What is AI Social Listening? Quick, Easy Guide for 2023

18 min read

You may have heard the phrase social listening before, but what does it actually mean? At its core, it is the process of monitoring online conversations to understand what people are saying about your brand, products, services, and anything that may be relevant to your business. It can be a game changer in your social media strategy.

What is Social Listening

According to the State of Social Listening 2022 by Social Media Today:

  • Almost 61% of businesses now have a social media listening system in place and are monitoring for keyword mentions,
  • More than 82% of businesses view social listening as a key planning element,
  • The main purposes of using social listening are to track and analyze sentiment analysis, increase brand awareness, and follow industry trends.

Sounds interesting?

In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about social listening.

So read on to learn more!

What is social listening?

Social listening is about finding all those online discussions that matter for your business and analyzing them to take accurate action. You can, for example, get feedback and insights about your product and then improve it according to customers’ needs.

It consists of two parts:

Part 1: Monitoring social media channels to find mentions about your brand, product, service, competitor, and any keywords related to your business.

Part 2: Analyzing gathered mentions so you’re able to draw actionable conclusions that will help you achieve your business goals.

Start social listening for free. Try the Brand24 tool!

Check the video:

Social listening vs. Social monitoring

Those two terms might seem to be the same thing. But they differ.

Social monitoring is a process of collecting publicly available mentions across social media. It is the process of tracking social media metrics to measure your campaign’s performance. 

Key purposes:

  • Measure campaigns,
  • Hashtag tracking,
  • Monitor brand reputation,
  • Prevent PR crises.

Social listening has a broader scope. Social listening is the process of understanding online conversation. Thanks to that, you can perform a sentiment analysis around your brand. The goal is to gain insights that can be used to improve your marketing strategy or product development. 

Key purposes:

  • Conduct sentiment analysis
  • Measure estimated reach
  • Measure share of voice
  • Discover the context of a discussion

Social listening can help you better understand your audience and their needs, while social monitoring can help you track the success of your marketing efforts. 

What's the difference between social listening and social monitoring?
What’s the difference between social listening and social monitoring?

Brand24 is a social listening tool that tracks online mentions.

True or false: Social listening can help you find leads

Can social listening help me find leads? This question our Customer Success Team frequently receives from new customers.

To give you a correct answer, I asked a customer service expert with over 3 years of experience.

“Lead generation is a very popular area of social media listening tools usage. Many of our clients want to reach mentions with queries about companies dealing with particular issues, such as “I’m looking for a social media agency,” “Who offers the best social media audit?” etc.

Yes, social listening can help you find leads, but you need to remember two things. First, you must set up a project correctly. Monitoring a general keyword such as “social media agency” might not work. You will receive thousands of mentions. It will be difficult to find lead queries. Second, you need to use filters smartly. The biggest challenge while looking for leads is dealing with the mass of mentions in different contexts. Of course, our Customer Success Team willingly helps with those tasks.”

Katarzyna Fryc, Customer Success Manager at Brand24

As you can see, social media listening helps gain new clients by generating sales leads.

The key is to listen for mentions that are relevant to your goals and find mentions posted by potential leads who have an active interest in your product or service.

Step 1: In this case, it’s a good idea to monitor several types of keywords, including:

  • Your product or service,
  • Particular product features,
  • Specific industry terms related to your business,
  • The name of your brand or company,
  • Your competitors.

Step 2: Filter the data using Boolean Search. Here’s a universal formula that works in most projects:

looking for{or}look for{or}recommend{or}who offers{or}who deals with{or}who deal with{or}I need{or}we need{or}which best{or}which company

Tip: To save time, you can save these filters and use them anytime you want.

Here you can see a mention found by the Brand24 tool:

True or false: Social listening can help you find leads
True or false: Social listening can help you find leads

In just one month, Brand24 collected almost 45,000 mentions that included the question “where can I buy.” There is enormous space for brands to join in on the conversation and suggest their products to prospects who really need them.

We use Brand24 to find people looking for recommendations for good listening tools.

True or false: Social listening can help you find leads
True or false: Social listening can help you find leads

Our customer service team then steps in, interacting with these users to let them know about Brand24. 

This is one of our best methods of identifying new leads and has one of the highest conversion rates, too.

Why? Because we reach out to people with a real need for our product.

True or false: Social listening can help you find leads
True or false: Social listening can help you find leads

Use social listening to find leads. Try the Brand24 tool!

