The best social listening tools
No longer just a soapbox for shouting out your opinions. Way beyond a mere advertising billboard. Social media plays a pivotal role in marketing, customer support, and product development. The key to exploiting it? Listening. To do that effectively? You need the best social listening tools. Here’s my pick of awesomeness...
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Definition of social listening
Social listening is used by brands to monitor online conversations. Conversations that use certain keywords and phrases. Conversations about your brand, your business, your industry, your product, your competitors.
It's a powerful business practice that helps brands make sense of the crazy and overcrowded online world. Find patterns and trends that can be used to your advantage. To your brand's advantage. But, it can be even more than that.
Starting as an early warning system for comms departments, looking to avoid potential crises, other teams quickly recognized the value of social listening. They started using social media listening tools to...
- Identify insights to improve marketing campaigns
- Find consumer feedback about products
- Improve the efficiency of customer support
Social listening plucks key insights from social media conversations that you can use in your online marketing strategy and your product development. It helps you find data to enable better decision making. It reveals new business opportunities. It lets you know what consumers are thinking.
The tricky bit? Clicking on a hashtag or @mention, tracking notifications, counting the number of likes. It isn’t enough. Consumers want to be heard, but they don’t always talk clearly. 30% of tweets about a brand, don’t include the brand’s Twitter handle. That’s 30% - prospect, customer, customer support query - ignored.
Quick Search social listening tool - hashtag tracking.
Why is social media listening important?
Social listening is way more than checking Twitter and Facebook every five minutes. There are many benefits...
Customer support - turning a negative into a positive
43% of consumers interact with brands on social media, looking for a response to a question, a solution to a problem. Social listening tools mean that you can now find these conversations and improve consumers' online experience. Increase trust in your brand. Boost awareness.
As consumers, we expect a fast response. Fail to hear us, and we'll find a brand that's listening.
If you have a social media listening strategy in place, you'll be able to track mentions of your brand, your product, your competitors, and your industry. You'll discover exactly what your target audience likes and dislikes.
BTW... track all variations of your brand name, with and without the @ symbol. Common misspellings too. If you cover your bases, you'll never ignore an opportunity to engage.
Find the best influencers for you brand
Influencers are vital to your brand. Why?
- 74% of consumers use social media to steer their purchasing decisions
- 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations over brand-speak, while only 33% trust ads
Influencers’ opinions are highly-rated. We listen to them. You need these guys on side. Promoting and recommending your brand and products. Engage with them.
Looking for more information about influencer marketing? Check out my Influencer Marketing Guide.
Track hashtags and keywords
If you're working on a new campaign, you'll need the best hashtags, keywords, and phrases, if you want your content to reach the right people. Social listening tools will find those keywords and then monitor what's being said about your campaign.
Did they love it? Hate it?
Talkwalker social listening tool - track hashtags, keywords, phrases.
Track phrases and find potential issues that consumers have. For example, track “brand name isn’t working”. You can then jump in quickly and address the issue. This example of a quick response demonstrates that you’re looking out for consumers, you’ve got their back. You're listening, and you care.
Real-time feedback & business opps
If you use social listening tools, you’ll have access to real-time feedback from consumers. This will help you improve business processes and product development.
This survey by Clutch - Why Businesses Should Perform Social Listening: 2017 Survey - states that 25% of respondents say the biggest benefit of social listening is to improve products and services.
The Hilton Hotels chain listens to customers on Twitter. It tracks phrases such as “where should I go on my next vacation?”. The chain then responds directly with suggestions, including links to destinations.
Cool and effective idea.
An additional benefit of social listening, is finding user-generated content that can be used in your marketing plan. My User-Generated Guide explains the many benefits of UGC.
Drive your business advantage
All those stats that you collect with your social listening tools will help your business evaluate its activities, and feed your social media marketing strategy.
Use audience segmentation and influencer analysis to find the best markets and communities to target. You'll find...
- Best time slots for engagement
- Metrics - share, sentiment, reach, impact
- Trending topics
- Product development ideas
You'll then be best-placed to evaluate brand visibility and perception before, during, and after your campaigns launch. Meaning you'll know whether they're working or not.
You don't have to restrict your listening to consumers. There's chatter from and about your competitors, that you mustn't ignore. What do consumers think of them? Are their marketing campaigns working? Any ideas you hadn't thought of that you could 'borrow'? Are they in they about to be hit by a crisis, that you can avoid?
Okay, I think you get that social listening is not to be ignored. Let's get onto the best tools for the job...
Social listening tools
What do you do? Hire a person to monitor social media day in, day out?
