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Social Listening vs. Social Monitoring: How To Use Both in 2024

Discover the differences between social listening vs social monitoring and how to use both to engage with your audience and protect your online reputation.

Laura Wong June 6, 2024
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If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between social listening vs. social monitoring, we’re here to fill you in. They may sound similar, but in terms of execution and strategic purpose, they’re quite different.

While social listening is more high-level and proactive, social monitoring tends to be more reactive and on a smaller scale. Both social listening and monitoring require specific tools and skills to be done well.

Still, both social listening and social monitoring provide valuable data for businesses. They enable businesses to understand what their customers are saying about them in real-time.

Bonus: Take action on customer insights and drive impact for your organization with our complete guide to social listening using Hootsuite x Talkwalker.

What is social media monitoring?

Social media monitoring is the process of tracking social mentions, which can be specific keywords, phrases, or hashtags. These mentions can be about a company, individual, product, or brand.

Social monitoring requires using specialized tools to gather qualitative and quantitative data. This data can then inform marketing. It can also improve customer engagement and brand reputation.

For example, as the Social Media Manager for the Vancouver Canucks, I used Hootsuite Streams daily. Streams helped me track fan replies and mentions of the team across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and X.

Using Hootsuite Streams to monitor social mentions

Having all comments in one dashboard allowed me to reply to all fan comments from one place. It helped me catch fan issues, such as with tickets, quickly.

Why does social media monitoring matter?

Social media monitoring allows businesses to stay on top of what is being said about their brand, competitors, and industry.

You can bet that if you have customers, they have opinions about your products and services—and it’s up to you to be aware of what they’re saying.

The most powerful feature of social monitoring tools is filters. Filters enable you to remove all non-relevant posts from your target accounts. That way, you’ll only see the comments and posts that are interesting to you. With filters, you don’t miss any important comments about your products, positive or negative.

Below, we’ll provide some real-life examples of how social media monitoring can benefit your brand or small business.

Improved customer service

All brands using social media should check their social mentions regularly. Social mentions (aka whenever your brand name is used on social media) can include questions, complaints, feedback, and more. Real-time monitoring allows businesses to provide timely responses and support.

Businesses should set up social monitoring streams with their brand name as a keyword. They should include the hashtag, tag, and handle. This will capture all the ways that a customer may mention a brand, both direct and indirect.

This tweet shows United Airlines responding to an indirect mention of their brand name, not their handle.

Community building

Monitoring your social mentions is a great way to talk to your audience. It can help you build relationships with your community.

For example, monitoring can help you find posts or comments worth re-sharing to your channels as a response post. Or you can take note of commonly asked questions and turn those into a series of FAQ posts to share on your Stories.

Social monitoring tools allow brands like Drunk Elephant to tag Instagram comments. They use the comments to create Reels to answer common customer questions, like the one above.

Real-time marketing

Brands can use social media monitoring to spot opportunities to join conversations and create real-time marketing content.

As a social media manager, you should get to know your niche’s main thought leaders and influencers. You can then create monitoring streams with these accounts. You can also use the streams for competitors and related brands. The streams allow you to see the conversations happening in your industry.

You can also watch emerging social media trends. Jump into the conversation when it feels relevant to your brand.

I love this example from @LionsgateUK. First, they’re jumping into a pop culture conversation (Taylor Swift’s newest album). Second, it’s related to one of their films (The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes). Kudos to the social listening setup that allowed them to find this post!

Ready to start tracking your social media mentions? We’ve created a step-by-step guide to set up your social media monitoring.

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What is social listening?

Social listening is the exercise of tracking and analyzing all conversations on social media channels that are relevant to your business.

While social media monitoring tracks mentions and interactions, social media listening goes further. It aims to understand the context, emotions, and meanings behind the conversations.

Here are some examples of what you can determine through social media listening:

  • Social share of voice. Explore the percentage of relevant conversations about your brand vs. your competitors.
  • Brand sentiment. Discover how your customers feel about your brand, from positive to negative.
  • Social ROI. Find out how much return you’re getting from your social media efforts.
  • Trends. Uncover the topics, memes, or events being talked about within your niche.

Most importantly, businesses can use insights from social listening to make data-driven decisions instead of guessing what will resonate with their audience.

Why does social listening matter?

Social listening helps businesses stay in touch with their customers, competitors, and industry.

With social listening, you can mitigate customer crises, protect your brand reputation, and understand brand sentiment. You can also gain insights into your customers’ needs.

As a digital brand, Booking.com receives a large volume of mentions every day, from customer support issues to brand engagement. Social listening enables us to monitor the conversations and drill down at anytime into burning topics. We recently started listening on TikTok, and we’ve learned so much. People speak more truthfully about brands in user-generated videos.

– Corina Bordeianu, Senior Social Media Manager at Booking.com

Below, we’ll explore several ways to use social listening to help your business.

Brand reputation management

One of the main uses for social listening is monitoring what people say about your brand. Social listening tools can find common words and topics. They can also measure positive and negative sentiments about your business. Then, you can promptly address any negative feedback or issues.

These insights can be especially valuable when launching major campaigns. We recommend creating a listening dashboard for each campaign, tracking any campaign-specific hashtags, promoted posts, and sentiment for all posts.

Hydro-Québec, an electricity provider in Canada, increased its brand reputation score by 20% by experimenting with a new brand tone of voice. They used Talkwalker to measure the change in audience sentiment before and after the shift.

Market research

Businesses can use social listening to analyze social media discussions and gather insights into customers’ preferences, opinions, and needs.

