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May, 2018 Update: We’ve gone through and updated our list of social media listening tools for 2018. Check it out below.

Brands have benefitted from social media in numerous ways since its advent – but advances in social media listening tools make the returns that much more valuable.

Here’s what this article will discuss…


Please jump to your preferred section with the links below or start scrolling through the entire list.

Here’s the why and how, and 22 tools to consider if you’re just getting started. (Experts, feel free to skip directly to the tools section.)

A Quick Refresher on What Social Listening Is – And Why It’s Important

If you’re not sold on why your brand needs a social listening solution, you might be confused about what social listening actually is.

We go into that in depth in this post, so won’t rehash it all – but in short, social listening is the process of getting to know your audience and how they behave in the social media landscape. It all happens through social sentiment analysis.

When you have that understanding, you’re able to spot unexpected changes easily. This allows you to take advantage of opportunities you might otherwise miss, and to fend off disasters that might otherwise cripple your brand.

Specifically, social listening offers you an all-access pass to consumer conversations and emotions, so you can target their individual desires, instead of showering them with blanket promotional messaging. Armed with audience interests and passion levels, your advertising becomes pitch-perfect for every segment you want to reach.

Here’s what else you gain:

Identifying influencers: Every brand needs an army of ultra-enthusiasts eager to spread the word to their own followers. Social listening allows you to find them.

Trend-spotting: Whatever topics have audiences chattering obsessively – the latest episode of Stranger ThingsPresident Trump’s tweets, or whatever else has social users in a tizzy – you have the option to weigh in. Beyond that, social listening clues you in to industry and category trends worth embracing – the kind that inspire new products and/or changes in how you do business. This is useful in marketing, of course, but also in innovating new products.

Creating Engaging Content: Whether your followers crave informative blogs, how-to videos, behind-the-scenes stories, or hilarious memes, you’ll know. And you’ll know which channels to deliver it.

Keeping an Eye on Competitors: Even if they couldn’t do everything else mentioned above, the availability of competitive intelligence would make social listening tools worth the price of admission. Aside from sneaking into competitors’ executive boardrooms, there’s no better way to research what other brands are doing..

Guarding Your Reputation: It only takes a single post to snowball into a full-blown crisis, so it’s critical to be aware of all negative posts. With social listening’s established baseline, you can use social monitoring to be alerted to potential problems, and nip them in the bud before they go viral.

There’s really no limit to the use cases social listening supports. All you need are some good tools.

Now that you know all they bring to the table, are you ready for the list of social media listening tools? Here they are!

Section 1 – Sentiment Analysis – The Backbone of Social Listening

Sentiment analysis is the foundation of social listening. Without it, the rest of your metrics are fairly useless. For example, you might have 2 million mentions, but what do those mentions tell you? Only the number of people talking.

Unless you know how consumers feel, you can’t steer the ship of your brand accurately to give them what they want, and eliminate what they don’t.

Arby’s used sentiment analysis to identify a new and passionate audience segment, inspiring a brand new – and successful – product.

Here are some tools that analyze sentiment:

1. Critical Mention

Density maps and word clouds give users an easy look at sentiment, and a quick way to share across the team, even on mobile.

Price: Contact for a custom quote

2. NCSU Tweet Sentiment Visualization Web App

For free Twitter insights that are search engine quick, the NCSU Tweet Visualizer offers a great snapshot. Sentiment is displayed as bubbles on a grid, and you can click on the bubbles to see the individual tweets associated with sentiment along all axes.  View word clouds, timelines, location, and more as well.

Price: Free

3. OpenText

A combination of machine learning and natural language processing helps OpenText understand whether sentiment is factual or subjective, as well as positive, negative, or neutral. All critical insights.

Price: Contact OpenText

Section 2 – Influencers and How to Find Them

Passionately positive sentiment makes it easy to spot social users with the most influence. These may be celebrities, or just people with a great following who love your brand. Either way, they support earned engagement, which saves you money on paid.

A brand that leverages influencers well is iHeartRadio. They find and empower influencers to create fan armies for events like the iHeartRadio Awards, generating huge engagement without spending a dime.

Here are some tools for identifying influencers:

4. NetBase

NetBase doesn’t stop at qualifying sentiment as positive or negative, it analyzes intensity of emotion so you can identify your most passionate followers, i.e., influencers, easily. You can also quickly spot detractors. Ability to analyze emojis and spot logo misappropriation take this solution to the next level.

Price: Custom

5. BuzzSumo

Find and follow influencers, and understand the content that resonates for them, with BuzzSumo. Search for Top Authors for any topic from the past 24 hours to five years. Create outreach lists and export to Twitter for easy transitioning when you’re ready to run a campaign. 

Price: Free trial to $6,708 billed annually.

6. Klear

Klear is another great tool for finding influencers on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and blogs. Search on any topic in any language by location, then filter by level of influence – celebrity, power user, casual, novice – gender, engagement level, and more.

Price: Free to custom

Section 3 – Spotting Trends That Matter

One reason social insights need to come in real-time is so you can keep apprised of trends as they develop and “break.” If you’re not in the know, you’ll lose out to brands that are.

And a trend doesn’t have to be a viral craze, like the Ice Bucket Challenge. It can be any noticeable uptick in conversation related to your brand, your category, or the world at large.

Cuisinart used social listening to recognize trends in when their audience wanted recipe ideas, and how they wanted them presented – easy, how-to videos.

Here are some tools for identifying and tracking trends:

Built-in Trend Spotters

For a good starting point on emerging trends, most of the major social platforms have their own version of trending topics to explore. Each tells you what that platform’s users are talking about most at the present time.

