Social Listening 101: A Guide For Small Business

What is social listening? Essentially, it's keeping tabs on specific conversations around the interwebs. These "conversations" can involve your brand, a specific topic, a certain person, a hashtag, and general sentiment around any of those.

Why is social listening important? You NEED to know what's being said about your brand in order to adjust, respond, and know what kind of content your readers want. Big international brands pay major bucks and have staff dedicated to keeping their finger on the pulse of their brand sentiment. Even if you're not a big brand, social listening and make or break your social media marketing.

Social listening is also directly related to customer service. Most businesses and brands have keyed into the fact that customer service on social media is now a must. Hubspot estimates that 72% of people who complain on Twitter expect a response within an hour. While you might not have the manpower to respond to every customer service tweet immediately, you should have a plan in place for each and every social media platform your company utilizes.

In true Cara Chace fashion, here is how to get started with social listening - quickly, efficiently, effectively.

Social Listening 101 - A Guide For Small Business -
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There are many tools you can use (free and paid) to keep a pulse on who is talking about your company and what is being said. Here are my favorites to get started.

Google: This one is obvious. But did you know you can set up google alerts to email you each and every time something appears online regarding your company? You can set up these alerts to email you once a week, once a day, or as it happens. You can also set up alerts that help you monitor your industry to see what’s in the news and timely.

Tweetdeck: This is another gold-mine of free information. Tweetdeck is available as an app or desktop version for easy access. You set up columns of search queries based upon user handles, keywords, or hashtags. These columns are especially useful if you are monitoring an event, participating in a Twitter Chat, and/or particular hashtags. The dashboard interface makes it easy to monitor activity in real time across multiple searches (instead of single searching within Twitter itself). When I was the social media manager for Megadeth, I had an entire computer monitor dedicated to Tweetdeck. I had columns for the band, each member, other bands they were touring with, sponsors, and hashtags. It was essential.

Other Twitter monitoring services worth mentioning include:, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Social Bro, and Social Mention. These different programs offer a variety of capabilities at different price points. You might have to do some testing to find out which one is right for your business.

Threaded Comments: This term means that each comment is organized or “threaded” so you can easily follow the conversation. This is how comments work for Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. My recommendation is to devote a set time per day to check in with each applicable social account and see if there are comments to address.

Sentiment: My favorite tool to monitor brand sentiment is You type in a term, name, etc. and not only does it return links to mentions, but it returns: strength, sentiment, passion, reach, top keywords, top users, top hashtags, and sources. A true wealth of information.


Before you respond officially to any customer service complaints or kudos, you should know your brand voice guidelines. Is your company relaxed, luxurious, funny, or proper? Knowing the feel and language of your company voice will go a long way in providing consistent responses.


While you might not have the staff to respond to every comment within an hour, 24 hours a day, you should have a schedule and roadmap for each situation you can think of that might present itself. You can spend a set hour each day responding to all comments, for example – do this consistently and your followers will know what to expect. You should also have a triage plan for customer complaints to be handled by different levels of management and what to escalate when.


Social listening is also a fantastic way to determine if there is interest around a particular subject or product. If I was going to gauge interest around a potential course topic, I would search for conversations via hashtags and see if it was being talked about by my target audience. I would also take note of other topics relating to my search that came up often in conversations for more content ideas.

Are you utilizing any or all of these techniques to keep tabs on your brand? Do you have any favorite tools that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Do you need to work on your in-person active listening skills? Here's how Dwight does it:

While I’m no longer focused on general social media (you can read more about why here), I AM offering tons of resources - like content planning and blog marketing, plus other tools to make entrepreneurship easier - in my free membership for Pinterest PowerUp. PPU is a membership community for online entrepreneurs and the only Pinterest marketing resource you will ever need for your business!

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Hey hey, I'm Cara - Pinterest marketing evangelist and lover of all things Squarespace website design. I team up with online entrepreneurs to get tons of website traffic into sales funnels (marketing speak for getting eyeballs on your website and turning them into customers).

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