Social Listening and Social Monitoring are both analytical tools used in conjunction with social media to help companies and brands identify/answer a customer requirement. Many people will interchange the terminology without realising that they are quite different. They are both Customer Service tools.
So, what’s the difference between social listening and social monitoring?? The easiest way to define that is to say that Social Monitoring is reactive, insomuch as it answers a question or gives an instruction in response to a comment, whereas Social Listening is proactive as it collects all comments and makes a more wide-ranging report which sees the ‘bigger picture’ and can help to provide permanent solutions to problems and queries it finds.
Many brands, organisations and companies use both of these tools together as they realise that the functionality of one is not included in the other. However, there are some who imagine that they both do the same job – they don’t.
Social monitoring, as previously stated, responds to a customer’s question at the time of the need. For example, it will ask specific questions based on the initial query or it can refer them to the appropriate department, which is very similar to a call centre.
Social Monitoring relies on the customer to make the first move (i.e. to ask the question), in order to give the response or resolution. This function can be an automated system (which can only ask what it has been told to ask) or a human performing the functionality. Obviously, the human form can deal with specifics better, whereas an automated system has a much better memory for details!
This responsive functionality is an invaluable Customer Service feature which, whether used alongside Social Listening tools, or on its own, can be invaluable.
Manual Social Monitoring
You can perform Social Monitoring by using Twitter notifications (tracking queries as they come in and dealing with them). Many companies use this method, even the really large ones. Any individual or corporation can set this up, but what this can be a drain on resources for a large situation (for example, a train company using this when the entire network has shut down due to an emergency). This is Social Monitoring at its most basic.
Automatic Social Monitoring
A much more robust way of setting up your Social Monitoring is to incorporate AI software which can recognise objectives and proactively forecast instances which require escalation in order to dodge those frustrated customer comments being left.
Social Listening is an automated tool (like a macro), which cannot be carried out manually. It has been built to ‘listen’ to conversations on social media, which mention the client brand. It also gathers information from social monitoring and other customer interactions (using AI software), and brings it all together to create a more all-inclusive interpretation of what customers are saying which can assist in the development of the brand by addressing more generic needs.
All of the above contribute to giving the customer an enhanced experience as the brand are able to see what they need, before they even know they need it. This proactive approach saves time in the future, by ensuring that the social monitoring side of things can deal with more queries autonomously.
Social Listening also allows you to discover trends, not only in the consumer experiences but also in your industry and with competitors. It will enable you to make any changes required to be on top of the game and keep customers happy at the same time.
In the previous example of a train company having to close its entire network in an emergency, we saw that Social Monitoring can allow answers to be given to specific questions. In the same example, Social Listening will be assimilating all of the comments it can find on the subject, allowing you to deal with the generic problems being experienced and coming up with a solution (i.e. publishing an ‘alternative routes’ guide or advising that tickets will be accepted on other networks, etc).
Do I need to use both?
Timely responses are key to Customer Services in this day and age. Most social media users expect answers and they want them quick. Be under no illusion, they have plenty of choice elsewhere if you don’t respond. The Social Monitoring is crucial to this experience and tied in with a decent CXM, you can’t go wrong.
Social Listening is, in itself, a very desirable tool and the analytics can be invaluable. However, it does require hardy AI software for the data collection. Smaller brands might find this both costly (in terms of hardware required) and time consuming.
Once you know the differences, it’s straightforward. Despite their names being confusingly similar, these two features are in fact notably different. What you need relies totally on what you want to be able to achieve.
In short, whether you know it or not, people ARE talking about your brand on social media. This data is available to you and it would be a mistake to ignore it. In the past most organisations would perform market research periodically. Using Social Monitoring and/or Social Listening allows you, throughout the life of a brand, monitor it constantly without having to employ extra bodies. What is there to lose? Your Customer Service rating goes up and you can provide what the customer needs or wants on an ongoing basis.