The Consumer Intelligence Blog - Infegy

Understanding the difference between social listening and social monitoring

Oftentimes, the terms “social listening” and “social monitoring” are used interchangeably, and while both strategies share similarities, there are also some significant differences between the two. The strategy that works best for you depends on your particular goals. In this blog post, we highlight the differences between social listening and social monitoring in an effort to prevent our audience from inadvertently engaging the wrong type of social platform. We also highlight the value of incorporating both approaches into your overall marketing strategy.

Let’s get started.

Social listening

What is social listening?

Social listening looks at broad-based insights into what people think about certain brands or topics. This approach uses artificial intelligence to understand overall conversations at scale. Social listening platforms, such as Infegy’s product suite, conduct various analyses on a wide range of conversations to better understand sentiment, emotions, and context surrounding a brand, product, or service. This data helps users understand and classify conversations so analysts, researchers, and brand strategists can understand the “Who, what, where, when, and why?” of brand conversations.

What is social listening’s primary goal?

The primary goal of social listening is to gather information about a broad audience’s perceptions, preferences, and sentiments. But, the real power of social listening is the insight it provides into the broader context of a given conversation.

For example, let’s say you’re a brand manager for a beverage company and want to better understand the wide audience of people who drink beer. A social monitoring approach will not provide a wide enough range of data to give you the information you need. More on that later, but for now, it’s important to know that you’re going to need a social listening platform to generate relevant information to meet your needs.

We used Infegy’s social listening capabilities to generate the following word cloud related to beer drinkers.

Artist Food-1
Figure 1: Source bios of people who posted about “beer” over the last three months (November 25, 2023, through January 25, 2024); Infegy data.

Notice in Figure 1 how most bio topics referenced by beer enthusiasts are related to food, craft alcohol, and entertainment. In addition to “beer,” frequently mentioned topics include, “food,” “music,” “artist,” “sports,” “wine,” “games,” and “events.” Also, a historical look at this demographic shows us that the bio topic “craft beer” has exploded over the last decade.

Figure 2- Post volume around beer-1
Figure 2: Post volume around beer over the last three months (October 25, 2023, through January 25, 2024); Infegy data.

Figure 3- Post volume showing growth
Figure 3: Post volume showing growth in interest of craft beer from 2015 through the present (January 2015 through present); Infegy data.

Social listening allows us to view both general information and very specific information across a wide range of social media users. For example, Figure 2 shows a very broad analysis of post volume related to beer. Notice there were 10.6 million beer-related posts during the three-month period from October 25, 2023, through January 25, 2024.

Figure 4- Post volume around Millennial women-1
Figure 3: Post volume around Millennial women who drink beer over the last three months (October 25, 2023, through January 25, 2024); Infegy data.

In contrast, Figure 3 zooms into a very specific audience – Millennial women who drink beer. Notice that the specific filters we applied to the data shrunk the audience significantly; yet, we still have an adequate sample size at 110,000.

Figure 5- Source bios of Millennial women-1
Figure 4: Source bios of Millennial women beer drinkers over the last three months (November 25, 2023, through January 25, 2024); Infegy data.

If we look at source bio topics for Millennial women beer drinkers, one of the most common topics that comes up is “mom,” followed closely by “artist,” “writer,” “lover,” and “music.” These topics tell us a lot about our audience and can be used to effectively target Millennial women beer drinkers.

Social monitoring

Now that we have an understanding of social listening, let’s shift our focus to social monitoring.

What is social monitoring?

Social monitoring refers to the targeted tracking of specific accounts and posts, including both owned content and organic content. Social monitoring involves keeping track of key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics related to engagement, reach, and brand visibility. These are important metrics for any brand, as they provide insight into a campaign’s effectiveness and allow brand managers to quickly pivot if a certain marketing effort is not working.

In contrast to social listening, which provides a birds-eye view of what’s happening with your brand, social monitoring provides a micro-level view of brand mentions that allows you to quickly understand the impact of marketing initiatives, respond to specific comments, help customers with questions, and keep an eye on your competitors.

What is social monitoring’s primary goal?

The primary goal of social monitoring is to identify each and every mention of your brand, product, and/or service and respond appropriately. This data can help you evaluate the impact of social media activities and campaigns.

The insights provided by social monitoring can also help you optimize your response to individual comments and provide customer support.

For example, if someone posts a positive comment about your latest product on Instagram, you can thank that person for their support. Or, maybe someone posts that they’re having problems getting your latest coupon code to work. Social monitoring can help you identify this comment so you can quickly reach out to the customer and apply the discount on their behalf. In this way, social monitoring can be viewed as part of your customer service efforts.

Let’s consider an example of social monitoring.

Figure 6- Post volume related to Nike’s “Sports Change Lives” campaign-1
Figure 5: Post volume related to Nike’s “Sports Change Lives” campaign (January 2021 through January 2024); Infegy data.

In 2023, Nike and Dick’s Sporting Goods launched a combined “Sports Change Lives” campaign. Figure 5 shows post volume specifically related to the campaign. We can expect that post volume for this specific campaign would be significantly lower than post volume for Nike or Dick’s Sporting Goods overall, which means we’re not able to understand large-scale trends. However, social monitoring provides us with information from specific user accounts, which can be very helpful when trying to understand individual comments and feedback.

Figure 6- Gender attributed to Sports’s Change Lives-1
Figure 6: Gender attributed to Sports’s Change Lives (January 2021 through January 2024); Infegy data.

We can also use social monitoring to understand gender trends related to the Sports Change Lives campaign, as shown in Figure 6. Again, because this is a smaller sample size, the data offers us a micro view into specific individuals posting about the campaign.

Why it’s important to incorporate both social listening and social monitoring

Because social listening and social monitoring differ in their approach and applications, it’s important to incorporate both into your overall brand strategy. Combining social listening and monitoring allows you to view brand-related activity from both a macro and micro perspective. It also provides you with both quantitative data and qualitative data that can help you make more informed decisions, interact directly with customers, and understand larger trends related to sentiment, emotions, and context.

At Infegy, we’re here to support your full social strategy. To learn more about how we can help you gain competitive insight, make informed decisions, and improve your audience targeting strategies, please request a custom demo.