How to Use Social Listening & Social Monitoring for Content Planning


September 23, 2021

Between social listening vs social monitoring, which one bests the other in terms of helpfulness in content planning? The answer really is that both of them are equally helpful in gathering data for content planning and development. But arguably, there will be steps in the process where one shines above the other.

Just ask any social media marketing management expert and they’ll agree to the truth in that. But to truly understand that comes only after you familiarize yourself with the differences between each technique’s role. Roles that, as you get to know them better, don’t just impact your social media, but even your content marketing efforts as well.

This is because content marketing, in part, involves uncovering and bridging gaps in the communication and touchpoints between your brand and online audiences. That’s a task that social listening and social monitoring can help tremendously in.

So, what do you say? Read on, and let a data-driven digital marketing company walk you through how you can leverage social media listening and monitoring for your content planning.

What’s the difference between social listening and social monitoring?

As we said, it’s important to understand the differences between these two techniques before you can make use of them properly. Given the similarities they share, you can’t exactly say that the persisting confusion about their variations are baseless. So let’s define each to establish a clear line between the two once and for all.

What is social monitoring?

First, let’s talk about social monitoring.

Social monitoring is an active process of monitoring and responding to your online audiences. It involves tuning into the different platforms where your audience and customers are present, and responding to mentions and messages directly related to your brand.

These platforms can include social media channels, blogs, review websites, ecommerce websites and discussion boards. This process is useful for understanding  what your target audience is saying about your brand, services and even competitors, and responding to them in a timely manner. 

What is social listening?

Social listening, on the other hand, is the more passive of the two, and is a smaller part of the entire social monitoring process. It’s a technique that involves accessing the full spectrum of platforms to gather qualitative data, and gain a full understanding of what your customers are saying about your brand and the industry as a whole. 

This includes reading through online mentions,  customer conversations and customer-brand interactions that are tracked via social monitoring. It also includes tracking  news or specific topics related to your company and industry you operate in.

The data you gather is then analyzed so you can effectively generate insights for ideating content, or achieving many other business goals. 

Bear in mind that although it doesn’t involve actively interacting with audiences, social media listening requires you to think of and  create opportunities out of these discussions. And you can apply what you’ve learned about your audiences into future strategies to keep them engaged.

Compared to social monitoring, social listening is broader in scope and uses a more proactive and strategic approach.

When is it best to use social monitoring vs social listening and vice versa?

Now that we have differentiated the unique features of social listening and social monitoring, you should be getting some initial ideas of how you can use both for achieving your content marketing goals. You should also note that it’s because of its usefulness in other disciplines of digital marketing that makes social listening is the number one tactic used by marketers, today.

Now, let’s go over one by one how and when these marketers make use of both tactics in their campaigns.

Social Monitoring Social Listening
Ideating for blog topics or other content
Resharing user-generated content
Creating or fine-tuning audience personas
Voice of Customer copywriting
Discovering a unique business value

Social monitoring for ideating for blog topics or other content

Content ideation is a critical part of content creation as it sets the tone for the rest of your content strategy – from what topic you’ll be focusing on, down to the promotion.

In the brainstorming rooms for your content, you’re aiming to develop unique content ideas that are equally meaningful and relevant to your audiences. And, whenever possible, resonates with the peers of your audiences too.

But in order to do that, you’ll need to have a keen sense for what information they actually care about and should know. At the same time, you also have to pay close attention to the stories that make rounds in your audiences’ circles and find a way to participate in the conversation through your content.

Social monitoring helps you these brainstorming sessions by providing those exact requirements. On top of those, social monitoring also helps you narrow down the topics you can and should talk about, and provide you an avenue to make your customers feel heard. And that’s best demonstrated by developing content inspired by the insights you’ve gained through social monitoring.

Social listening for creating or fine-tuning audience personas 

Today’s customer-centric business landscape calls for more unique and personalized customer experiences that is grounded on an accurate and detailed audience persona. That is most true for content, which exists primarily to serve the needs of your online audiences.

Well-defined audience personas can help you create meaningful customer journeys that drive conversions. An audience persona, also known as a buyer persona, is a detailed and realistic representation of a segment of your target market. This is not a real customer but a fictional one created based on the very real traits, needs, wants, buying preferences, behavior and other qualities of your target audience. 

Social listening helps you develop this by aiding your customer research and providing accurate insights on your customers’ pain points and motivations. Because it’s in these social spaces that your audiences interact sincerely with their peers, making it the prime source of these data points.

This data will subsequently inform your audience persona development or, if you’ve already found your ideal audience online, fine-tune those personas according to match how they’ve evolved over time.

Social monitoring for resharing user-generated content 

Resharing user-generated content is important for building community and trust between a brand and its customers.

