Social media monitoring is not the same as social media listening, and you may be confusing the two! Does it really matter if you are? Well, it may matter if you think processing what you see offers different intel (and requires different attention) from processing what you hear . . . or maybe you’re a Bird Box fan and possess the wildly unlikely ability to navigate social blindfolded.

For the rest of us, understanding the difference between monitoring and listening is the first step on the path to social intelligence. And enlightenment. Like Buddha.

Being Socially Intelligent

Monitoring social channels and conversations online as a whole is at the heart of social intelligence – but these activities only matter if the information you’re capturing is authentic. And unfortunately, there are lots of fake news sources out there, telling brands things they want to hear and offering just enough insight to make it seem believable. And then disaster strikes.

Build-A-Bear shows what can happen when insight isn’t on-point. Although a pretty middle-of-the-road brand that plays by the rules, when its ‘pay your age’ promotion spun sideways, it found itself on the front page of most news sites, and not in a good way. They hadn’t monitored social in the days leading up to the event and had little idea of the crowds they were expecting.

The angry response took days to quell. And instead of reveling in a job well done, brand managers were left scrambling to make things right with angry, alienated customers.

The sum of it? The social intelligence ahead of the event was not strong there. It has undoubtedly changed for them since!

A socially intelligent marketing strategy combines the best of social has to offer, and does so consistently so that there aren’t any surprises. It helps brands capture relevant insight, while zooming past the distracting noise. And it offers trend analysis and metrics that matter.

There are key performance indicators separating those in the know from those who aren’t – areas where the former excel and that latter flounder, and they revolve around brand health, competitive analysis and crisis management – the trifecta that create online enlightenment.

But before we travel too far down that road, let’s get to the distinction you’ve been waiting for – social media listening versus social media monitoring.

Social Listening: The Lights Are On And You Better Be Home!

If you want to market to distinct audience segments (and you should, of course), analyzing social media conversations is the best way to gather insight and build that plan of attack.

Before creating a marketing campaign of any variety, making decisions around how to approach various segments and how to measure those results when you do, requires detailed audience analysis around emotions, attributes and behaviors. You need to understand their passions – and not just what they love, but what they passionately hate too.

And you need to understand the amount of conversation you have to keep up with to do so. As we shared in a recent webinar, you need “Listen Large” to get it.

“There were 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003, but that much information is now created every 2 days.” – Eric Schmidt, Google

And then a brand baseline, something every brand needs to create about itself, should detail how your target segments feel about you, and about your category, right now. And it should guide you to explore what your goals are when it comes to changing that sentiment.

Social Listening is your litmus – it’s your overarching view of who your brand is and who your customers are. It’s your everything. It’s the peanut butter to your Social Monitoring jelly, or chocolate – whatever combo you find too legit to quit.

Social Media Monitoring Mavericks

Online is like the Wild West, with opinions, trends and the latest viral whatevers populating newsfeeds at breakneck speed. It’s reckless and terrifying, and brands laying low by avoiding controversial interactions are wise – but that doesn’t mean they’re safe.

Savvy brands, particularly those of the edgy variety, understand that online can happen to them regardless of what they do or don’t do, with errant employees, headstrong CEOs or mismatched influencers laying waste to the best laid social media plans. Social media monitoring is their secret weapon. It’s the closest thing we mortals have to superpowers, partly because it’s powered by next gen AI.

With social media monitoring, those tasked with keeping social a beneficial marketing activity can do their jobs well. They can:

  • Monitor for anomalies and get ahead of any customer concerns that threaten brand health.
  • Understand what competitors are doing well and where they’re failing, and find new ways to best them.
  • And they can make sure the brand is not caught unaware in a crisis.

Through all of this, brand marketers understand the online environment as it relates to their category in a way that allows them to build relationships with influencers and brand ambassadors, and create a groundswell of support that’s available should it ever need to be called upon.

Social monitoring offers a safety net for social listening. And it’s as beefy as a brand wants it to be, depending on the tool employed to get the job done.

Putting Your Best Face Forward

It all comes down to what persona you want to project. If you’d like customers to feel invested in your products, and you definitely do in this fickle online environment, you want them to feel known, appreciated and listened to. And trust that they can tell when you aren’t listening, as their feedback – good and bad – falls to deaf ears.

And if you aren’t monitoring social media, if you aren’t listening to specific segments – how are you measuring your online campaigns? If you’re participating in any way online, you have to measure your efforts to see what’s working – and what’s resonating with your audience – and what isn’t. Otherwise why are you there?

The intentional blindfold doesn’t make sense here, much like it doesn’t in that crazy movie. Reach out and we’ll help you see things clearly.

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