Why You Need It & How to Get Started

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If you’re producing content for social media, you need a plan for how to monitor social media. In fact, it’s a good idea to have social media monitoring in place even for platforms where you’re not actively posting.

Why? Because your audience is already talking about you on social networks. Social media monitoring allows you to be an active participant in the conversation. Monitoring gives you the chance to learn from all that free consumer intelligence. And you’ll get plenty of valuable insights into your competitors, too.

Let’s kick things off with a social media monitoring definition.

What is social media monitoring?

Social media monitoring is the process of tracking what people are saying about your brand on social media. This includes all mentions of your brand:

  • tagged and untagged
  • on your owned social accounts (in comments)
  • and across the social web.

Social media monitoring vs. social listening: What’s the difference?

Social media monitoring and social listening are similar. They both involve gathering information on what people are saying about your brand on social platforms.

The key difference? Social media monitoring is about finding information and measuring what has already happened. Social listening is about analyzing information and taking strategic action for the future.

Social media monitoring is primarily focused on:

  • gathering data
  • addressing individual comments
  • and taking short-term actions.

Social listening looks at the bigger picture. It starts with the information gathered from social media monitoring. But it digs deeper to inform your larger social media strategy over the long term.

For example, social media monitoring identifies comments about your brand online that could use an immediate response from your social or customer service teams.

Social media listening, on the other hand, considers those comments as part of the larger concept of social sentiment. Social listening helps you understand how the conversation about your brand shifts over time so you can look for patterns.

graph of sentiment volume over time

Why brands need social media monitoring

Understand your audience

Your social audience extends well beyond the people who engage with your owned social channels. It’s relatively easy to keep track of people who @ tag you in their social posts. Or those who reply directly to comments on your channels.

But what about the people who talk about you without tagging you, like in the Warby Parker example above? If they’re talking about you online, they’re your audience. Even if they don’t engage directly with your accounts, or even follow you (yet).

Social media monitoring gives you the full picture of who’s talking about you online – and what they have to say.

Understand your competitive space

As you’ll see below, a good social media monitoring program tracks more than the conversation about your own brand. You want to monitor relevant conversations about your competitors and your industry as well.

Knowing what the competition is up to allows you to get ahead of changes in the competitive space. You’ll get early warning of things like:

  • new product launches
  • innovative features
  • major personnel or leadership changes

As well as learning what strategies work best (and worst) for brands similar to yours.

Inform your marketing campaigns

How can social media monitoring inform your sales and marketing strategy?

Social media monitoring helps you understand the reaction to your social campaigns in real time. When you pay close attention, you can make adjustments on the fly.

Social media monitoring can help identify common questions, concerns, and favorite things about your brand and your products. Use this intel to address issues and call out wins. You can also spot popular and trending hashtags, keywords, and memes to incorporate in your social posts.

Monitoring also helps you learn from the response to competitor campaigns. Did a competitor launch a particularly successful new social strategy? Did they try to jump on a trend that flopped? Either scenario provides valuable lessons for your own brand. This can help broaden your knowledge of your target market without having to make the same mistakes yourself.

Engage with your audience

People who tag you on social media are clearly looking for a response. Having a social media monitoring plan in place means you never miss a mention. No matter how many platforms you’re using.

But there’s a greater benefit of social media monitoring for audience engagement. You can identify comments and conversations about your brand even where you are not directly tagged. These can sometimes provide the greatest opportunity to win over a frustrated customer or potential buyer. Or to delight someone who’s already singing your praises.

Nip potential disasters in the bud

Once you’re monitoring your brand mentions, you’ll understand the baseline level of conversation and customer sentiment about your band on social platforms. Your social media reputation monitoring tools will alert you to any sudden changes so you can see what’s up before things get out of hand.

On the flip side, you will also spot sudden bursts in enthusiasm about your brand, so you can ride that happy wave. Perhaps it’s a good time to add some budget to a post that’s lighting up the digital airwaves?

How to build a smart social media monitoring strategy

Set your goals

Remember, social media monitoring is all about gathering data. But which data? Before you can decide on that (see the next step), you need to determine the goals of your social media monitoring plan.

A good way to narrow this down is to think about what questions you want to answer through social media monitoring. Then decide what data you need to track to get those answers.

Some common goals for a social media monitoring program include:

  • Understand your brand reputation
  • Monitor your competition
  • Identify fans and potential brand advocates or influencers
  • Identify opportunities for social customer service and engagement

For more ideas, check out our post on setting smart social media goals.

