Social media is commonly viewed as a platform where companies can actively reach out to their audiences, build relationships, and manage their brand. With approximately 500 million tweets sent per day – the level of activity on one platform alone – the wealth of data available can also be used to inform and demonstrate the impact of PR teams’ communications strategies.

However, with the overwhelming volume of content, it can be difficult for PR teams to make sense of their media coverage to the extent that they can apply those insights to their communications approach.

What is the Difference Between Social Media Monitoring and Social Media Listening?

The main difference between social media monitoring and social media listening is that monitoring requires collecting and interacting with brand mentions on a granular level, while listening involves observing the “big-picture” of coverage over time. Both are approaches to measuring and analyzing a company’s media coverage.

In other words, monitoring allows you to assess engagement with your traditional media coverage on a micro-level. This is helpful when responding to potential communications crises in real-time and determining whether negative news coverage warrants a response based on its social traction.

Social media listening, on the other hand, refers to the analysis of your social media coverage over time and its interaction with your traditional media on a macro-level. During this stage, the data collected via monitoring is aggregated and analyzed based on company-specific objectives to translate them into actionable insights. This process is valuable because it enables PR teams to become predictive in their response to media coverage and to build more strategic messaging campaigns based on data.

An effective communications strategy incorporates both methods. Listening, however, stands to provide your team with data that can inform your communications approach on a larger scale.

Why is Social Media Listening Important in Communications?

Social media listening is important in communications because measuring engagement in relation to your traditional media coverage can yield valuable insights into your communications team’s effectiveness. Analyzing social media data can illuminate brand awareness and sentiment, the impact of messaging campaigns, and the industry topics that are likely to gain the most traction with target audiences.  

Create a Social Media Listening Plan

To ensure your team is getting the most out of your listening process, consider the following advice for setting measurable objectives and determining the necessary metrics to track.  

Setting Objectives

The communications objectives you establish will guide the design of your social media monitoring program which forms the foundation for later analysis during the social media listening stage. Begin by setting your objectives and determining the metrics that will allow you to measure them effectively from the outset.

While it’s difficult to measure social engagement’s direct impact on sales, per se, you can evaluate communications objectives such as improving brand awareness and sentiment, or increasing key message penetration, for example.

By establishing measurable objectives to assess the impact of your communications strategy, you can tailor your monitoring program to ensure you are collecting the necessary data to measure your objectives accurately and reliably.

Frequently tracked metrics include but are not limited to:

  • The volume of company mentions across social platforms.
  • Engagement (e.g., number of tweets, retweets, shares, comments, or likes).
  • The tone of traditional coverage shared on social media.
  • Influencer metrics (e.g., number of followers).

Key Message Penetration

According to CommPRO, “message penetration indicates the prevalence of [key] messages, a quantitative measure, across all possible messages.”

The listening process can help your team measure message penetration by distilling the volume of social engagement with your key messages from your total social media coverage. These metrics can work as an indicator of whether your messages are reaching and resonating with your audience.

Brand Awareness and Sentiment

Monitoring brand mentions across social media can serve as a benchmark against which you can evaluate your brand awareness relative to competitors, and the impact of your campaigns over time.

However, the frequency of your company mentions doesn’t necessarily shed a light on your overall reputation.

Dive deeper into your brand analysis by assessing the sentiment of the traditional coverage that drives engagement with your target audience. We know that when it comes to social media, coverage is seldom neutral. With sentiment analysis, you can determine whether each company mention that garners audience engagement is positive, neutral, or negative. This can be further broken down by topic and reputational driver for a more nuanced understanding of your brand.

Identify Trends

Identifying trends can inform your campaigns and enable you to invest resources in industry topics that are proven to have a higher ROI when it comes to social traction.

For this reason, tracking competitor coverage and industry topics across social platforms can be just as valuable as tracking your own.

By applying a similar measurement strategy to your competitors’ coverage, you can analyze their media campaigns to determine the topics that reliably trend across social media and garner positive engagement and brand sentiment.

Integrate Social Media Listening into Your Communications Strategy

Once you begin generating insights, there are multiple ways to apply them to your communications strategy.

Reach Target Audience

With an understanding of the topics, platforms, outlets, and influencers that have tapped your target audience, you can more effectively reach that demographic with your messaging.

Comprehensive data will answer vital questions such as:

  • Does your audience demonstrate more engagement with your industry on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Pinterest?
  • On which platforms are your competitors garnering the most positive engagement?
  • Which outlets or authors have positively covered your key messages and received high levels of social engagement?
  • Which topics and messages are resonating most with your audience across social media platforms?

Reliable information on your target audience’s social media behavior will enable you to capitalize on the factors that drive positive engagement.

Pinpoint Key Influencers

Social media listening highlights the outlets and authors that cover your industry and gain the most traction with your target audience.

Build and leverage influencer partnerships based on proven histories of engagement and rapport with your audience to further propagate your message when promoting pickup of press releases and positive company news.

Build Data-Driven Campaigns

With social media intelligence, you can build data-driven campaigns designed to generate engagement across platforms and reach your communications objectives. A macro perspective of your social media data facilitates tailored messaging based on emerging trends, crisis response informed by historical data, and the ability to leverage industry influencers.

These insights will enable your team to evaluate the success of your existing strategies, benchmark your performance against competitors’, and adjust your strategy based on reliable data.

A Smarter Approach to Traditional Media

By using social media listening to understand your company’s traditional media coverage, you can improve the effectiveness of your communications strategies.

At PublicRelay, we can uncover the interaction between your traditional and social media coverage with our combined approach of human analysis and AI tools. Our team provides in-depth analyses of the topics, influencers, and outlets that drive social sharing to help you understand trends across multiple media channels and to leverage each for maximum impact.

Turn your social media data into social media intelligence now!

Related Resources