Why is social media listening worthwhile?

Social media strategy guides listening and listening helps you create a strategy.

In the beginning of June, I took part in M-Brain Conference (formerly GIA Conference) organized by M-Brain. At the conference I was in charge of two social media workshops and two round table discussions together with M-Brain’s Head of Social Media Consultancy Susanna Tirkkonen. The conference was meant for market intelligence professionals and during the three-day conference I realized, that social media is a relatively new part of data collection and analysis in this sector.


In the presentations of the seminar social media was often linked to the word ’listening’. We talked about listening in our own workshop, too, and also digitalist Ville Tolvanen‘s presentation was about the same topic. More and more often listening is seen as the first and most important aspect of planning social media presence, social media monitoring or engagement. Even my latest book about social media is called “˜Kuuntele ja keskustele ““ Näin järjestösi toimii tavoitteellisesti sosiaalisessa mediassa’ (“˜Listen and discuss ““ How your organization can act target-oriented in social media’).


But what is social media listening really about? Next I’ll present three views on social media listening.


1. Social media strategy guides listening and listening helps you create a strategy


When using social media for personal purposes as well as on behalf of an organization, actions must have a clear purpose and plan behind them. If you can answer the question “˜How could social media benefit me or my organization’, you have already started to plan your social media actions.


If you can’t yet answer the question, you can start to look for an answer by listening. In this context of work and organizations, social media listening includes the following:


– Searching different social media services with keywords and keyphrases related to your work or organization

– If your choices of social media services are still unclear, you can start with your own Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts; in these services it’s easy to find public information shared by others

– It is easier to make the right social media choices or updates for your own and your organization’s needs based on search results

– Based on these searches you can easily draw conclusions on where different target groups are in social media or where they are going; these conclusions can be drawn from the discussions and the amount and quality of the content found in different social media services

– With search results you’ll also find out what kind of topics are being discussed regarding your organization in social media ““ and this is a good basis for setting targets, finding target groups and even for planning your content


Listening guides social media strategy and planning, and strategic goals guide social media actions and communication and the ongoing process of developing these actions.


2. Listening is information gathering and monitoring burning issues


There is an ongoing discussion about nearly everything and everybody online in social media channels and forums and being current is the defining factor of communication. People share news on Facebook and Twitter and discuss them when it’s a current topic of conversation.


Especially Twitter’s role as a source for current information far surpasses other channels in speed, and the information people share on Twitter also works as a source for media. For example during Nepal’s earth quake first news from news agencies were mainly compiled from people’s disaster related tweets when no other information was available.


On Instagram on the other hand people share life related information here and now. For example if you post something on Instagram that has happened earlier it is tagged with the hashtag #latergram; this is how you mark a picture as “˜old’ on Instagram. On LinkedIn, in LinkedIn groups for example, people take part in current work and professional discussions.


There is a huge spectrum of social media channels out there and you should look for the ones that are most useful to you, meaning those platforms where people and organizations talk about topics that are related to the organization and personal interests of the social media user. The right channels can only be found by trying them out ““ and by following the discussions constantly.


Listening and monitoring current discussions might be the only way to use social media for some. Maybe not as an organization but as an individual. Many say they use Twitter purely for following current news because on Twitter you can find relevant news with one search function when you use the right way of finding information.


  1. 3. Listening guides to engagement


Another word which is used a lot when discussing social media is the word “˜engagement’ and encouraging engagement. Engagement can mean many different things. Maybe a bit more traditional view is that engagement means people’s reactions to organization’s or person’s content on social media in the form of likes, comments and shares.


Another much more efficient way is to take part in the discussions that are already active by liking, commenting and sharing content from others. In this blog post my focus is on the latter. Let’s return back to the beginning of this post to social media planning and social media goals. Looking at the big picture this would mean for example more service in social media, new people becoming aware of the company or organization and for example improving the organization’s reputation.


Whatever the goal is, listening and engagement are crucial stepping stones to success. Using social media is communication between people, and organizations can also talk with people. See for example what Public Works Department of the City of Helsinki is doing on Twitter or what KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is doing with their customer service on the same platform.


So listening guides us to engagement; once you know what you want from social media and you’re actively following the discussions around relevant topics on the social media channels where you’ve found active discussions, engagement and discussing will also become target oriented. An active organization or its representative can at best create a stronger relationship to a person on social media with one single like or by marking a tweet as a favourite than other channels would even make possible.


As Press Officer of Scouts of Finland, Johanna Junkkari, said at the Communication Day of Allianssi – Finnish Youth Cooperation: “We only need to like the pictures our scouts share and this makes these young people really happy!”


And I have to admit: I was pretty taken too when a couple of years ago a Finnish movie director started a conversation with me on Twitter after I tweeted about the premier of his movie.


Listening brings you close to people, right in the center of things.


Right now progressive organizations go to people, they won’t wait for people to come to the organization. And how do the organizations find there? By listening; gathering the right data and following the discussions.


by Piritta Seppälä


The blog post has also been published in Piritta’s own blog in Finnish.


The M-Brain Conference is a three-day event for professionals focusing on the key strategic success factors of Market and Competitive Intelligence. It is internationally recognized as the best intelligence conference with 100% recommendation. Why? Because the conference is characterized by in-depth workshops, practical case presentations, thought provoking panel discussions, interactive roundtable sessions and a lot of networking opportunities. And it is vendor free.

The next conference will be held in Chicago in October 17-19. 2017.

Want to find out more about social media? Download M-Brain’s European Social Media Survey 2015 white paper and learn how companies utilize social media in their businesses.

Picture: Flickr

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