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5 Hallmarks of the Best Social Listening Tools

By Derek Franks  •  September 17, 2018

These are the features that every great audience analysis and market research tool will have

5 Hallmarks of the Best Social Listening Tools

Posted by: Derek Franks on September 17, 2018

Nearly 2.8 billion people will be regular social media users in 2019. And even more people are talking elsewhere on the web.

People have a lot to say about your brand, business, or relevant topics to you. You need to listen to them. But are you listening in the right places? That’s a question we ask quite a bit around here.


>>Did you know Reddit has 270 million unique visitors/month, 18 billion pageviews/month, which now puts them ahead of Twitter.<<

And once you are, how do you find the right insights and hone in on the most pertinent information to help your team? Better yet, how can you keep things simple and easy to find?

When using an audience analysis and research platform to discover and understand consumers, you’ll want to make sure that the tool includes a bevy of key features that will help you do your jobs better (some of which even the most reputable tools out there still fail at).

Whether you are evaluating social listening and market research platforms for the first time or looking to make sure you have the right one to fit your needs, you’ll want that tool to meet each of the below standards. And for your sake, we’ve set the bar pretty darn high :)

We've come up with some traits we think are important in a social listening platform that you may or may not have on your checklist.

Here are the 5 things that will take any social listening and audience analysis platform from good to better than the rest.

5 Hallmarks of best social listening tools TITLE

#1: Ease of use, automation and simplicity

What most tools do:

Most tools bog you down with inefficient user experiences, lag time waiting on results, and a confusing search system. This leads to a longer onboarding cycle and less efficient research. What you need is a tool that is simple and can get you the information you’re looking for quickly.

What the best social listening tools do:

Searching within a platform and landing on results you’re seeking should be easy, helping you find the most important insights with quick load times.

If you have a platform capable of instant analysis (the technical term is ‘freaky fast insights’) and you add on a simplified user experience, that takes you to the next level above most social listening offerings available.

A smart search system enables you to find and research brands, entities, personalities and influencers. For example, our tool includes the entity search function, where you can get insights on specific brands in a breeze by selecting from the dropdown. Long, complicated boolean queries are so old school.

social listening research qsr brands


The goal is to make it easy for the searcher, meaning less time devoted to learning and training and more time finding insights.

#2: Deep Historical Data

What most tools do:

Some tools only go back a few years, some even just a few months (or they can make you pay more for historical data). This doesn’t help you understand the context of your efforts now as they relate to the past. And it keeps you from being able to get an aggregate of the data over a long period of time that is really representative. If sentiment toward your brand is 75% positive over the last two months, it might be useful to know more about your brand sentiment if you had a PR crisis a year ago. You need deeper historical information to better understand your results.

What the best social listening tools do:

Call it a Delorean for your market research data. Researchers and analysts need to be able to back to any window in time dating back to the infant days of social media and online consumer interaction.

Here is the conversational post volume for Ford Motor Company from 2007 to now:

social listening data for Ford motors

And here is user post volume for Apple Inc., 2007 to now:

social listening data for Apple

(Bonus points if you can explain the high peaks of conversation, Ford’s in 2008, Apple’s in 2011).

Whether it’s a single day in 2015 or an entire quarter in 2009, you have the freedom and flexibility to research your audiences, brands, competitors, campaigns and influencers going back over a decade. And that’s a powerful feature to have in your arsenal of tools.

If Doritos wanted to compare the success and audience reaction to last year’s Super Bowl ad to other Super Bowl commercials from previous years, they could easily travel back in time and see the insights instantly.

If Nordstrom wanted to monitor the online reaction to this year’s annual Anniversary Sale, in real time, then compare it to the event last year, and the few years before that, they could do that in a flash (without having to pay extra).

Don’t overlook the benefits of being able to go back to the future quickly and simply.

#3: Cross compare in multi-view dashboards

What most tools do:

They keep your search results separate so that you can’t see the results side by side. When you want to compare the results easily and with the best context, you don’t have it in all one visualization.

What the best social listening tools do:

They allow you to visualize your data in one screen without having to start new searches. That means within one multi-view chart you can see the results for multiple different queries in one screen.

So, what are the top interests of Airbnb audiences, as well as their competitors? See it one chart:

Social listening data Airbnb competitors interests

Or if you’re in the QSR industry, and you want to see industry leaders’ audience brand sentiment compared to each other in one place? Boom:

QSR Brands sentiment chart (1)

You can do this for any of the available metrics, enabling you to cross-compare key analytics in one view.

Don’t commit to a social listening tool that doesn’t make it easy to read understand the multiple different results and provide you context for the question you’re asking.

#4: Not relying so much on Twitter

What most tools do:

The data they provide is Twitter heavy. This means you’re getting too much information from a less than reliable source. While true that Twitter is an accessible place for people to sound off, you’re leaving it up to a channel that has lower regular users than other networks and that is loaded with negative nancies, bots and trolls. There are so many other places on the web for people to offer their feedback, thoughts, feelings and emotions, you need a tool that can listen to them all.