Decide what you’re going to track

Once you’ve nailed down your goals, you can determine which data you need to track, and on which platforms. Some of the most useful things to monitor are:

  • Your brand and product names, including common misspellings
  • Your competitors’ brand and product names, including common misspellings
  • Your CEO’s name, along with other members of your top leadership team
  • Important terms and keywords in your industry
  • Brand hashtags
  • Other common hashtags used in your industry
  • Location-specific hashtags for bricks-and-mortar businesses
  • Your slogan or catchphrase

If your audience spans more than one geographic territory, you might want to consider including multiple language variations of your keywords and hashtags as well.

Pick the right tool

You could engage in social media monitoring without any specialized tools. But, it’s a lot of work and your results are very limited. Still, if you’d like to dip your toe into the waters of social media monitoring without investing in any tools, you can.

Basically, you’ll need to log into each social platform to check your @mentions. Then use the search bar to check mentions of your hashtags and your competitors. For some social platforms (like X), you can perform more advanced searches that also let you look for keywords.

You’ll then need to copy and paste your findings into a spreadsheet for record-keeping and analysis.

Or, you could use a specialized social media monitoring and listening tool to automate most of the work. This way you can access all of your social media monitoring data in one place, and perform sentiment analysis with just a few clicks.

We’ve got a whole post dedicated to helping you choose the right social media monitoring tool for your business. Later in this post, we’ll show you exactly how to set up your social media monitoring program with our favorite tool. (Spoiler alert: It’s Hootsuite.)

Share insights with your wider team

Right off the bat, you’ll want to make sure that your social customer service team is looped into your social media monitoring findings. They’re the best resource to tap for responding to brand mentions that involve questions, product comments, and complaints.

Next you’ll want to bring in the rest of your social team, as your findings can help steer your overall social marketing strategy.

As you become more sophisticated in your social media monitoring, you’ll also want to share important findings with the larger marketing and customer service teams, sales, and even product development.

For example, look at this perfect synergy between social media monitoring and the offline customer experience, which then loops around again to more organic social media reach.

How to monitor social media with Hootsuite

1. Track your data with Hootsuite Streams

In your Hootsuite dashboard, you can set up streams to monitor mentions, keywords, and hashtags for multiple social platforms.

Your Hootsuite Streams are organized into boards, which are fully customizable. You might want one board for each social platform. Or, you might want one board to monitor your own mentions and hashtags and a separate board to monitor your competitors.

All you have to do is select your social platform and account, then choose what you want to monitor.

Hootsuite Streams select account and edit stream on Twitter

Once you’ve added your streams and organized them into boards, you can check in at any time. For hashtags, you can also add recent and trending streams so you can see what’s happening right now as well as what’s getting the most attention.

Hootsuite Streams Instagram trending fashion hashtags

2. Dive deeper into competitive monitoring with Hootsuite Analytics

If keeping an eye on the competition is a key goal for your social media monitoring strategy, you can take things to the next level with Hootsuite Analytics.

First, make a list of your top competitors. You can add between two and 20 competitors for each social platform, depending on your plan.

Once you’ve added your competitors, you can create a competitive analysis report at any time. It will show you the top posts from each of your competitors, as well as their lowest-performing posts. For each category, you’ll see how their results compare to yours.

You’ll also see which post types perform best for you and for your competitors.

Hootsuite Analytics performance by post type and overall post performance by comments

Finally, you’ll get a word cloud that shows which hashtags are working best for your competitors based on the number of comments, likes, or overall engagement.

trending hashtags via Hootsuite Analytics

3. Get next-level insights with Talkwalker

Talkwalker is the leading AI-powered tool for social media monitoring and social listening. Hootsuite recently acquired this impressive tool, and its full functionality will be available within Hootsuite’s social media management tool very soon.

This full integration will give you more ways to understand the details of what people are saying about your brand and your products online, with added sources (including blogs, forums, and news sites) and insights powered by artificial intelligence.

Talkwalker also provides advanced social monitoring beyond the traditional social platforms, incorporating data from more than 150 million sources. You’ll be able to categorize your data with 50 filters, and assign conversations to the relevant team members for follow-up.

In the meantime, you can start using Talkwalker and Hootsuite together with the integration available in the Hootsuite App Library.

Save time managing your social media presence with Hootsuite. Publish and schedule posts, find relevant conversions, engage your audience, measure results, and more — all from one dashboard. Try it free today.

Beat the competition.

See how you perform against competitors, get actionable insights, and become the best in your space with Hootsuite Analytics.


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