Purposes of social listening

According to the State of Social Listening 2022, businesses mainly use it to: 

  1. Track and analyze sentiment analysis,
  2. Increase brand awareness,
  3. Follow industry trends
  4. Conduct competitor analysis,
  5. Crisis management. 
Main purposes of social listening
Main purposes of social listening

There are many possible use cases of social listening.

Imagine having unlimited access to your focus group

One that consists of users from all backgrounds and every corner of the market who openly give you candid feedback — about your brand, product, and strategies.

This is how you get candid feedback without disturbing your customers.

That’s why there are many more reasons why companies implement a social listening strategy:

  • Reputation management
  • Increasing brand recognition
  • Social media analytics
  • Improving your customer experience and service
  • Building customer engagement
  • Getting customer feedback
  • Tracking the progress of a marketing campaign
  • Identifying brand ambassadors & candidates for influencer marketing
  • Content creation and distribution

Take a look at the fragment of opinion posted on G2.com

Purposes of social listening

Track and analyze sentiment analysis. Try the Brand24 tool!

How to do social listening? 6 steps

The listening process is quite simple – but you’ll need the right brand monitoring tool. Of course, you can do it manually, but it’s much more time-consuming and less effective. 

Here are 6 steps that will help you set up your social listening strategy.

Step 1: Define your goals

In the beginning, take some time to define your goals. As I already mention, there are lots of social listening purposes. It’s easy to lose focus.

That’s why I encourage you to describe your aims. Of course, with time, your aims can evolve. We will talk about it later.

So, what do you hope to learn from social media listening? What kind of information are you looking for?

Step 2: Pick a social listening tool

You can do social listening manually and research social media channels to identify valuable mentions, but is it effective? I don’t think so. It will take lots of time, and the chance you will miss important posts is high.

Tools research social media data automatically and help you identify the most popular and important mentions.

So, once you have your goals in place, it is time to pick the right tool that will do most of the job for you. Usually, you can sign up for a trial to test a tool before you buy it.

When looking for the right tool, check those 5 factors:

  • Number of monitored sources
  • Features that will support your goals
  • Cost-effective pricing
  • Opinions posted on tools review websites (G2 and Capterra)
  • Customer support solution

Check: The 11 Best Social Listening Tools

Step 3: Choose the keywords you want to monitor

Social media listening tools can track mentions containing brand names, hashtags, specific keywords, and phrases.

Now, define what you want to monitor. Pick the keywords that match your goals.

Think about:

  • The name of your brand, product, or service
  • Your company hashtag
  • Your campaign-specific hashtag
  • Your CEO’s name or any other prominent employee
  • Keywords related to your business niche.

Check: 8 Keywords You Should Track

Step 4: Set up a monitoring project

Setting up a monitoring project is relatively easy. Most social media listening tools are based on a similar premise, so I’ll discuss the process based on Brand24.

Below, you can see the project creation wizard. To run a project you need to set up one thing:

  • Keyword – the main keyword, hashtag, or phrase for which your project will collect data.
How to set up a monitoring project?
How to set up a monitoring project?

Additional advanced settings:

  • Project name
  • Required keywords (Additional keywords) –  Each of which must appear in order for the mention to be collected (option)
  • Excluded keywords (Additional keywords) –  None of which can appear if the mention is to be collected
  • Language
  • Source
  • Notifications and reports

Set up a monitoring project. Try the Brand24 tool!

Step 5: Work with social listening data

After setting the project, it is time to explore social listening data. In the Mentions tab, you’ll start seeing results whenever someone mentions your keywords on social media platforms.

Here is an example of a mentions stream:

Example of Mentions Tab
Example of Mentions Tab

From there, you can engage with them directly or take action based on what you’re hearing. It’s best to monitor the results on a regular basis and respond as necessary.

From now on, you can:

  • Click on mentions to be redirected to the social media platform, where you can directly respond.
  • Discover sources that deliver the widest number of mentions, so you will be able to pick social media platforms that are the most effective.
  • Find the most popular and important mentions and treat them as a priority.
  • Check the sentiment of each mention so you can respond to negative ones quickly.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more benefits and use cases. You will find them in the next chapter. 

To gain comprehensive knowledge on how to do social listening, check the webinar hosted by Monika, Customer Success Manager at Brand24

You will learn how to:

  • Create a project,
  • Interpret social listening data,
  • Take advantage of Brand24’s features to benefit your business.

