The Buzz on Social Listening for Meaningful Engagement

Business Insights

Discover how marketers turn online noise into powerful insight

Qwynn Massie
By Qwynn Massie

In today’s digital world, more conversations are happening online than ever before. Every day, social users are posting a minimum of 500 million posts on the social platform X (formerly Twitter). With numbers like that on one platform alone, it is paramount for brands to jump in on these online conversations to not only discover what is being said about their business, but also identify opportunities for new audiences, messaging, address negative sentiment, and more. But how do brands review conversations, let alone find them? Enter social listening. 

What is Social Listening?

Social listening is the process of analyzing online conversations surrounding a specific topic, such as your brand, your brand’s competitors, or any keywords or topics you may be interested in, and using these conversations to identify opportunities for your company. 

Oftentimes social listening and social monitoring are used interchangeably. However, while social monitoring is another common process used in the marketing space, they are not the same.

Social monitoring uses a more reactive approach when viewing online conversations compared to social listening, which is proactive. Social monitoring’s main objective is simply gathering information about a topic to see what consumers are talking about. In this way, it’s essentially a steppingstone to social listening, which examines why consumers are talking about those subjects. 

Take a local coffee shop, for example. If the shop decides to release a new latte flavor and wants to understand customer opinion about it, they can monitor these conversations on owned content, such as the reviews and comments, and decide to engage or respond if they’d like. That’s social monitoring: merely gathering information about the conversations occurring in the social sphere with no subsequent strategy behind the brand’s actions.  

On the other hand, if the coffee shop was to pull more detailed and aggregated data through social listening and utilize the sentiment gathered, they’d learn that consumers have continually said the new latte was bitter and felt as though something was missing. In taking such feedback into consideration, the shop can adjust their messaging, and recommend oat milk to future customers who order the new flavor. That’s social listening: looking at the gathered information, analyzing the data, and altering the strategy to improve sentiment.

Why is Social Listening Important?

Because social listening involves tapping into live customer feedback and analyzing real-time conversations from real people, it can be incredibly valuable for brands. Social listening lets brands monitor conversations that are currently happening about the brand itself and their industry, but it also serves some additional purposes.


By leveraging the insights acquired through social listening, brands can enhance their understanding of customers, pinpoint new audiences, and seize opportunities for brand expansion. Through piecing together the common interests and trends found among their audience, brands can determine exactly what makes their consumers tick and create content that’s hyper-personalized with greater appeal, increasing engagement and client acquisition. 


Keeping track of all related social mentions not only helps brands understand how their audience perceives them, but also allows them to recognize their positioning in relation to competitors. 


Through social listening, brands can anticipate and prevent crises in the online world by tracking negative sentiment. This helps brands have a quick turnaround response when needed. 


Monitoring consumer conversations allows brands to identify influential people who are already their passionate brand advocates. From there they can establish opportunities for collaboration, contacting those influencers to see if they’re interested.  

What Does the Social Listening Process Look Like?

At Ideas Collide, our strategy team utilizes the tool Meltwater to analyze conversations from more than 350,000 sources in real time for industry trends, brand sentiment, and countless topics. Our social listening approach typically involves a three-step process: 

Step 1: Monitor

  • By frequently checking social media channels, whether manually or via an automated tool such as Meltwater, Hootsuite, HubSpot, etc., we monitor for mentions of all things brand-related such as the brand name, topics surrounding the brand, competitors, related keywords, and any products that come up in the online social conversation pertaining to said brand. 

Step 2: Interpret 

  • Using the information gathered during the monitoring process, we then dive into an analyzation stage where data is reviewed and interpreted to better understand the needs of the consumer. Here, we try to find any patterns or trends in the conversation to determine consumer likes and dislikes about the brand.  

Step 3: Act   

  • Once data is evaluated, our findings could influence everything from joining a current conversation in real time, to informing future content strategy and messaging.  


In the grand scheme of things, social listening isn’t just about gathering information — it’s about empathizing with consumers and fostering meaningful connections by responding to their needs. Like active listening in personal relationships, it allows brands to understand not just what is being said, but why it matters. In essence, embracing social listening lets brands cultivate genuine relationships with their audience, ultimately paving the way for long-term loyalty and mutual understanding.


4 Ways to Reach Gen Z Authentically

Explore what Generation Z appreciates and avoids when being targeted.

Digital Media vs. Digital Marketing: 2024 Guide

Discover how this dream team works in tandem to thrive in the digital landscape.

Generation Alpha: 5 Things Marketers Know

Explore Generation Alpha’s affluent, tech-driven world shaped by COVID-19 and social movements, challenging marketers to connect authentically.