In Part 1, I talked about the old marketing ship is sinking. Less interruption and more listening, including how harnessing the listening process can change a business’s modus operandi.  Now let’s explore the different Listening Tools and how to choose one that might work for you.

Social Listening

Social Listening is now part of the discipline of marketing

Photo: Courtesy of

There are many types of listening tools (also  called ‘social listening tools’ or ‘social monitoring tools’), some free, others are not. Major brands, with active online conversations, tend to prefer the paid-for tools as they are designed for efficient workflow (data integration, linked to prospecting/sales funnel systems, CRM systems and data reports). While smaller businesses or brands that operate in discrete niches often find the paid- for tools to be less effective, and prefer to use the free tools.

Paid For Listening Tools:

There are many other paid-for listening tools – each has their own free trials and demonstrations which are worth exploring:

Free Listening Tools:

  • IMG_0819Google Alerts (basic monitoring for key words across online publications mentioned under ‘influencers’ also)
  • Social Mention   searches user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, and more.
  • TwitterSearch as mentioned you can search  search by topic, people, hashtags,  words, exact phrase,  near this place
  • BoardReader is a search engine for forums and boards.  
  • Google Blog Search – searches millions of feed-enabled blogs. Users can search for blogs or blog posts, and can narrow their search.
  • YahooPipes   is a free online service that lets you remix popular feed types and create data mashups using a visual editor.
  • searches for conversations around your topics.

More on social listening on p235- 240 in Emarketing Excellence (2012) which I  co-authored with Dave Chaffey.     

Listen To Your Logo

You can now track your logo usage online across the world to measure sponsorship, social media (e.g. photos with your logo in them) or to track illegal use of your logo. now uses facial recognition technology to offer this paid-for service.

Which Social Listening Tool?

Check if the listening tools deduplicate comments, chuck out spam etc. Can the tool go backwards in time (monitor the last 12 months of conversations)? Check who collects the information – the tool itself or if they use 3rd parties (and if 3rd parties how long can they search backwards)?

Does the tool identify influencers in specific conversations or across complete sectors? Can the tool identify which topics generate volume of responses or which topics affect sentiment? How do you pay for it? Is it pay per search, per license, per month or per client.  Costs and charges can be per annum, per month, per license/user, per search, per client, number of profiles tracked, volume of data collected,, number of users (check for ‘no hidden costs’).

Check if the social monitoring tool can:

  • Monitor heavy traffic sites like twitter and youtube to identify new threats (or opportunities) before they go viral.
  • Measure how much traffic and/or conversions (sales) are generated by these ‘conversations
  • See how brand sentiment changes during  after (or during) a communications campaign

For more issues to consider when buying a social media listening tool  see my Emarketing Excellence, co-author, Dave Chaffey’s  Smart Insights summary of the requirements .  It is critical to decide what exactly you want to find out and how you might want to use this information.

Here’s a free comparison of 36 social media listening tools and although it is 2009 (and many tools have changed) it does discuss criteria in a succinct way.  Alternatively you could pay £3,500 for a comparison of social media tools report from Ideya (2013). There are now some 250 social media listening tools available now (about 50 are free or partially free). Here’s a selection of free tools.


Results metrics

By measuring and reporting the results on a regular basis, e.g. monthly, it does help to focus the mind on how you are performing online across a range of social media platforms. Some basic metrics include:

  • Number of Followers / Fans / Friends
  • Engagement Level (% that are engaging /sharing/commenting/liking)
  • Klout Score (measures your twitter influence ie followers and engagement)
  • Mentions (brand)
  • Sentiment Score (positive or negative mentions)
  • Inbound Links
  • Traffic from specific sources
  • Share Of Voice (SOV) today is more than the old  ‘volume of advertising you own in your market market’. It is more complex and includes total number of mentions on Blogs,   Boards and Forums, Social     Networks, Video and Photo Sharing not to mention, aggregating the  positive and negative comments.





Benefits Of Social Listening


  • Listening-2_thumb.jpgAccess free market research
  • Build credibility (show you care by answering questions, offering advice and helpful tips)
  • Reinforce brand values (maintain the brand values, brand personality and brand tone)
  • Build a presence – boost awareness
  • Boost Traffic & SEO Rankings via your digital footprint  inbound links to your website will increase
  • Eventually sell more via identifying needs/issues/problems/desires and occasionally offering relevant solutions.


For now, if you are a small business about to explore social listening try the free tools such as Google Alerts, Twitter search and Social Mention. If you are a bigger business with more established brands, use the paid-for tools that easily integrate into your workflow systems (see criteria above). Either way,  a process needs to be developed to (a) extract the insights and (b) take action (based on the insights). Be active yet be selective – you can’t cover everything so select carefully the topics and the range of platforms but don’t leave conversations that you engage in unanswered. Build ‘listening’ into your team’s daily operations. Allocate resource to it. Social Listening is now part of the systematic discipline of marketing.



Chaffey, D. & Smith, PR  (2012) Emarketing Excellence (4th ed) – planning and optimizing your digital marketing, Routledge

Johnson, R. (2010) Why Share of Voice Is Important for Brands, Social Media Today

Smith, PR (2013) Listening Skills & Digital Marketing Listening Tools (part 1/2)