Check the video:

How can brands use social media listening to identify and engage with their target audience?

“Social media listening gives you all the information you need about the right channels, topics, people, and hashtags to connect with your audience. All you need to do is use this data and go out there!”

Justyna Dzikowska, Head of Marketing at Brand24

Start social listening for free. Try the Brand24 tool!

Step 6: Optimize, expand and continue

At this stage, you have probably tested your social listening strategies. It’s time to maximize your results and reach even further. 

How to do it? 

Take a look at the tips written by Adam Górnicz, Customer Success Manager at Brand24, who is an expert in optimizing social listening projects. 


Using the brand’s Twitter handle, domain, or Facebook URL as additional keywords may boost your results significantly. Remember, some posts may contain one of those forms, instead of the full brand’s name, and you gotta catch ’em all, right? 

Optimize social listening project


One of the few things that may improve your results in terms of their relevance is the skillful use of the excluded keywords section. With the help of this function, mentions containing excluded keywords will not appear in your data pool ever again.

Optimize social listening project

But hey, you don’t have to meditate trying to figure out what are the words that appear with your mentions the most, to choose the irrelevant ones. 

The context of a discussion tab, in the Analysis tab, will do it for you:

Optimize social listening project

Extend your point of view

Instead of monitoring the brand or the competitors only, try to look at the bigger picture. Keeping your social listening eye on the industry itself may be very beneficial. It can translate into more potential clients, valuable information about trends, or data you wouldn’t even expect to find!

But how exactly are you supposed to do that?

Step one:

Create a project with the topic and its variations as keywords, choosing the language you are interested in.

Extend social listening project

Step two

Analyze our good ol’ context of a discussion tab (man, I really love that feature!). Even the first glance gives you an overall view and shows the brightest points, like the biggest problems, the biggest players, or even clues to hot discussions around the subject.

Extend social listening project

Step three

Learn about the most influential social media profiles in the industry, with the help of the Top public profiles tab, and track their posts and opinions. After all, it is their opinion that often influences setting trends.

Extend social listening project

Step four

Keep tracking the most popular mentions manually. The more popular the post, the bigger impact it may have on the industry, so it is worth keeping up at least with the most popular ones.

Filtering mentions by popularity

Following those steps and using all of the tips above will surely improve your results, and make you feel like a ninja of social listening!

Social listening metrics

Social listening metrics will help you understand how customers feel about your brand and how engaged they are.

Here are the 9 key metrics you should pay attention to:

  1. Sentiment analysis – this metric gives you an idea of the emotional tone of mention. Is it positive, neutral, or negative? It will reveal how positive or negative the target audience feels about your brand, products, hashtag, competitors, etc.
  2. Share of voice (SOV) – this metric helps you determine the visibility of your brand and the percentage of online conversations around it. The higher the SOV, the more authority you have within your business niche.
  3. Social media reach – is an estimated number of social media users that could have contact with a social media post containing a monitored keyword. It’s helpful to track your social media efforts and measure performance and social media brand awareness.
  4. Non-social reach – is the estimated number of contacts (impressions) with a piece of content containing a monitored keyword beyond social media. It is helpful to estimate the overall reach of a brand, product, campaign, hashtag, or any other keyword on the web.
  5. The volume of mentions – tells you how compelling and engaging your content is. It will show you a general idea of how often people are talking about a particular topic, brand keyword, etc.
  6. Presence Score – allows you to measure brand/topic online popularity (presence) at a given time. It will help you to understand awareness of your company, competitors, or topics of your interest.
  7. Reputation Score – measures brand reputation at a given time. It’s based on sentiment and reach analysis. It will help you to understand whether the target audience perceives the brand/topic in a positive or negative way.
  8. Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) – helps to estimate the value of collected mentions. It is an approximate amount of money that would have to be spent on paid advertising to achieve a similar exposition.
  9. Earned Media Value (EMV) – this metric allows you to measure the ROI of content gained through PR and marketing activities. It will help you to demonstrate the impact PR and marketing have on the company’s success and KPIs.

Try Brand24 for free now and grow your business with social listening!

Social listening case studies

Social media has transformed the way that businesses interact with their customers. Now businesses can connect with the audience easily.

How do popular companies use social listening for their growth?

