How to Listen on Social Media

Man's hands holding tabletPlus 5 top free tools.

By Becky Livingston

Community managers and a brand’s social media team will listen to conversations taking place on social media and look for opportunities to participate and engage customers and prospects.

MORE ON SOCIAL MEDIA: What Someone Else’s Influence Means to You | What a ‘Community Manager’ Does | How to Build a Strong Landing Page for an Accounting Firm | How to Set Up a Social Media Plan | DIY Design for Social Media | Tailor Content to Social Media Platform | How to Track Who’s Clicking Your Links | Which Social Media Should You Use? | How Social Media Works with Accountants’ Top 5 Marketing Goals
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It’s important – and helpful – to conduct social listening to:

  1. Respond to complaints
  2. Share compliments
  3. Solve customer problems
  4. Answer audience questions
  5. Know what’s what
  6. Crisis management
  7. Competition monitoring
  8. Trend spotting
  9. Influencer discovery
  10. Prospecting

Here’s an example.

In 2013, actor James Gandolfini died. Shortly afterward, there was a great deal of media coverage about the $30 million estate tax mistake. If your firm specialized in estate planning at the time, it should have been talking about the services it offered. You may have shared whitepapers/checklist/tip sheets people could have used for estate-planning purposes.

I’m not saying to mention the mistake and cash in on the death; but rather to discuss the benefits of estate planning; what it means to be prepared; and how to find the right firm to help you leave the legacy you planned.

What and who should you monitor?

Here is a list of things you, or someone in your firm, should be monitoring, beginning with your own brand, the firm’s leaders, and those who may be in the community manager role at your firm (monitor both their professional and persona profiles).

  • Names of products or services without your brand or firm name
  • Slogans
  • Campaigns or advertising efforts (branded hashtags, characters from advertisements, etc.)
  • Top players in your firm
    • Your CEO/ C-Suite leaders
    • Founder(s)
    • Editors, journalists, etc.
    • Anyone with a potential media following

Why should you monitor your firm?

  1. Not everyone will use your brand name when talking about you – don’t miss out on important feedback and insights into what people think about your products and services.
  2. Brand awareness. Why are or aren’t people associating your product with your brand?
  3. Evaluate effectiveness of marketing and advertising efforts. How is your messaging and positioning being received?
  4. Issues management. Your brand isn’t the only thing that might elicit attention. Keep tabs on top players to stay ahead of any potential trending story.

Your Competition

Yes, monitoring your top competition or the competition in a new market or client industry is important

  • to discover topics of interest;
  • to find potential, real-time leads and marketing opportunities;
  • to shape future marketing efforts; and
  • to see how you stack up against the competition to see how you can adjust your products, services or social media efforts.

Your Industry

Not only should someone be monitoring your industry, but also those of your clients. Industry monitoring, or listening, is important

  • to help you make strategic decisions in relation to marketing product and service improvements;
  • to stay on top of market trends;
  • to join the right conversations at the right time;
  • to stand out as an industry leader;
  • to identify people (leads) who are actively searching for your products/services; and
  • to find opportunities for real-time marketing.

Listening Tools

According to a Huffington Post article, here are top five, free social media listening tools for every brand:

Google Alerts: It’s a great way to see if any website is posting information about you, your brand, a product line, your clients, competition, etc. Simply enter the word/phrase/name/brand you want to monitor into this free tool to get alerts sent to an email address. You can also get instant alerts by tagging your search phrase “as it happens” in the “how often” category.

TweetDeck/Hootsuite: You can scan Twitter in real time, which is convenient for those who may not be using your hashtag or handle. This instant tool allows you to reply quickly.

Icerocket: This blog-searching tool also works well with Facebook, Twitter and Flickr (photo sharing tool).

Social Mention: This social media aggregator tool captures activity on a lot of social platforms, including YouTube and some photo sharing platforms. It’s a good tool to help determine sentiment (positive, negative, neutral comments about a topic/brand).

Topsy: This tool has a main focus for social media, multimedia and blogs. You don't have to register, but you do have the option of creating an email alert (it ties into your Twitter or Facebook account).


  1. Visit one of these platforms.
  2. Enter a few search terms related to your topic.
  3. What responses do you get? Anything worthwhile?
  4. If so, write down the sources for future connection and listening.
  5. Which resource worked better for you?
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