What the best social listening tools do:

They take data from dozens of different sources to help you get a better aggregate of all the user-generated content across the web with a sample size that is representative of the true population.

These include:

  • Blogs
  • News articles
  • Comment sections of articles
  • Review sites
  • Social media channels: Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Reddit and YouTube
  • Forums
  • Video comments

Twitter is great, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. If you look at data on Twitter users, you’ll see that only 46% of people on Twitter use it daily.

social media data on channel use

That means there aren’t as many people on the channel who are there to talk about topics important to you or your business.

With a platform that can analyze audience conversations from the billions of additional data points outside of Twitter, you can get a more accurate read on how these people think and feel about your brand or organization.

For example, let’s take a look at how people discuss Taco Bell over the last year. If you take Twitter data completely out of the search and only include other sources where people have discussed the brand online, you see a discrepancy in the consumer sentiment towards the brand:

Social listening Taco Bell brand sentiment

74% of audiences discussed the brand positively in the last year on other channels. If you include Twitter, it takes the brand sentiment down to 62%.

This is because Twitter is an inherently more negative platform, according to our research.

Just look at Taco Bell sentiment for ONLY Twitter audiences:

Taco Bell Sentiment NO TWITTER vs. ONLY TWITTER

Now, we can take it a step further. What emotions and themes do people express when they talk about the Taco Bell brand online?

On other channels, you’ll see that more people express Trust in the brand as compared to when they talk on Twitter.

Social listening data on Taco Bell TRUST no twitter vs. only twitter

The trend continues when you look at which audiences are more likely to discuss purchase intent when they mention Taco Bell:

Social listening data on Taco Bell PURCHASE INTENT no twitter vs. only twitter-1

It’s important, then, to fully consider how your tool sources the data for your queries. If you want to know more about your brand, its performance and how people think and feel about it, you’ll need a tool powerful enough to incorporate user content from all over the web, not just Twitter.

#5: Flexibility, filters, and source editing 

What most tools do:

They’re far too rigid and make you work overtime to find specific insights. That’s no fun. You need a tool that is flexible and that provide ample filters to make your search go smoothly while also providing more precise data on specific audience segments, topics, competitors and influencers.

What the best social listening tools do:

They provide a flexible search system with many different filters to help you refine your search. These enable you to research within specific subsets of audiences, topics and sources so that you can find the most precise information you’re looking for.

What you want is ultimate control over your search. The right tool will provide filters for:

  • Channel Source
  • Age Range
  • Categories and Topics
  • Demographics
  • Entities
  • Brands
  • Influencers and Personalities
  • Geography
  • Language
  • Date
  • Time of Day
  • Day of the week

One reason we’re able to filter our search so specifically is that we utilize audience info from more than just a limited number of sources.

And this helps accomplish two big things:

  1. Provides a larger sample representative of the population
  2. Provides more specific details about the audiences available in the search system

Going beyond social media can help us analyze more details that they provide elsewhere. And with a larger sample to pull from, we can find more accurate information about the various audiences.

Let’s take age range, for example.

If you break down social media use by age groups, you’ll find, predictably, that it skews way younger.

social media channel use by age

But we know that all online audiences don’t swing this far to younger age ranges.

This means that just the social media commentary from users doesn’t give a complete aggregate of all the online users. We don’t have a completely representative sample.

However, if you take the breakdown of all users by channel source and channel type, you’ll see that we can find information about a larger swath of the population:

social listening data from Infegy Atlas: Age range by social media channels

The objective, then, for social listening tools and their users should be to get a better, more representative sample of the population within the research being conducted.

Let’s say you want to find consumer data on the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, but you want information specifically about millennials in the United States who also express interest in video games, sci-fi and fantasy in the last 4 years. Presto, you got it:

Build the query:

Social listening research query: Game of Thrones Millennial Gamers Query Builder (1)

Then, look at the results overview:

Social Listening data: Game of Thrones Millennial Gamers Query Overview (3)

Here's how many sci-fi lovin' millennial gamers were talking about Game of Thrones:

Social Listening Data: Game of Thrones Millennial Gamers Post Volume

You can also look at the score for how passionately they discussed the show over time:

Social Listening data: Game of Thrones Millennial Gamers Passion

And the demographics analysis of the audiences as well:

Social data audience analysis Game of Thrones Millennial Gamers Demographics (1)

With the advanced smart query builder inside Infegy Atlas, you have variability and flexibility to find specific age groups, geographies and topics of interest, among other relevant filters.

And that’s a game-changer.


When conducting your audience and customer research, the last thing you need is inflexible search systems and red tape. What you need is a social research tool that gets you answers to your burning questions and fast.

Whether you’re seeking insights on your industry, your audiences, your competitors or just the key topics of conversation relevant to your team, you’ll want the most efficient, simple and powerful research tool out there to get you the data you need for business success.

Thankfully, we know of one. Get a demo of Infegy Atlas today by clicking here.


Topics: market research, social listening, social listening tools

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