We all hope that what people say to our faces is the same as what’s said when we’re not around. However, this isn’t always the case – especially when the ‘you’ in this scenario happens to be a business. This is why you should consider checking out some social listening tools.

These solutions enable you to overhear what customers and clients are saying when they don’t think you’re listening. This helps you get a clearer picture of both what you’re doing well, and where your business needs to improve.

In this post, we’ll talk a little more about the importance of checking out what your audience is saying about you online. Then we’ll introduce you to five social listening tools that can benefit your business. Let’s start at the top!

An introduction to social listening (and why it matters)

If you’ve never heard of ‘social listening’ before, don’t worry. It’s a pretty simple concept to understand, even if it isn’t always easy to apply.

A lot of online marketing and social media management involves interacting directly with your audience. If you’re only paying attention to what they tell you directly, however, you’re only getting half the story. It’s just as important to know what they’re saying about you when they don’t think you’re listening.

This is social listening in a nutshell – going out of your way to find out what your customers, clients, and other audience members are saying about you online. This includes their comments on social media and relevant websites and might concern your business itself, your brand, and particular products or services.

In this way, social listening is essentially a method of ‘eavesdropping’ on your target audience. By doing this, you can learn:

  • How people perceive your brand overall – are they saying largely positive or negative things?
  • What their reactions are to specific products or services, and how those things are actually being used.
  • What makes your business stand out from competitors. In other words, you can find out what your audience sees as being ‘different’ about your company.
  • The specific needs, issues, and pain points customers are experiencing in relation to your offerings.

It should be obvious that this is vital information. With it, you can get a sense for how well you’re meeting your target audience’s needs. Plus, you’ll know exactly where you might be falling short, so you can make adjustments as needed.

Simply searching for these types of comments and conversations online can be incredibly time-consuming, however. If you really want to get your feet wet with this technique, therefore, you’ll want to consider picking up one or more social listening tools.

5 social listening tools to help you better understand your audience’s needs

There are a lot of social listening tools online – what follows is hardly an exhaustive list. Instead, we’ve hand-picked five of the best options for getting started with this vital marketing strategy. We recommend reading through the entire list, then taking a closer look at whichever solutions catch your attention.

1. Mention

Social Listening Tools: The Mention website.

First up, Mention is a dedicated monitoring tool. It keeps an eye on your brand across the web and on social media, providing you with lots of detailed information about everything it finds.

The chief advantage of Mention is that it’s an all-in-one solution. It offers tools to help you monitor websites, social media platforms, competitors, influencers, and more. While it may be a bit much if you’re looking for simple social listening tools, it’s ideal if you want to do a lot of detailed tracking.

Key features:

  • Offers live updates and alerts, keeping you up-to-date on the latest mentions about your brand and business.
  • Monitors over one billion sources, such as social media, blogs, and forums.
  • Provides a handy dashboard and plenty of analytics features (higher-tier plans only).

Pricing: Mention is a premium solution, with three tiers of payment options. You can get a fairly-limited Solo plan for $29 per month. However, most businesses will want to start with the $99 per month Starter plan, to get the additional mentions and features.

2. Hootsuite

The Hootsuite website.

You may have heard of Hootsuite already – it’s a popular and powerful social media solution. In fact, it handles a lot of tasks beyond simple social listening, helping you schedule and manage your social media posts (among other things).

However, we’ve included this in our list of social listening tools for a reason. Hootsuite enables you to set up social media streams to monitor online conversations and mentions about your brand. You can also pick up Hootsuite Insights, which includes a wide array of listening and analytics features.

If you want a complete package to handle social media marketing tasks and social listening, Hootsuite is an excellent option. On the other hand, you will need to pick up the extra Insights tool if you want to get access to a wider range of options.

Key features:

  • Lets you monitor conversations about your brand on various social networks, and track specific keywords.
  • Simplifies the process of responding to audience conversations, and enables you to assign tasks to various team members.
  • Monitors social media networks, news sites, blogs, forums, and so on.
  • Provides real-time updates, and lets you track very specific audiences and mentions (Insights only).

Pricing: Hootsuite itself offers a free trial plan, as well as four tiered pricing options. These range from $29 per month for a single user, to $599 or more (if you request a custom solution). As for Hootsuite Insights, you’ll need to contact the company and get an individualized quote.

