Social media monitoring, social listening, social analytics, and intelligence are often used synonymously, but in reality each term actually describes something quite different. To add to the confusion, there are tons of marketing software platforms that call themselves social media research tools, but that have different uses, capabilities and metrics.
There are, in fact, three different and distinct types of research here. Monitoring, listening and analyzing are not interchangeable. As makers of a social listening tool, we’d like to help dispel some of the misconceptions about the capabilities each type of platform offers.
Many social listening tools, for example, are often mistaken as social media monitoring platforms, yet listening tools do more than just monitor the social web for mentions. In order to help clarify the key differences between these, and other important terms used in the social media monitoring space, we’ve put together a master list of terminology.
The defined terms throughout this article will fall under one of the following categories: practice, tool, measurement, key term.
It’s important to keep in mind that “social media monitoring” and “social media scheduling tool” are different both functionally and in the category they fall under. The former is a practice, while the latter is a tool.
Here is a table showing where the different terms lie.
Practice: Social Media Monitoring
The practice of monitoring online conversations about a specific phrase, word, or brand. During social media monitoring, you’re keeping tabs on your community.
Practice: Social Media Listening
Also known as social listening, this is the practice of actively listening to and seeking to understand online conversations about a specific phrase, word, or brand. Social listening is not just about social media.
Although social networks do provide many data points for social listening tools, the research they provide are not limited just to those channels. Social listening incorporates user-created conversational data from all over the web including social, blogs, articles, reviews sites, news, article comments and anywhere else people talk online.
Here is the channel distribution by network for Netflix’s audiences. You’ll see here that blogs and forums make up nearly 40% of the online conversations about Netflix:
Practice: Social Media Management
Monitoring owned and earned social media with the primary focus of engaging with consumers, building an online presence, and/or reputation management. Most social media management tools allow you to connect your owned social channels to a tool to help keep a close eye on your social channels’ performance and analytics. Some will help you schedule and publish your content as well. Providers include: Hootsuite, SproutSocial, TweetDeck, and Buffer.
Tool: Social Media Scheduling Tool:
Much like a monitoring tool, schedulers help you manage your social content and publish them in the future at different times, which is very beneficial for efficiency and time management. Many monitoring tools include a scheduler in their platform, and some will use a.i. and other technologies to automate your scheduling for you.
Practice: Social Media Intelligence
This is the quantitative and qualitative analysis of an aggregate collection of conversations, the purpose of which is to support better decision making and provide a deep understanding of how consumers think, discuss, and feel about the topic of study. Providers like Infegy Atlas provide social media intelligence to help drive their research system.
Practice: Social Media Audience Segmentation
The process of dividing people into subgroups based on expressed behaviors, opinions, associations, life stages, passions, interests, or other defined criteria, in order to perform more targeted social media based consumer research.
Tool: Social Media Monitoring Tools
This is the industry recognized category for software platforms that provide monitoring, listening, analytics, and/or intelligence capabilities. Social monitoring tools help you monitor social media conversations. This phrase is often associated with typical social media management dashboards.
Tool: Social Media Listening Tool
A social listening platform is a system that provides the ability to collect online conversations based on user specified terms and is able to provide some degree of contextual information through the analysis of those conversations.
These tools use machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze and document the always-on digital organism that is the internet.
Listening tools help researchers identify key trends and understand consumer sentiment and feeling towards everything from products and services to competitors to influencers. They give you access to real-time and deep historical data so you can research any time period and any brand you can set your mind to.
Tools like ours, Infegy Atlas, are examples of social listening tools.
Here is social listening data about customers for the Twix brand over the last year:
Tool: Social Media Analytics
Social analytics are those that measure baseline metrics such as number of mentions, retweets, or projected impressions for a collection of online conversations about a specific subject or topic. This is often included in platforms themselves (think Facebook Insights), as a capability within social media management platforms (see below).
Measurement: Sentiment Precision/Accuracy
A measure of how often a sentiment rating was correct. For documents with tonality, accuracy tracks how many of those that were rated to have tonality were rated correctly. Learn more about sentiment accuracy.
Measurement: Sentiment Recall
A measure of how many documents with sentiment were rated as sentimental. This could be seen as how accurately the system determines neutrality. Learn more about the importance of sentiment recall.
Measurement: Sentiment F1 Score
Also called F-Score or F-Measure, a combination of precision and recall. The score is in a range of 0.0 - 1.0, where 1.0 would be perfect. The F1 Score provides a single metric that rates a system by both precision and recall.
As such, it is commonly used amongst experts and researchers in the linguistics and natural language processing fields to simply describe the performance of such systems. The formula for calculating F1 Score is: F1 = 2 ((precision recall) / (precision + recall)). Learn more about sentiment F1 score.
Measurement: Potential Reach
An estimate of the maximum potential social media users a post could be seen by under absolutely perfect conditions.
Key term: Engagement
The process of interacting with and reaching out to users of social media for organizational purposes including but not limited to brand management, customer service, support and sales. This is often the primary aim in using a social media management tool (see above).
Key term: Influencers
These are online users whose conversational voice has more authority than others. Their opinions and statements impact the perceptions others have of a particular subject. Influencers can range from having low impact to having tremendous impact based on the degree to which their statements are viewed as being trustworthy, and the size of the audience an influencer is able to reach. Tools can also be used to monitor, track and analyze influencers and their impact or relevance to your audience. Providers of tools strictly related to tracking influence include Kred and PeerIndex.
Key term: Sentiment analysis
The analysis of text to determine the tonality with which the subject is discussed. Sentiment analysis is generally reported as positive, negative or neutral. Common methods are Natural Language Processing (NLP), Bayesian Classification, and other forms of automated analysis, as well as manual coding of individual posts. Learn more about NLP based sentiment analysis.
Here is the sentiment analysis of how people responded to the rebranding by Greek yogurt brand, Chobani. 79% of people who discussed the reband did so positively:
Key term: Insights (or actionable insights)
Insights are the result of analyzing a given set of metrics to answer business questions. These metrics can range from simple measurements such as volume, to more complex data-points like passion and purchase intent.
Key term: Customer Intelligence
The quantitative and qualitative information about customers.
Monitoring, listening and social analytics all differ in profound ways. They’re all necessary and all have a place in any analyst’s pantheon of tools.
Each of the above terminology all play a role in effective social monitoring and research. It’s important to utilize the right resources at the appropriate stages of your marketing, advertising or market research strategy.
To see how you can leverage these resources and data points within your strategy, sign up to subscribe to our blog and follow us on our social channels: