Social Listening vs. Social Media Analytics: What’s the Difference?


Businesses looking to improve their social media marketing have a bevy of tools to choose from — over 186, according to Chief Marketing Technologist. With that many potential solutions to choose from, the paradox of choice is certain to set in. To ease your anxiety I’ll break down two common — and often complementary — categories of social media tools: social listening and social media analytics.

What is social listening?

Social listening is the process of monitoring digital conversations to understand what people are saying about a product, business, individual, or industry online. Marketing teams primarily use social listening for community management, such as identifying customer pain points and providing direct consumer response to questions, complaints, and comments. Marketing teams also use social listening to surface feedback that could help to differentiate their brand, product, or service.

There are myriad ways for consumers to share feedback and experiences — both directly and anonymously. Social listening tools allow marketing teams to prioritize and evaluate feedback from the public. This feedback can be used to create more appealing offerings, both in the form of products and services, as well as content, campaigns, and advertisements.

Marketing teams use social listening to:

  • Maintain brand reputation;
  • Understand public sentiment about products, brands, and services;
  • Monitor and manage relevant conversations;
  • Improve customer service online;
  • Engage industry influencers;
  • Listen and react to consumer questions, complaints, and comments.

One important distinction: Social listening monitors individual conversations and responses to businesses. Social listening does not evaluate the impact of marketing campaigns at a comprehensive, qualitative level. That’s where social analytics come in.

What are social media analytics?

Social analytics, or social media analytics, help companies measure the direct impact of their marketing programs on social networks. To put it very simply, social analytics platforms crunch data to highlight what works (and doesn’t work) for businesses online.

There is also a predictive quality to social analytics. Where social listening platforms help companies identify and respond to online conversations, social analytics tools help companies understand if their target audience will react positively to a campaign before it is launched.

Marketing teams use social analytics to:

  • Understand topics and tactics that drive social engagement;
  • Identify and engage target audiences;
  • Optimize the ROI from content and campaigns;
  • Measure the most effective channels and distribution tactics;
  • Adjust paid promotion based on campaign results;
  • Improve competitive positioning.

Another important distinction: Notice that the use cases for both social listening and social media analytics are not mutually exclusive. By the very nature of “listening,” social listening incites more reactive, responsive action from businesses. With their emphasis on benchmarking and measuring impact, social media analytics tools offer more proactive, measurement-oriented analysis. With their powers combined, the two can create a powerful feedback loop.

If you’re in the market for new tools to support your social media marketing efforts, we’ve got you covered. Check out our list of the 176+ Best Marketing Tools to find the platforms that are right for your business.

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