Get yourself some social listening. Get yourself some social listening tools. I’ve put together a list of the best on the market. There are freebies, low-cost, and premium.
In no particular order, let’s go...
Quick Search | Social media search engine
Quick Search - listen to your industry and your competitors.
Easy to use social media search engine. Use Quick Search to listen and find content ideas, detect influencers, understand your audience, and recognize trends. You can track keywords on all social media, blogs, forums, and online news sites.
- Compare up to five brands or topics for benchmarking
- Access vital KPIs - engagement, volume, demographics, SOV, and sentiment analysis @ 90% accuracy
- Unlimited search, unlimited results - going back 13 months
- Global coverage - social networks, news sites, blogs, and forums
Quick Search - listen to your audience!
"Quick Search provides such an easy and user-friendly opportunity to deep dive into your competitors' social sphere; letting you harness their strengths and weaknesses to improve and cultivate a winning marketing strategy. For a specific breakdown of the importance of this, you should definitely check out Talkwalker's latest article on the necessity and implications of competitor analysis for your business and brand."
Christina Garnett @RoanokeMaven | Marketing Media Maven
Hootsuite | Manage all your social accounts
Hootsuite is a social media management platform working with - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Google+. With shared access, you and your team can stay on top of all your social media accounts.
Integrated with Talkwalker, you can set up streams and monitor all mentions of your favorite topics across millions of news sites, blogs, and forums whilst sharing content in real-time. If you’re using Hootsuite already, you can install the Talkwalker app for free.
Yep, doesn’t cost a thing!
"If you are looking for a tool that lets you manage all of your social media accounts and presence in a single place, and collaborate as a team on them, then Hootsuite should be at the top of your list to investigate." "The company keeps investing in enhancements to its platform. Hootsuite just keeps getting better. And that’s not always true with products."
Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends) | Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends
While most use Hootsuite for its scheduling and content optimization tools, it also has a sophisticated social monitoring platform. You can monitor social networks by keyword or location. Add an @username or a simple phrase or keyword and you’ll get all the mentions in your dashboard.
Social Mention | Analyze 100+ social networks
Social Mention is a basic tool. No fancy analytics, no pretty website. It describes itself as a social media search and analysis platform. It monitors 100+ social platforms including FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google. Plus blogs, news outlets, and more.
Type in your brand name, industry, competitor, and Social Mention goes to work. You’ll receive a report which ranks the results by sentiment - positive, neutral, negative. You’ll also get top keywords, top users, top hashtags, and sources.
Let's not judge by appearance... it's a nifty social listening tool that I’d recommend for your tool box.
Bonus… it’s free.
IFTTT | Working with 100s of apps
If This Then That - it’s all in the name.
IFTTT can be used with hundreds of apps and devices, including Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Evernote, Nest, Fitbit, Amazon Alexa, and Gmail.
An Applet is what happens when these ‘services’ are combined. Here’s an example given by IFTTT:
“Use an Applet to sync Amazon Alexa to-dos with your Google Calendar. Or, an Applet that lets you create events in your iPhone Calendar, via Google Assistant.”
You can connect to IoT devices, receive texts when it’s raining, turn on you garage lights as you arrive home.
It’s a freebie that’s also available as iOS and Android apps.
Keyhole | Historical and real-time data
This social listening tool monitors your Twitter and Instagram accounts. You can track URLs, hashtags, keywords, and @usernames. With an eye on the future, social listening tools are always increasing the number of platforms they cover. Keyhole is no different.
Data can be viewed historically and in real-time, along with heat maps showing activity levels around the world.
“Keyhole has become one of our favorite social media tracking tools. It provides us with real-time tracks of social activities based on keywords, hashtags, or URL. It helps us understand our community better so that we can identify those who support us and those who engage with us.”
Karlyn Bishop @vB_Mama
Talkwalker Alerts | Quick, easy, free
OMG!!! You don’t monitor your online reputation? How do you know when someone’s slamming your brand?
Negative comments have to be found and responded to QUICKLY. It’s all about damage limitation. Talkwalker Alerts is quick to set up, easy to use, and best of all… IT’S FREE!!!
Talkwalker Alerts eats negative comments for breakfast.
It takes seconds to set up your alerts, then you’ll receive email alerts of the latest mentions on the web, and all the breaking news stories related to your queries. The alerts come with a short description and a link to the news source.
Big news, it’s the only alerts tool that monitors Twitter!!
“Is it better than Google Alerts? I’ll be brutally honest – YES!”
Meg (@megzcarpenter) | Digital Comms Officer @Talkwalker
Did I mention that it’s free?!!
Reputology | Track sentiment in reviews
How will you know what people think of your business if you don’t listen to what consumers are saying?
Track reviews talking about your brand, product, industry, services. Before consumers hand over their cash, they’ll have read online reviews submitted by happy and not so happy customers. If you’re not there getting involved, you could miss out on winning new customers due to a negative comment. Reputology allows you monitor your reviews in a single dashboard.
Reputology tracks review sites, app directories, Facebook, Google, and Yelp. The semantic analysis technology allows you to identify customer sentiment towards your brand, so you can address negativity fast.
With consumers expecting to hear back from you within 24 hours of posting online, you can’t afford to ignore them.
- Monitor and measure continuously
- Identify what makes customers happy
- React to developing issues in real-time
- Spot trends ahead of time
- Customizable world cloud reports
- Track your team’s responses
It’s not free, but each pricing plan offers a free trial.
Quora | Questions and answers
You ask a question. You answer a question. That’s Quora.
A free site on which you can check out what people are saying about your brand, product, services, competitors, industry - or other relevant/not so relevant topics.
Search for and answer questions or topics related to your brand and target audience. Follow people you think relevant to your business. You’ll receive regular updates in Quora and notification by email.
To listen effectively, create feeds on the pain points your product solves. If you offer social media listening, create feeds around digital marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, etc.
Using a keyword, search for questions relevant to your brand and product. What are people asking for? What do they want?
Ask questions. Answer questions.
Twitter Advanced Search | Fine-tune queries
With 500 million tweets posted daily, how on earth are you supposed to find what you’re looking for?
Fine-tune your queries with Twitter Advanced Search. Use filters to find specific content.
- Tweets from today, yesterday, last year
- Geographic location - country, city, etc.
- Tweets with a phrase, e.g., ‘where should I go on holiday’
- Specific accounts - competitors, partners, vendors, etc.
- A specific tweet with a remembered phrase - without knowing who tweeted it
- Tweeters with a particular keyword, phrase, hashtag in their bio - journalist, PR, writer, blogger
- Popular tweet - Top
- Recent tweet - Live
- Person - Accounts
- Media - Photos, Videos
Little Bird | Find experts and influencers
Little Bird listens and identifies top experts and influencers based on their reputation around specific topics and conversations, via Twitter. Their follower count is irrelevant. You can listen to thought leaders online, around a particular keyword, and spot social trends before they start buzzing.
The level of their influence is measured via their connections - other experts in their field. The tool then tells you:
- Influencers already in your online community
- Competitors’ connections
- The hottest conversations of the influencers
“Little Bird’s insights are helping our team speak like a living, breathing member of our customer communities.”
Aileen McGraw @AileenMcGraw | CEO Communications at Microsoft
Trackur | Brand reputation monitoring
Trackur has paid plans, and offers a free social media monitoring tool with limited - but cool - features. The free version of Trackur is great for listening to what’s being said about your brand - reputation monitoring. Here’s what you get for free:
- One saved search
- Updates once per day
- Results via dashboard, RSS, or email
- Most recent 100 mentions
- Limited sources monitored
With the paid version of Trackur, you can create custom social listening feeds. You can track keyword mentions on blogs, forums, social media. Filter your feeds for results by country and other criteria. If you’re prepared to pay you’ll get:
- More saved searches
- Real-time monitoring
- Unlimited mentions
- Facebook, Google+ and forum monitoring
- Trackur Insights for charts and analytics
- Automated sentiment analysis and scoring
What consumers say behind your back matters to your brand
Social listening tools are great for monitoring your brand’s reputation and that of your competitors. Plus you can create alerts and listen to your entire industry, identifying what your buyer personas care about. You’ll be able to deliver better content, better products, and more meaningful engagement.
These are some of the best social listening tools I've found on the market. If you're looking for a single social listening tool that'll give you all of the above, and more - hashtag tracking, brand listening, sentiment analysis, image recognition, crisis management - Talkwalker's what you're after.
Sign up for a free Quick Search demo. You won't be sorry.
Free social media templates
To help you on your social media journey, I’ve bundled together essential social media templates...
Are you a victim of social media overload?
- Social media checklist - manage every day, week, month, quarter
- Social media messaging checklist - find your tone of voice and cut through the noise
- Social media glossary - 100+ definitions, phrases, tools, channels, slang, acronyms
- Emoji glossary - speak in tongues, winks, facepalms, hugs, smiley faces, angry faces
Don't wing it on social…