By end of 2019, 2,77 billions of people will be active social media users worldwide. Social media has become a great resource to gather customer insights. Data collected through social media give brands a unique opportunity to get authentic and unbiased insights.  Internet users communicate, share feelings, photos, information on several channels with an average of  5,54 social media accounts per user. In the US, more than 60% of internet users are engaged on social media platforms on a daily basis.

What is Social Listening?

Social listening can tell you everything you want to know about your audience. Based on Netbase definition “Social listening is the process of monitoring, segmenting and analyzing conversations across social media in order to measure brand sentiment, the effectiveness of social campaigns, and to fuel content creation for target audiences”.

75% of businesses still ignore where their top customers are talking about them. Browsing social media help understanding where your audience is, getting qualitative or quantitative feedbacks, positioning your brand versus competition. Such insights can be key drivers to help growing and/or reshaping a business strategy.

Learnings gathered from Social listening are complementary with “classic” consumer studies.  Thanks to social listening, you can go further on the knowledge of your identified target, but you can also get insights on topics or customers that you may not have identified yet, you also might discover new consumption habits.

Social listening tools on the market:

Thanks to social listening tools, results are automatized and made available instantly then analyzed and used to adjust marketing activations. A social listening tool enables to identify and measure, based on public data, behaviours, expectations, reactions around a brand, a product or a service.

There are a lot of social listening actors in the market. The Forrester study below identifies the key players in the “Social listening” tool competition. We can see that 3 tools were considered as leaders in the domain in Q3 2018: Sprinklr, NetBase, and Synthesio, because of their strong strategy and strong performances.


Social listening tools can be used for multiple purposes:

Social listening tools allow a brand to get reports such as analysis of feelings, top authors, word clouds, mentions’ evolution, benchmark vs competition. In most cases, all these reports can be customized and built specially for your brand thanks to a personalized dashboard.

Here below is a small list of what can be done thanks to social listening:

  • Collect public data
  • Monitoring of e-reputation
  • Get information on products/services
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Detection and management of a crisis
  • Trends’ analysis
  • Detection and evaluation of influencers
  • Consumer insights / social insights
  • Identify behaviours, expectations, reactions
  • Measure advertising efficiency
  • Measure engagement towards social publications
  • Research on your target audience

If Social listening is fundamental, it is important to go further:

Social listening tools are developing new technology to go further, evolving from keywords looking to machine learning and language processing. To get a deep understanding, you need to observe, measure, analyze, compare and organize. These platforms have well understood this importance and are developing new features and technology such as Social sentiment analysis, based on Natural language Processing (NLP) to obtain accurate customer sentiment. We also see the rise of other social media listening forms being: social analytics, competitive analysis, and social intelligence based on listening.

In this video, you will discover a case study of how Netbase, one of the most popular social listening tool identified by The Forrester, is helping Visa by going further than simple social listening.

Some limits to Social Listening:

Social listening has some limits that are worth mentioning here. Most of them are linked to the elementary need to respect the privacy of each individual.  For instance, it will not allow brands to target directly a consumer, but to identify people who are expressing on a given topic. Also, you cannot listen to a given consumer profile to identify its interests or level of attraction for a product or brand.

Social listening cannot “see” everything, some customers on the internet are not active, they are described as observers or listeners, they do not interact with content. Moreover, with the boom of private messages (Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp…) a lot of conversations and mentions cannot be accessed or “listened”.

Nowadays, hiring or working with a specialist in Social Listening to develop or reposition a brand is key. With the increasing percentage of marketing spending dedicated to digital advertising, collecting customer feedbacks is a must have!