Social media monitoring vs social listening – the same or different?


As social media professional you have probably heard about social listening and social media monitoring. Often these two terms are used interchangeably and you might ask yourself if they are referring to the same thing or if there is an important difference that you should be aware of when looking for a tool. In this blog we will compare the two terms with each other.

There is a lot of confusion regarding what exactly is social listening and what is social media monitoring. Our media analyst, Danielle Janssen, also experiences this in her work at OBI4wan.

“Everybody has kind of an idea but finds it difficult to clearly separate the two concepts. This is not surprising as there is also a lot of overlap between them. You can’t really see them as two separate entities. They rather flow into each other”

When people try to explain the difference between the terms, they often refer to social media monitoring as “seeing the trees” and social listening as “seeing the forest”. For Danielle this also makes sense:

“Social listening gives a layer to the data, it gives the things you monitor a meaning so that you can see the big picture (the forest).

To dive deeper into the differences between social media monitoring and social listening it helps to look at the different goals that you want to achieve within your organisation.

What is the objective behind social media monitoring?

Social media monitoring enables companies to observe what individuals say about their brand, product or service on social networks so that they can proactively respond to all relevant online conversations. By monitoring relevant keywords network-wide companies are able to respond to messages even if they are not addressed directly to them. All relevant questions, comments, complaints and feedback are collected in real time and can be answered by community managers or customer service staff via one single platform.

“Social media monitoring is more functional and less abstract then social listening. It helps customer service departments to offer a great service experience to their customers. This makes it also very important for your brands online reputation” says Danielle Jansen.

Want to learn more about media monitoring? Check out our whitepaper

What is the objective behind social listening?

Social Listening helps companies make strategic decisions based on a broader set of data based on search queries around the brand, products, relevant topics, competitors and the industry as a whole. For more information on how to set up search queries check out this 10 steps guide. For Danielle social listening is closely connected to the story telling of your brand:

“You look at what is happening around your brand, customers, the market and relevant topics in society and then you combine the different knots to make sense of it. Social listening helps you give context to what is happening and answer the “So what question”. So you interpret what you are seeing and create a meaningful story”, Danielle explains.

For instance, the monitoring and analysis of current issues can help in finding the right communication strategy and preventing a bigger social media crisis. Social listening does not focus on individual cases, but provides insights from collective data across social networks to improve products and services and keep track of the company’s reputation.

“Many organisations that we work with use social listening to become more data driven and to take strategic decisions based on data rather than gut instinct. They monitor their core values and strategic themes over time and measure the effect of their efforts”, says Danielle.

Social listening is also a great means to get to know your target audience and find out which social networks they use most and what kind of opinions they hold on specific topics and towards your brand. You can compare it a bit with classic market research where you send out surveys to find out more about your customers. The big advantage of using available online data instead, is that it is much more objective and it is already there, you don’t need surveys.

Social listening vs social monitoring – which tool should you choose?

The kind of tool that is right for you depends on your role within the organisation and your objective. Do you want to engage with your audience and respond to mentions, comments and messages on social networks that are concerning your brand? Do you want to plan your content and publish it on several social networks from one platform to work efficiently and save valuable time? Then a social media management and engagement tool with integrated media monitoring is a suitable solution. Or do you want to define your overall communication strategy based on data insights, analyze campaigns and measure and evaluate your reputation, industry and stakeholders? Then a tool like the OBI Brand Monitor is the right choice.

It is also likely that your customer service department uses social media monitoring and your corporate communication department is using a social listening tool. In this case it is valuable if the results are shared within the different departments

“For customer service/webcare employees it is important to be aware of what is happening on relevant topics in society as a whole and to be aligned with the corporate communication strategy. This enabled them to provide customers the best answer and positively influence the organisations reputation.”

Want to know more about the possibilities of OBI4wan?

Do you want more information about social media monitoring and social listening or are you curious about the solutions of OBI4wan for your organisation? Request a free demo or contact us via or +31 (0)85 210 50 60.

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