7. Facebook

Scroll down a bit to find the section called “Trending.” A list of topics follows. Though these used to include anything Facebook users were obsessively liking/sharing, Facebook’s efforts to crack down on fake news means “Top Trends” are now comprised mostly of legit news stories. But you can click to specifically view Politics, Science and Technology, Sports, or Entertainment.

8. Twitter 

In addition to “Trends for You,” which appear below your bio and are based on who you follow, Twitter also has “Moments.” Choose this option to the right of the Home button at the top of your profile for a snapshot of topics currently trending. Click to reveal tweets for that topic. Filter by Today, News, Sports, Entertainment, or Fun.

9. Pinterest 

Click the compass icon to the right of the search bar at the top of your Pinterest page to see what’s trending in a number of categories.

10. Snapchat Discover

Swipe left twice to find “Discover” and view trending topics.

11. YouTube

Click “Trending” in the navigation menu at the left to see trending videos. To see what’s trending in other locations, scroll to the bottom of the page and change your location.

And then there are other platforms geared toward capturing trends:

12. Google Trends

For those on a budget, Google Trends provides a snapshot of what’s trending around the web. Click on the topics listed to see the top searches related to that topic, or search on your own to view degree of interest in your topic and related topics. It’s not the deepest dive available, but it’s simple and fast.

Price: Free

13. Trendspottr

View popular topics, or search on your own for trending posts complete with ranking of content, hashtags and influencers “for predicted growth.” View sentiment, momentum, and compare terms against each other to see which is stronger.

Price: $49/month for TrendFeed, $199/month for Signal

Section 4 – The Perfect Content Drives Social Engagement 

When you’ve analyzed the who, why and when of it all, it’s time to focus on the what and where i.e., content. It might seem like a picture or video on any social platform will do, but that’s not really true.

You’ve got to let social listening lead you to the content consumers can’t get enough of – and share that content on the channels they’re glued to. Otherwise, whatever you’re trying to tell them will get lost in the noise.

Think an agency like Moxie got a 46% increase in brand awareness for Chick-fil-A with luck? Nope. That’s all social listening skill.

Here are a few tools for finding the perfect content:

14. Feedly

Pull content from a variety of sources on the web, and find out what’s most popular within your chosen topics. Use the numbers left of the headline (which indicate shares) to judge virality. Orange numbers mean that post is trending. Integrate with other applications, and easily share with your team, or publish via integrations with Pocket.

Price: Free to $18 per user per month

15. Hootsuite

Though Hootsuite is a popular social scheduling program, that’s not all it can do. Along with a host of analytics on offer, you can also curate the perfect content and keep it organized, plus integrate with tools you already use.

Price: Free for individuals to custom quote for enterprises

16. Socialbakers

With Socialbakers Inspiration Pro you can search Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for top performing content from the past week up to a year. Use the results to inspire your own content, or simply share what you find via the Socialbakers Suite publishing tab. The Compare feature in the Suite lets you see how your brand measures up to others.

Price: $20 per profile to custom

Section 5 – Competitive Intelligence, Your Non-secret Weapon

Could there be better competitive spies than your brand’s audience? You have them in common, after all. Social listening reveals when they’re happy, or not, giving you insights into how to gain the competitive edge.

That’s how 113 Industries guided Ocean Spray to reinvigorated success of their juice line – by looking at consumer conversations throughout their category, and steering clear of big competitors they didn’t want to take on, like the apple and orange juice markets.

Here are some tools up to the task:

17. iSpionage

Check out the competition to see which keywords are ranking for them, as well as how they’re doing against other SEO and PPC competitors. Upgrade for keyword alerts, weekly campaign watches, and more.

Price: Free to $299 per month

18. Keyhole

Enter any keyword, @account, hashtag, etc. and Keyhole delivers a real-time snapshot of Top Posts, Related Topics, Most Influential, Sentiment, Location and more.

Price: $132 per month to custom

19. Meltwater

Meltwater lets you track a number of metrics, from share of voice to media coverage patterns, sentiment and topic momentum. Get relevant news about your brand and competitors via daily digests or real-time alerts, so you always know where you stand.

Price: Custom

Section 6 – Reputation Defense Through Social Listening

If sentiment is the basis of all social listening (and it is), that has to include negative sentiment as well. The opposite of influencers are detractors – and they can get your brand in a heap of trouble if left unattended.

With social listening, you have firm foundation from which to track anomalies. When things stand out in a negative way, you’ll know in time to take action. Just like James Madison University.

Here are tools geared toward reputation defense:

20. Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a great option for being alerted to content mentioning your brand and others – just set up alerts for whatever you want to see by keyword, topic, or brand name. The one drawback – you’re not getting info in real-time.

Price: Free


21. Mention

Mention lets you set up alerts so you know who is talking about your brand in real-time, and what they’re saying. Filter by positive, negative and neutral emotions. You can also use this to view competitors.

Price: $29 per month to custom

22. Reputology

This Hootsuite app monitors ratings and reviews on Google, Facebook and more – so you’re aware when consumers leave feedback about your brand.

Price: Free with a Hootsuite account

Social Media Listening Tools Help Your Brand Grow

Many of the tools above excel in one area, while others – like NetBase – cover all the bases social media listening requires. Smaller brands can certainly make do with a combination of tools in the short term, but the time may come when a more streamlined and powerful platform is what you need.

We’re ready to help you when that day comes. In the meantime, start “listening” and see where better insights take your brand. It’s bound to be someplace amazing.

Will we see you at NetBase LIVE London? It’s not too late to join us May 9-10 to learn about all things social listening!  Register now!