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Differences Between Social Media Monitoring and Listening

Khoros Staff PhilG
Khoros Staff

How well does your business leverage social media to provide a great customer service experience? A Smart Insights study found that 80% of companies believethey deliver exceptional customer service on social media, yet only 8% of customers seemed to agree. Sure enough, the same study found one in three customer complaints are completely ignored.

Keeping up with the growing number of social media users isn’t easy for businesses. According to Brandwatch, about 3.5 billion people actively use social media and that number is increasing every day.

When used efficiently, social media offers the ability to provide exceptional customer service and increase brand loyalty. The challenge, however, is that many companies don’t understand a core element of using social media: the difference between social media monitoring and social media listening. For companies that do understand both of these concepts, many are only utilizing one when they should be incorporating both for a well-rounded social media strategy.

In this post, we're going to dive deep into the differences between social media monitoring and social media listening. By understanding each concept, your business can improve customer interactions on social media and better understand which issues matter to your audience. If you’d like a refresher on customer expectations and care best practices before reading on, check out our Digital Customer Care Playbook.

What is social media monitoring?

Think of social media monitoring as a brand’s customer support over social media. With social media monitoring, a customer care representative monitors the social media platforms your business engages on and responds to customer posts. Businesses should also monitor mentions where a tag isn’t used, as some customers will name the business without linking.

Generally, there are three types of posts people in charge of social media monitoring are responsible for responding to:

1. Questions

Let’s say you run an airline, and a customer tags your brand name on social media to find out the cost of extra luggage. A business utilizing good social media monitoring practices will quickly reach out to that customer with relevant pricing data and other information. The customer may have follow-up questions, so the representative should stick around and ask if there’s anything else they can assist with.

2. Issues or complaints

In the same example, imagine the customer is later upset because the plane did not offer free in-flight wifi. In today’s connected world, airlines must learn how to address issues quickly to defend their brand. Leaving issues unattended is like choosing not to pick up the phone at a customer support center, except this is worse because other users will see that your business ignores customers. To avoid this, businesses use social media monitoring to quickly respond to customer complaints. The response and action vary by business and situation, but it’s important to remain calm and polite even in cases where the customer is at fault.

The airline in this situation could respond to the upset customer by telling them the wifi cost was listed on the flight’s page. However, this could generate backlash from users on that social media platform who perceive the response as rude. Instead, the airline could better handle the situation by apologizing that the information was not clearly communicated and tell the customer what steps they’ll take to prevent this issue from happening again. Depending on the severity of the situation, a business may also offer discounts or vouchers as a last resort to help reconcile with the upset customer.

3. Positive feedback

Keep an eye out for the positive comments people post about your business as well! Too often these posts are ignored because businesses don’t see a reason to act, but not replying is like hanging up on a thankful customer without saying anything. Best social media monitoring practices say you should promptly respond to the customer with some variation of: “We’re happy to have helped; please let us know if there’s anything else we can do to further assist you...”

For example, the image below shows how an apartment complex responded to someone who posted a positive review after visiting the property. The message is timely, personalized, and genuinely expresses gratitude towards the reviewer for sharing their feedback. These thank you messages will leave your customer with a positive experience that ultimately helps strengthen brand loyalty.

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What is social media listening?

Social media listening involves pulling data from all social media platforms to see how customers are interacting with your business. This process is much more complex and time-consuming than social media monitoring, which is why few businesses are properly utilizing social media listening to better understand their audience.

Although there are several facets to social media listening, the three most important things to do are:

1. Track social mentions

Social media monitoring is a part of social media listening, so track the mentions you get while responding to customer inquiries and incorporate the data into an audience report. Tracking mentions where the business isn’t tagged is especially important with social media listening, as the data is still relevant even if a response isn’t required. In fact, you may want to look at mentions to your competitors and industry as a whole, even if your business isn’t named.

The point is to gather information about your audience, such as:

  • Which platforms are used most by your audience?
  • How frequently is your brand mentioned?
  • Which competitors get the most mentions?
  • Is your industry actively discussed?

With this information, you can generate insights that will help you better understand your audience and the state of the market as a whole.

2. Read conversations and content

Don’t just tally mentions, see what people are actually saying. Read conversations and content related to your brand and industry so you can know what your audience cares about. For example, look to see if your audience is consistently talking about something your business does.

If the feedback is positive, look at how you might be able to replicate what’s helping it do well in other areas of your business. In the case of negative feedback, acknowledge the issue and apologize for the inconvenience, take note that this issue is important to your audience, and think about what your company could do to improve. Negative feedback is challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to help someone in need and create loyalty. To learn more, read our blog post.

Look at what people are saying about your competitors as well, as this could help you capitalize on an area they struggle with, or see what people like about them and build upon their success with further improvements. Look at conversation threads on social media and blogs across the web to get a well-rounded perspective of how people are discussing your industry.

3. Implement changes based on feedback

After doing the research, it’s time to take action. The insights you find are only valuable if you’re actually going to take the time to implement changes that will better serve your audience.

For example, consistently answering the same question from different customers means there is a clear information gap that should be addressed. You could use social media monitoring to provide a short term solution by responding to these inquiries individually, but a better solution would be utilizing social media listening to recognize the issue and suggest adding the question to the FAQ section of your company’s website or online community.

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

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Many businesses engage in some form of social media monitoring, but few take the next step by using social media listening to better serve customers through the implementation of changes based on audience insights.

Social media monitoring is a short-term solution by reacting to what your audience is saying, such as responding to a customer complaint. Social media listening is a proactive process that aims to create a long-term solution by making changes derived from audience insights, such as fixing an issue people complained about so more people don’t have the same problem.

Research from MarketingSherpa shows 95% of 18 to 34-year-olds follow brands on social media, so having a well rounded social media strategy is essential for businesses looking to connect with audiences. Don’t miss out on opportunities to engage with your audience and strengthen brand loyalty. 

See how Khoros helps the world’s leading brands to excel on social media with our advanced and easy-to-use Customer Engagement Platform. And if you’d like to learn more about delivering exceptional support, read our whitepaper: Digital Customer Care Playbook.