target different business goals , so before you select an approach to focus on, you should spend some time thinking through your social media marketing programs and determining what your end goals are for the quarter or the year.
➤ If your goals are to improve customer service by getting back to customers quickly and improving your brand’s reputation through interactions or to increase sales by driving your audience to specific landing pages or campaign touchpoints, then social monitoring is your best bet.
➤ Social listening is a better approach if your goals are more in line with understanding general customer sentiments, identifying specific issues or problems with your brand’s products or services, improving standings against competitors, tracking awareness over different platforms, or gaining insights into industry trends.
Social monitoring and social listening are used interchangeably by both marketers and those outside of the industry.
However, the truth is that each approach needs to be treated as a separate strategy, since both terms refer to completely different approaches to social media marketing.
A well-rounded social media strategy is likely going to include elements of both social listening and social monitoring.
This allows you and your team to build fast connections and increase brand awareness through social monitoring while at the same time learning more insights that will affect your social media strategy planning through social listening.
If you are looking for more advice and insight on how to run your social media marketing strategy, take a look at our blog on social media strategies that improve engagement with your viewers!
You’ll learn key insights on how to put together a winning social media strategy and ways to create more engagements with your target audiences.