01 Lalafo found 42 marketing partners

Lalafo, a Ukrainian platform for the online exchange of items, aims to get as many collaborations and publications as possible.

They needed a tool to find and contact potential partners faster.

Jan Jankowski, marketing manager at lalafo, uses a social listening tool to acquire marketing partners

If mention of lalafo appears in an article or social media post, there are higher chances of making a partnership.

We can catch people talking about us and expand cooperation by submitting additional information and publications on similar topics. Ukrainianinpoland.pl wrote about us – I saw it through Brand24 and got back to them. Now we have ongoing cooperation,” Jan says. 

Recently, with the help of Brand24, lalafo collaborated with 16 news portals in Poland and 26 in Ukraine

In fact, lalafo has a great social listening strategy in place. Read more: How does Brand24 help Ukrainian NGO establish new collaborations?

02 TimeCamp boosted linkbuilding strategy

TimeCamp, a fully automated time tracking and task management app, pays lots of attention to its content strategy. 

The SEO team makes efforts to ensure that articles rank high in the Google search engine. Relevant backlinks are necessary to do that. 

With the help of the Brand24 tool, they gain accurate backlinks from sites that mentioned TimeCamp

We monitor content on specific topics to identify sites or individuals who can help us with SEO efforts by posting or exchanging links,” says Maksymilian Kujawa, Product Marketer at TimeCamp.

Read more: TimeCamp specialists on how Brand24 helped them increase website traffic

03 Virgin Trains helped a passenger in need and proved their customer service is spot-on!

One of the best examples of how listening can improve online customer service has to be this one from Virgin Trains:

A passenger was on a train headed to Glasgow from Euston when he got up to use the restroom. Just minutes later, he found himself in an urgent situation. He’d run out of toilet paper just when he needed it most. What would you do if that were you?

This passenger decided to tweet about it, unabashedly informing the company about his dilemma.

Virgin Trains quickly tweeted back, promptly taking care of the issue – both online and on board.

Examples of customer service via Twitter from Virgin Trains

04 Somersby used social listening to measure the effectiveness of the online campaign

Somersby, a leading brand of cider from the Danish brewing company Carlsberg Group, is an excellent example of using listening to support their marketing campaigns.

They’ve designed numerous hashtag campaigns that have successfully engaged fans, amplifying their success by building strong relationships with bloggers and influencers.

For instance, when they introduced a new variety of Somersby to the Polish market, they worked with dozens of bloggers and encouraged people to share content (especially photos) with a dedicated hashtag.

Sentiment structure somersby blackberry campaign

They used social listening to track this campaign and check the sentiment towards the brand. Thanks to this method, they were able to see that the campaign improved the overall brand sentiment towards Somersby and gained tremendous social media reach.

Beyond that, the new beverage became a bestselling beer in its category and the brand executed what became an annual sales plan in just 4 months.

Check out another case study: Somersby Social Engagement Case Study

05 PlayStation increases audience engagement

Take a cue from PlayStation’s social media monitoring strategy and see how they join online discussions to increase audience engagement and increase brand loyalty.

PlayStation uses social listening to find conversations that are related to gaming, gamers, and the brand itself. Then they invent creative and funny responses to engage their audience and encourage gamers to play on the PS console.

Interact with users PlayStation
Interact with users: Sony PlayStation driving engagement

Try Brand24 for free now and grow your business with social listening!

Final thoughts

We’ve covered a lot today, so let’s review!

Social listening is the process of understanding online discussions, gaining insights, and taking accurate actions to improve your business. 

It will help you to identify the crucial online mentions so you can respond to them immediately. 

Let’s take a look at some key facts about social listening:

  1. Manual social media listening is time-consuming and less effective. 
  2. Social listening tools automate the process and do most of the job for you.
  3. The main reason why companies invest in social listening is to conduct sentiment analysis, increase brand awareness, follow industry trends, run competitor analysis, and prevent PR crises. 
  4. It will help you find leads, but you need to set up a project correctly and use filters smartly. 
  5. Starting social listening is simple, but you need to pick your goals and choose keywords you want to monitor first. 
  6. With a proper tool in hand, you can discover some valuable metrics such as share of voice, presence and reputation score, social media and non-social reach, AVE, EMV, etc. 
  7. Most of the tools offer a free trial so you can test them carefully. 

Willing to try social listening right now? Sign up for a 14-day free trial and test the Brand24 tool!

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