It lets supporters know that their brand experiences and feedback are valued by a company. Social monitoring can aid you in sifting the vast internet space for relevant and engaging content developed by your audiences. This content can then be feature in your own platforms. Teeth whitening brand Holo does this well, by constantly featuring user-generated content on their Instagram page, as you can see below.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Holo Teeth Whitening Kit (@holowhitening)

This use of social monitoring works to effectively boost audience engagement as well. By featuring their content (with permissions, of course) on your pages, you are signaling that you value their acknowledgement of your brand. Not only that, but sharing user-generated content also allows you to create immediate resonance with the audiences of these users that you may have not been able to communicate with yet.

Any time you’re letting your audiences participate in something more than just a transactional encounter with your brand, will have huge pay-offs for you not just in terms of metrics, but also in genuinely fostering lasting relationships with new and existing audiences.

Social listening for voice-of-customer (VoC) copywriting

Voice-of-customer is an essential element of conversion copywriting and ups the ante on your brand’s communications by combining it with the voice, perceptions, needs and values of your ideal audience.

You are not just writing for and to them, you are writing as them, with their own words. This results in copies that are more persuasive, engaging and emphatic to your readers. Social listening can help you master the art of VoC copywriting because in the process, you are actively listening to how they are talking about your brand online.

You can apply social listening for the VoC process in the following ways: 

  • Determine the common qualities shared by the websites, blogs, social media channels and other media that your audience regularly visits. Are they informative, entertaining, conversational, professional, formal? Use this information to guide your tone in the copywriting.
  • “Listen” to the feedback of your audiences in reviews and comments sections of these platforms to pick out words that they commonly attribute to the brand. Pay attention to their mood, language, and tone.

With thorough attentiveness, you’ll be able to spot patterns in the conversation, and respond with your writing accordingly. Use it to improve your writing in such a way that it better connects with your audience and empathizes with their sentiments.

Social listening for discovering a unique business value

Business value is something that you establish early on, as you endeavor to spread word about your brand. However, it doesn’t stay as a definitive perception of your brand forever.

Over time, as your business engages with customers and vice versa, this business value may evolve, or you’ll discover a whole new value to it that was only seen by your audiences before. While some businesses happen to stumble upon these new values, you can take proactive steps to discovering this through social listening. Discovering these as quickly as possible will prove to benefit your communication strategies and overall business, because it helps you make changes in your products or services that better serve your customers.

Along with improving your products or services based on live feedback from your customers, you can also identify gaps not served by your current offerings and develop new solutions accordingly. This dynamic of active listening and responding will create continuing conversions for your brand.

Social monitoring for trend-jacking

Trend-jacking is a marketing tactic that involves joining the discussion for a viral topic in such a way that you are able to deliver a message that aligns with the topic and your brand.

It can be tricky terrain to navigate because on one one hand, it could propel your brand at the forefront of an important cultural moment and skyrocket your brand awareness and image. You could even convert some audiences in the process. On the other hand, if used incorrectly, trend-jacking could make your brand look exploitative and ignorant. This was the case of the controversial Pepsi Co. advertisement that featured supermodel Kendall Jenner participating in a Black Lives Matter street protest that ended up offending advocates and activists.

Taking that as a fair warning of how to not use social monitoring, you should also take active steps to put safeguards in place so that you are considerately making use of this tactic to jump on a trend. Use it to closely listen, and disect the underlying important messages audiences are saying about the issue, and see if there is any alignment with your brand values. If there is such an alignment, you can either craft a message that empathizes with the online sentiment, or one that offers a counter-argument that furthers the discussion in a productive way.

Subsequently, you should also use social monitoring to gauge the response your trend-jacking efforts. Looking once again to the example made by Pepsi’s controversial ad, they ended up pulling out the advertisement in order to quell the outrage of audiences. The company also closely monitored what people were saying about their brand on social media and responded with apologies on social media. 

Make sure to balance the insights you gather with thorough research about the topic and assess how it aligns with your values. If it doesn’t align in any way, it’s better to just let the trend die down without your voice pitching in.

Key takeaways

The key differences and sample techniques should illustrate the world of difference between social monitoring and social listening. Both are equally important for content planning and knowing their unique features will help you decide which one is more effective for your intended outcome. Here are additional insights to keep in mind. 

  • Clearly define your content marketing goals. Social monitoring and social listening both have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Follow the criteria of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound (SMART) when setting your marketing goals. Once you’ve created SMART objectives, it will be easier to determine whether it is social monitoring or social listening that is more effective in achieving them.
  • Consider both the micro and macro. Deciding whether you want a micro or macro approach to a marketing goal can help you decide whether social listening or social monitoring is better for content planning. Social listening is broad and strategic, it addresses marketing goals and business problems at the macro level. Social monitoring, on the other hand, is more tactical, specific and micro in scale.
  • Determine if you want to automate or use a manual approach. There are simple, readily available apps that you can download to help you apply social monitoring on your various social media platforms and websites. Social listening, on the other hand, requires a more sophisticated mix of automation technology and reporting in order to gather, aggregate, measure and analyze data.  

Got any techniques to share on how to apply social listening and social monitoring on your next content marketing campaign? Do you want to know the latest technologies and trends you can use for social listening or social monitoring? Reach out to us on the comments or through Facebook, X and LinkedIn