Social Listening | SMCLT Virtual Event Recap

Jan 25, 2021

by Scott Gerbereux

“Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.” - Marty Neumeier

Consumers go online to compare different services, voice complaints or praise a product they enjoy. There’s a wealth of insights for marketers to gain, provided you’re listening closely.

Not all of the conversations happening online are important to your brand. So how do you spot the relevant ones? How do you go beyond tagged mentions? How do you analyze this data to make smarter marketing decisions?

On Tuesday, January 12, 2021 Social Media Charlotte hosted members of the marketing community for a virtual conversation on how these questions are addressed by social media listening. Leading the dialogue were panelists Erika Lovegreen, Sr. Director of Strategy at, Melissa Maulini, Founder of Maulini Creative Co., Brian Wright, Head of Social Media Intelligence at Wells Fargo and moderator Adam O'Daniel, Director of Marketing and Communications with Movement Mortgage.

What is social media listening?

“What’s so exciting is that it’s the customer talking and we’re observing these conversations. They’re unprompted. So it’s not us asking people what they think, they are talking among each other. That’s what makes it different from traditional research or a survey.” - Brian Wright

Actively social listening means collecting and analyzing mentions of keywords and complex phrases found on social media, news, blogs, forums and the web using dedicated software.

Erika Lovegreen emphasized that social listening is about the customer. “It gives you a picture and window into the topics and how your customers are really feeling about things. It is an intelligence tool, able to pull in all the mentions about your brand or a hashtag you want to follow. It really gives you insight into what is happening in that landscape. It can be about your products or your competitors and you're looking to build a strategy around your business on digital channels.”

Why is it important for companies to use social listening?

“If you’re an organization that’s risk-averse in any way, this is a must-have.” - Erika Lovegreen

Melissa asserted that social listening is not just for large brands. Small businesses who are trying to figure their target audience can use data from social listening. By listening to customer conversations a business can better define audiences for paid campaigns, developing a narrower focus.

Brian Wright underscored the importance of social listening to all business departments, “It's the backbone of how we do social, how we do marketing and how we integrate the customer throughout the company. It’s an insight into your customer’s conversations, both happy and unhappy. It allows you to see potential influences that are out there that you need to be aware of, not only how your brand is being perceived but also how you can innovate.”

How should brands listen?

“Determine the business questions you’re trying to answer. Social listening data is noisy. There is a lot of filtering that has to take place to really get to something that’s meaningful.” - Brian Wright

Social listening is different from brand monitoring where you're looking for something specific. Social listening is holistic, looking at the larger conversation, trying to identify trends and understand the broader conversation.

Once you have listening topics set up, the next step is how to elevate that listening into intelligence - taking action on what you're listening to. Spend time ‘leaning in to listen’, trying to become more integrated into the thinking of your customers.

Use cases of social listening

“We’re building communities in social media. Any good strategist is a scientist. Data is the foundation of creating a strategy.” - Erika Lovegreen

Brian pointed out that time to insight is really important. If it takes weeks to uncover a trend, then that opportunity may have been lost. Prioritize what is the business question, the business impact and how can your brand allocate resources to it.

Erika added that social listening can be used to prepare you for a crisis, prepare you for an engaged community or plan for content moments that really set your engagement on overdrive.


Twitter (@Lipton)

Erika provided the example of when the cup of tea appeared in a Game of Thrones episode. At the time, one of her clients was Lipton Tea. Even though the cup of tea that appeared in the show wasn’t Lipton, because the brand did social listening on the topic, they saw it was trending. Within 10-15 minutes, the social media manager quickly took an image of a cup of tea in front of a fireplace, nodding to the trending topic. It was about joining in on that real-time trending moment, even though it was a small act. The result was their most-engaged post of the entire year.

Social media listening tools

Now that we’ve discussed social media listening’s many applications, let’s dive into how to reap all its benefits with the least possible trouble. That is, using dedicated software.

“There’s not one tool that does it all.” - Melissa Maulini

On the small business side, Melissa likes Agorapulse, where you can automate it for interacting and engaging with customers on social media.

Erika listed a few of her favorite tools, “Sprout Social is a nice one-stop-shop for social analytics and listening. Brandwatch and Sprinklr have robust queries. Talkwalker has a great small business mentality. Their Mountain Climber Course is free and available even if you don’t use their service. It is a great 100-level introduction to social listening.”

Erika cautioned that social listening is not perfect for understanding intent, such as sarcasm or inflection. The programs have embedded a lot of Artificial Intelligence. Sentiment is all charged through AI. i.e. In the online post, did ‘wicked’ mean good or bad? The tools are accurate about 70% of the time. There is a human, manual piece needed to make social listening more accurate.

Brian pointed out that a lot of people move up that ‘tool ladder’. “You can start as simple and free as TweetDeck, just to see how people are mentioning you on Twitter. Then move to innovators as Talkwalker or a full enterprise system like a Sprinklr. It’s really driven by the business value you can bring back.”


Social listening tools, with time and effort, will get you plenty of insights valuable in every aspect of running a business. So listen up and see what social listening has in store for you.