If you’re using social media solely to promote your business, then you’re missing out on a whole other facet of the channel. Utilizing social media listening tools will help your brand improve in many different ways, including product development and industry tracking.

Social monitoring is the tracking of keywords and phrases relevant to your brand. It’s likely you’re already doing this and responding in real-time to public comments. Social listening takes it a step further by looking at your monitoring with a birds’ eye view and analyzing all the data. This combination is utilized by companies around the world and isn’t limited by the size of the company. In fact, smaller companies may find it easier to execute social listening since the online conversation isn’t as difficult to track.

In this guide, we’ll review the benefits of social listening, specifically on Twitter, and how you can execute this for your own company.

Value of social listening on Twitter

Twitter is a prime platform for social listening. Its users are active, socially aware and aren’t afraid to speak up when they’re unhappy with a company or product.

reasons people reach out on social

In the 2018 Sprout Social Index, we found that 57% of customers who reach out to brands have a question and 45% have an issue with the product/service.

But what about those who don’t mention the brands at all or are merely discussing general trends in the industry? Social listening picks up on these trends and informs your company’s next steps.

Brand Chart

Listening is not limited to only your brand. It includes everything from your competitors to major discussion points on Twitter. For example, your hotel might need to drive up interest in a certain city. By listening in on geographic micro-influencer conversations, you’ll glean tips on the best new restaurants and shops nearby. You’ll also be able to use listening to find new influencers.

In a 2017 survey, Clutch found that 25% of business use social listening to improve their products, 24% for attracting customers and 21% for providing better customer service.

One thing to keep in mind as you explore social listening is that each network is different and that social listening is only a slice of the overall listening pie. Other listening channel options include tracking press articles, forum discussions and review sites. As you begin listening, you’ll learn how your customers and competitors utilize each network. Twitter may be used more for customer service while Facebook is for recommendations.

But you won’t know anything if you don’t put get your social listening strategy in place.

Using Twitter listening tools

To execute Twitter listening at a basic level, you need to determine what types of terms you want to search Tweets for. Twitter allows you to save searches and a tool like Sprout has built-in listening features.

However, it can be difficult to keep track of searches for every term you need to stay on top of, even for a relatively simple topic or query. Imagine you own and run a restaurant. Let’s say that it’s in Sprout Social’s home city of Chicago and, unsurprisingly, is focused on selling pizza.

With social media listening you can create specific queries that will track almost every variation of Chicago pizza. Below is a simple query that would start to pull these insights for you.

example of a listening query built around coffee

Instead of individually searching each term, you can keep a pulse on conversations, sentiment and themes around:

  • Chicago pizza
  • Chi-town pizza
  • Chicago deep dish

Then, once your social listening query is at work you can discover new trends. You’ll be better equipped to answer questions like:

  • Are there new flavors Chicagoans crave?
  • Are there under-served locations we can branch out to?
  • Are we really better than New York slices?

A tool such as Sprout listening will automatically compile and analyze this data for you. In one report, you’ll find what your brand sentiment is on Twitter while another one will tell you what type of content is resonating with your audience.

Sprout’s set of listening tools is a spectrum that is designed to give you feedback on everything from keyword monitoring to listening topics. The Sprout Inbox is designed for you to quickly respond to brand mentions and keywords while the Keyword Report will take those search parameters and give you insight on how they’re being discussed.

Sprout can uncover social trends to help you optimize your content strategy

In the Trends Report, you’ll find topics and hashtags that are frequently mentioned with your brand on Twitter. This report is used to identify what’s most commonly said about your company. If you’re managing Twitter for a coffee shop, you may have seen a few mentions that included words like “great service” or “oat milk.” But without tracking the number of times these appear together with your brand, you won’t know if they’re actionable insights – such as clear requests for new menu items – or just one-off mentions.

listening topic performance overview

The Twitter Keyword Report takes the Trends report a step further by tracking individual keywords and their corresponding volume, days and influential Tweets.

In one glance, you’ll be able to see when certain keywords are most popular and identify the influencer accounts that are discussing them.

Sprout Social Listening active topics

If you want to delve even deeper into listening insights, Sprout’s advanced listening features are designed with you in mind. Here, you can set up both basic and advanced queries to distill the information you want the most. Each report comes with toggles per network.

building a query in advanced listening

Being able to filter via network is important because you’ll learn what customers on each one discuss the most. Maybe customers on Twitter are more into social customer care while those on Instagram are interested in product promotions. Without this filter, you won’t know these deeper insights.

Taking action from Twitter listening

Now that you’ve set up your search parameters and queries, the next question is “what now?” What do you do with all this new data?

Product improvement

Hopefully, during your search setup, you were able to have some focus on your parameters. For example, your product-specific searches will likely create results that include customer feedback, feature requests and some brand sentiment.

Use this data to understand how to improve your product and identify new use cases for it.

sample tweet showing an idea for product development and improvement

For example, a new yoga tank top you just released can be tracked to reveal how people feel about it. If more people are Tweeting about a flaw in the design, use the data to quickly respond before it blows up.

Industry monitoring

It’s likely that you’re already following the top influential brands in your industry or that you’re one of those brands. But discussions move fast on Twitter and monitoring what other industry voices are talking about will help inform your content strategy.

example tweet showing opportunity to track audience trends

Tweets surrounding a local or national industry conference is an easy way of tracking what’s an emerging trend.

example tweet showing industry news impacting your audience

Whereas Tweets that discuss a scandal might affect your sales strategy in a region. For example, if a product reseller was involved in an event that directly conflicts with your brand values, social listening will identify this conversation point. The more people talking about it will tell you how important it is to respond immediately. In a company absent of social listening, your sales team might not be aware of the scandal for days. But one that incorporates social listening will know within hours and give the sales team a heads up.

Inform content strategy & campaigns

There are many ways to use social listening to inform your content strategy. The first is to use your Twitter analytics reports to see what type of content is resonating with your audience. Perhaps your audience engages more with questions that you Tweet, or more frequently reshares educational content.

Sprout competitor report for Twitter

Step two is looking at what your competitors are putting out and what’s resonating with their audience. Is it worth it to imitate what’s working for them? Where and why are they failing so you can fill that need? Are you dominating the conversation topic in your industry more than your competitor?

And finally, social listening reports can drive your next campaign. What are customers talking about the most online? Identify their needs and create a campaign around them. You can use the listening results from one campaign to inform your next one, ensuring you precisely meet your customers’ needs.

Identify new partnerships

A byproduct of the social monitoring you put into place is that listening will surface new marketing opportunities. You’ll likely find new influencers for your product and co-marketing partners for your next campaign.

review your Twitter engagement in Sprout's report

The Engagement report of the Listening section will help you out here. Those who are interacting with your Tweets through Replies, Shares and Likes are those who are more likely to be interested in being an influencer.

In addition to identifying the influencers, listening will also help you focus on hot topics in those spaces. Is there a trend of coffee bars in boutique hotels? As a travel company, you can ask your influencers to push that discussion point more.


Including social monitoring and listening in your marketing efforts will enhance your overall brand strategy. Utilizing Twitter’s search parameters with a robust social listening tool helps you distill information into actionable items.

To execute social listening well, you need to first understand its value for your brand, then set up an effective listening tool and finally, look at the overall data. Social listening is a constant task that requires active tweaking of parameters and an analytical mind. Twitter is a powerful source of real-time reactions that allows brands to see how new product campaigns are performing as well as track what the hottest industry topics are.

How do you use social listening on Twitter for your brand? Tweet us @SproutSocial with your ideas!