3. Agorapulse

The Agorapulse website.

The two social listening tools we’ve covered so far are useful if you’re looking for a product that offers plenty of supplemental features. However, what if you have the rest of your marketing and analytics needs covered already, but you want a more targeted solution?
Enter Agorapulse. This is a dedicated tool focusing on helping you monitor online conversations about your brand. It focuses specifically on social media, which makes it a great option if that’s your primary concern. It’s also very scalable and offers more features on its lower-tier plans than many similar social listening tools.

Key features:

  • Lets you monitor mentions and conversations about your brand on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • Provides a ‘tagging’ system to help you organize all the content you’re tracking.
  • Makes it easy to respond to conversations that merit more than just listening in.
  • Includes several handy analytics features, such as Facebook competitor analysis and an ROI calculator.

Pricing: If you just want to try Agorapulse out, it offers a few free tools you can use to get some basic information. For more details, you’ll want one of the paid plans, which range from $39 to $239 per month (largely based on how many profiles and users are included).

4. Sendible

The Sendible website.

Sendible is another solution that offers both social listening tools and a range of other features. Those include a centralized social inbox, social media publishing and reports functionality, and quite a bit more.

As for social listening specifically, Sendible lets you track mentions of your brand and your competitors, as well as keywords and terms related to your products or industry. It encompasses the biggest-name social media platforms and provides always-on monitoring features.

Sendible is a solid all-around tool. It provides everything you’ll need to perform key listening tasks, although it does focus largely on social media. In particular, it’s a useful option if you want to do a lot of ‘listening’ to what your audience is saying about your competitors, as well as your own business.

Key features:

  • Monitors conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media platforms.
  • Provides alerts via various channels, so you know right away when a new mention comes in. You can even customize what criteria will trigger these alerts.
  • Lets you track hashtags, keywords, and other mentions for your key competitors.

Pricing: Like most of the social listening tools on this list, Sendible offers a free trial so you can give the service a test. Afterwards, you’ll choose from one of four plans, ranging from $29 to $299 per month (although you’ll probably want to start with the Small or Medium plans, unless you’re running a solo business).

5. Keyhole

The Keyhole website.

Finally, let’s take a look at Keyhole. This lets you track both social media sites and other sources around the web, much like some other social listening tools. It focuses on hashtag and keyword tracking specifically, which makes it useful for keeping tabs on key terms associated with your brand and products.

You’ll get access to real-time data about the keywords you’re tracking, through a centralized dashboard. You can even use these same features to follow the success of your own social media campaigns, making Keyhole something of a multipurpose tool. On the downside, it’s the most expensive solution on our list by a significant margin.

Key features:

  • Lets you track posts containing specific hashtags, mentions, and keywords, as well as particular URLs.
  • Includes a dashboard displaying data about the activity surrounding the hashtags and terms you’re tracking.
  • Enables you to monitor your own posts and those of competitors, helping you keep tabs on vital metrics.

Pricing: As we mentioned, Keyhole doesn’t come cheap. There is a free tool on the home page, which you can try out to get a taste for what the solution offers. The cheapest of the five paid plans comes in at $179 per month, and costs scale upwards from there (based mainly on how much content you want to track).

Conclusion

Eavesdropping may be rude in offline life, but if you’re running a business it’s useful to do a little online ‘snooping’. Current and potential customers may not be completely honest or upfront with you about how they perceive your brand and products. To get the real story about your online reputation and your target audience’s needs, you’ll want to do a little social listening.

Fortunately, the five social listening tools introduced above can dramatically simplify this process. Here’s a recap of each one’s primary strengths:

  1. Mention: An all-in-one marketing solution that lets you monitor websites, social media platforms, competitors, and influencers.
  2. Hootsuite: This social media solution helps you monitor online conversations and mentions, with an associated social listening-specific product.
  3. Agorapulse: A dedicated social listening tool focusing in on the three most popular social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).
  4. Sendible: A real-time social monitoring tool that can be used to track both your own brand, and your competitors.
  5. Keyhole: This solution is pricey but feature-rich, and enables you to track specific keywords, mentions, hashtags, URLs, and more.

Have you used any social listening tools before, and what did you think of them? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!