You can get quantitative insights (based on the frequency and volume of keywords and topics) and qualitative insights (sentiment and top keywords).

Crisis management

Social listening is a powerful tool for crisis management. Like brand reputation management, you can use social listening tools to set alerts for negative keywords + your brand and product names. These alerts can help you identify and address potential crises or controversies before they escalate into significant issues.

Many hospitality brands faced challenging crisis management situations during the pandemic, including Meliá Hotels International.

To help frustrated guests navigate disrupted travel plans, Melià centralized all incoming messages into its Hootsuite Inbox and used Talkwalker to track customer sentiment.

Identifying influencers

One of the more creative ways to use social listening is to identify creators or influencers who could be a good fit to partner with your brand.

You can do this by monitoring relevant hashtags and keywords for your products or industry and identifying individuals within those streams with established audiences.

Then, with one tap from your listening dashboard, you can explore the influencer’s profile, scroll through their most recent posts, or send them a message to propose a collaboration.

Using Hootsuite Streams to conduct social listening searches

Within my social listening dashboard, I have streams monitoring hashtags like #ErasTourOutfits to find UGC to engage with and potential influencers to partner with.

Competitor analysis

Are you keen to keep tabs on your competitors? Track your competitor’s social media posts and campaigns through social listening.

With social listening tools, you can identify trends, competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities in the market.

Ready to become a social listening pro? Here are 7 tips for how to optimize your social listening setup.

Social listening vs. social monitoring

So, what’s the difference between social listening and social monitoring?

Social monitoring focuses on tracking brand mentions and keywords to deliver engagement and customer service on a day-to-day basis.

Social listening incorporates broader topics, searches, and analyses to give you a high-level overview of what’s being said about your brand, industry, and competitors over time.

Here’s a quick summary of the main differences between social listening and social monitoring:

Social monitoring = Specific brand mentions and interactionsSocial listening = All conversations related to your brand, products, competitors, and industry
Smaller scaleHigher level/larger scale
ReactiveProactive
Deliver customer service & engagement in real timeGather insights over time to make strategic decisions
Track brand keywords & hashtagsTrack non-brand keywords and related topics
More manualMore automated

5 tools to manage social media monitoring and social listening

While social platforms have some basic listening and monitoring features built in, they’re pretty limited in the insights provided.

To unlock the full benefits of social listening (such as seeing posts from all channels in one place), you’ll need a third-party tool.

1. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is an all-in-one social media management tool that has both social monitoring and social listening built in.

Streams

With Hootsuite Streams, you can set up a dashboard with many columns to monitor keywords, mentions, hashtags, and other custom searches.

Streams allow you to see all your important messages and interactions in one place, and engage or reply right from your dashboard.

Inbox

Hootsuite Inbox gives businesses an advanced customer care hub, enabling you to reply to messages and comments from many platforms in one place. Inbox unifies messages from Facebook, Instagram, X, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, and Messenger (see full details here).

Inbox allows multiple users to use saved replies, tag and assign messages, provide approvals, and see conversation history, making it great for teams.

Insights

Hootsuite Insights gives you an instant overview of millions of online conversations. Soon, Talkwalker will integrate with Hootsuite to provide the world’s most powerful social listening tool (more on that below).


With Insights, you can not only track conversations about your brand, but also identify trends and influencers, measure campaign performance, and analyze & understand negative sentiment.

2. Talkwalker

Talkwalker social monitoring vs listening

Source: Talkwalker

Talkwalker is a listening tool that includes all social platforms, blogs, forums, videos, news sites, and review sites. It offers more than 50 filters to help you hone in on what’s relevant. You can filter by region, demographics, device, type of content, and more.

You can use Talkwalker to analyze reach, engagement, sentiment, important influencers, and conversation clusters. Another thing it can do? Spot activity peaks in conversations, which can tell you the best times for your brand to post on social.

The best part? Hootsuite is set to acquire Talkwalker, which means it’ll be available within your Hootsuite dashboard soon.

3. Agorapulse

agorapulse social monitoring vs social listening

Source: Agorapulse

Agorapulse is an established social media tool that offers listening across social networks, blogs, and news sites.

It offers most key listening features, such as tracking mentions, engagements, keywords, and hashtags, measuring brand health and sentiment, finding influencers, and competitor listening.

4. Mentionlytics

mentionlytics social monitoring vs social listening

Source: Mentionlytics

Mentionlytics is a robust tool that allows you to track what’s being said about your brand in various languages. It monitors mentions, keywords, and sentiment across social networks, blogs, and news sites.

Some unique features of Mentionlytics include finding top influencers, monitoring keywords, and detecting emotion in every mention, all in other languages. It also uses AI to power its social listening tools.

Mentionlytics offers a free app integration with Hootsuite.

5. Meltwater

meltwater social monitoring vs social listening

Source: Meltwater

Meltwater provides robust social listening and online media intelligence for businesses.

Where Meltwater stands out is its generous historical data and variety of sources, including podcasts, TV, radio, and commercial editorial media.

Check out the free Meltwater integration in Hootsuite.

Hootsuite makes it easy to monitor keywords and conversations on social media, so you can focus on taking action on the insights available. Try it free today.

Manage all your social media in one place, measure ROI, and save time with Hootsuite.

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By Laura Wong

Laura Wong is a Canadian social media strategist based in Amsterdam. She is the founder of SchoolofSocial.io, an online platform that helps anyone land their dream social media job. Besides social media, Laura is passionate about travel, photography, entrepreneurship, and finding the best bubble tea in every city she visits.

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