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It doesn’t matter if you use social media monitoring tools for consumer engagement, PR, customer service or market research, here are a few tips which can help you focus your activity and get more in return. 

1. Be clear about your objectives and the actions you want to take

Unfortunately, there’s really no ‘one size fits’ all approach to choosing what to listen to. This means it’s important to fully understand the objectives of those departments who are (or should be) engaged in the project.

By doing so you will know what you need to listen to, based on how the results will be used. 

Consider the following examples:

Use cases

Each objective requires a different approach to how, where and when you use social data. The source of the data might be the same, what you do with it isn’t.  

2. Don’t get distracted

There may be some lucky organisations that have the time and resources to listen to everything, but most firms need to prioritise to maximise their return.

This means you need to focus, or you can find yourself wading through data that doesn’t help you take action.

Two questions can help:

  • Who do I really need to listen to? All consumers, consumers in a particular country or region, competitors, journalists/bloggers, only people who have used your product or service?

    It’s ok to just ‘see what’s out there’ when you begin, but this won’t deliver substantive value over time. 

  • What do I really want to listen to? Unfortunately, natural conversations often don’t bother with lots of the detail. People talk about running without mentioning their trainers, or they’ll talk about trainers without talking about what they use them for.

    This means you need to be careful on how you focus your search to make sure you find content that’s going to help you to take action.   

Extending the running comparison, here’s an example of five different ways of approaching a project, each delivering a significantly different set of social data. 

Brief: Understand what consumers feel about running as a sport:


Your internal expert or agency should be able to help you get the search really nailed down, so that you get data you can work with at the other end.  

3. Check your data

Not all social media listening platforms are created equally and the supply chain of social data is far from clear. Is this important? Yes.

It’s important to understand the assumptions, sources and methodology behind where your data comes from and how this impacts any decisions you make off the back of it.  

Some things to consider:

  • Different listening platforms are better in some countries than others, so doing a multi-country study may require the use of different providers. When a provider says they have language capability, check what they mean by this.
  • How good is their geodata? Can they say for sure where the comment originated from? E.g. Facebook is often classified as just American, if you’re just looking for UK data this can raise a few challenges.
  • How well has the data been collected from its source? Some comments will be collected perfectly with all the right meta-data attached. Other data not so. It’s very common to find: comments from different authors rolled into one, duplicates, unwanted ad copy or missing data. 
  • False positives. They’ll always be comments that fit the search terms but aren't relevant or useful for your purposes. You need to be careful that these don’t skew your results. 

4. Decide on the frequency

How often do you really need the data? If you can and need to take action daily, listen daily. If not, think about whether you’d benefit from a more targeted approach to listening – the data isn't going anywhere.

If there’s not much activity for your brand, there are plenty of free tools that can help you manage the day to day. 

5. Have a plan for turning outputs into action

Our final tip is about how you combine the action you want to take, the type of project you’re running and the skills and resources you have available to make this happen. 

We find it useful to ask:

  • Are you comfortable dealing with raw social data, running your own reports in excel or using a dashbaord? If so then a software platform may be sufficient.
  • Do you have social media research skills in-house to find insights from large amounts of social data? If not, then look for a provider with the research expertise to add value to the data they are extracting.


Social data can be a huge source of insight, leads, consumer engagement or information about your market. When organisatons get frustrated by the results, it’s usually when the project hasn’t been aligned properly with their objetives and the actions they can take.

Defining your objectives, keeping focused, knowing your data, thinking about frequency and having a plan for dealing with the outputs will help address these frustrations and help you make the most of your social media monitoring project.

Jeremy Hollow

Published 20 September, 2013 by Jeremy Hollow

Jeremy is the Founder of Listen & Learn Research and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow on Twitter

3 more posts from this author

Comments (1)


Chris Mayhew

Great advice Jeremy. A lot of people set up their social media accounts and then don't really know what to do next. These tips are easy to follow and useful to anyone wanting to get the most from their activity.

about 3 years ago

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