Serious Social Listening

Social media marketing done right means listening and engaging as well as posting your own content. Social listening discovers who is talking about you and topics related to you, allowing you to engage in a much broader way.

The job isn’t easy. You need to scan across a wide online universe that changes all the time. You need to catalog who has influence around topics that matter, and whether that influence is positive or negative. Even for niche local brands, that means discovering, monitoring and evaluating a lot of content.

The right tool can make it easy for you to find all the conversations you care about and easily assess them. I tend to recommend free tools, but if you want to seriously tap into conversations and influencers, you will likely need to invest in a good tool.

First, Free

Google Alerts,,  has been around for a long time. It is easy and free, but has serious shortcomings. It finds a limited number of mentions. There’s no associated insight, like sentiment or influence.

Alerts seems to be a pretty much ignored Google tool. It mostly works, but there’s no investment being made to make it grow to truly monitor the online universe. It regularly misses a lot of important mentions.

Getting Serious

While Alerts stands still, tools are coming online that offer brands much richer listening tools. Brand Mentions,, and Mention,, are two such tools. With these you will find a set of features that makes the listening job much easier and insightful.

Both offer free trials and three levels of paid service. The free level will not be sufficient for any brand, but do allow you to explore the features and interface before you commit to an ongoing paid account. So, don’t activate your free trial until you have time to truly assess the tool against your needs and interests.

Brand Mentions

I recently had the opportunity to dig into Brand Mentions. The plans here can be less expensive or more expensive than Mention, depending on your needs.

Like all the tools in this space, Brand Mentions sends mentions of your brand and your market straight to your inbox. Your account dashboard allows you to track volume, sentiment and trends. You can discover the influencers who are talking about things you care about. It easily generates reports to support your efforts to measure and track campaigns as well as your overall online presence.

I found the dashboard to be easy to use and the toolset to be robust. The product is being actively developed, always a good sign.

Worth the Investment?

If you want to get serious about social listening and engagement, investing in the right service makes sense. The monthly fee may feel painful, but compare that to the cost of your time.

A monitoring tool can really save you time over scanning platform by platform. And, the results are more complete. I guarantee you will find mentions in places you didn’t even know existed!




Social Listening Beyond Google Analytics

I’ve used Google Analytics to monitor for mentions of clients and topics for many years. However, there are now more tools that are worthy of consideration for tracking digital mentions of you, your brand, your company and/or products.

First, some props to the tool that started it all. Google Alerts is simple and free and it highlights a lot of website and blog content, but is lighter on social media results.

To get the full picture of what people are saying online, consider one of these tools that track mentions across the web, social media, blogs and more.

Talkwalker Alerts

Talkwalker Alerts is similar but more robust than Google Alerts. It monitors most of the web, including blogs and forums. You can also monitor the web in 22 languages.

Talkwalker Alerts is free and easy to use. You choose a keyword to monitor and you get listings of relevant mentions delivered to your inbox. You can choose to receive all mentions or the most important ones based on traffic and engagement. You can get mentions daily or weekly.



Awario monitors all major social media networks, blogs, forums, news sites, etc. in real time. You can reply to mentions straight from the app and from multiple social media accounts.

A dashboard displays the number of mentions, the topics that circle around your brand and mentions by sentiment. Boolean search can be used for advanced keyword queries.

Free trial. $29/month.


Mention monitors all the major social media networks, blogs, news, forums and the web in real time. It also supports Boolean search. Mention highlights relevant influencers and sentiment.

Mention has collaboration features for social media marketing teams. You can add team members and assign tasks to each. Mention can be integrated with Slack, Buffer, and Zapier.

Access your account from any device and get email notifications.

Free trial. $29/month.


Brand24 monitors all the major social media platforms, news, blogs and the web. It analyzes mention growth, reach, sentiment and relevant social media influencers. The mentions are updated every 12 hours, hourly or in real-time, depending on the level of plan.

You can add up to five users on the cheapest plan, while the maximum plan allows for up to 99 users. It integrates with Slack and has a mobile app.

Free trial. $49/month. 

Hey, Hey Anybody Listening?

Marketing on social media is about posting great content. It is also about listening. In fact, effective monitoring and listening is probably the factor that separates good online marketing strategy from great online marketing strategy.

With so many conversations happening online, it is very valuable for brands to listen in and stay in touch with sentiment around their brand, their competitors and their niche.

Social listening doesn’t just happen. You need an intentional plan – a strategy – to make sure you are regularly taking time to assess what’s happening among your target audience.

Focus on Your Goals

You should have goals behind your social media strategy. Your listening program needs the same.  Define what you want to achieve with social listening in order to maximize the effectiveness.

Your goal might be:

  • Reputation monitoring
  • Market research
  • Identify influencers
  • Search engine insight

Know Your Target Audience

You need to get a deep understanding of your target customer. Yes, you want “everyone” to love you and your brand, but that isn’t going to happen. Who do you really need to reach?

Define everything you can about your target audience. Go beyond basic demographics and understand their behaviors and motivations. Where do they hang out online? What motivates them to read, comment, share?

Take a look at the people you are connected with as well as the people who engage with competitors. Gather as much intel as you can. The more specific you are about your target, the more effective you can hone your listening.

Track Trends

Most trends are born on social media these days and are heavily discussed there.  Monitor social channels, discussion forums, news, and blogs with an eye toward identifying emerging trends.

Use Tools

Once you know your goal, who you are listening to, and what you need to find, you can identify one or more tools that will help you listen. Many of my favorites are free:

Act When Needed

As you listen you will come across questions and comments that need your immediate attention. You can listen and show you are engaged at the same time. Just don’t forget the listening part.

People use social media as a way to communicate their questions, desires, and complaints to a brand. Further, they assume that brands are on social media, and tuning into such comments.

  • Respond to complaints quickly
  • Answer questions
  • Respond to positive mentions