Three myths about social listening and three reasons why it matters to your brand

Social listening is a valuable practice for any brand or business in order to gain insight to maximize engagement with consumers.  While social listening provides a great solution to help, many brands and business may still have misunderstandings about what social listening is.  Social listening is defined as “an active process of attending to, observing, interpreting, and responding to a variety of stimuli through mediated, electronic, and social channels” (Stewart & Arnold, 2017).  This means that brands and businesses can use an active approach to tune into messages of consumers, make sense of this data, and respond to and engage with their community accordingly.  

The are a few myths surrounding social listening.  First, social listening and social media monitoring are not the same thing.  By definition and in practice, social listening is an active process resulting in actionable response; monitoring is passive behavior which does not necessarily illicit response.  The second myth is that social listening is the same as vanity metrics.  This is simply not true.  Social listening provides a context by which to consider vanity metrics, but social listening and vanity metrics provide different perspectives.  Shortly, the purposes of social listening are discussed which also demonstrate the difference between social listening and vanity metrics.  Lastly, it is a myth that social listening is not valuable to a given brand or industry.  Regardless of the size, location, market, industry, product or brand, social listening has a purpose whenever an organization has a social presence.  Listening invites the gathering of data from spontaneous chatter online in the form of several purposes.  These purposes to social listening include: (1) community building, (2) customer relationship management (CRM), (3) crisis preparedness, management, & response, (4) product support and innovation, (5) competitive insights, and (6) talent recruitment (Stewart & Arnold, 2018). 

Three reasons why businesses and brands need to be practicing social listening are include:

  1. Benefits to enhancing the quality of online relationships with consumers
  2. Ability to provide a competitive edge 
  3. Supports humanizing the digital experience 

First, when it comes to relationships, just think about the way that we initiate human relationships online.  Relationships are built on listening to a series of self-disclosures.  Brands’ relationships with consumers are no different.  Social listening is a cornerstone strategy of effective CRM. Second, listening gives you a competitive edge.  By listening to the needs of consumers, you can provide precise solutions for their needs.  You can add value in response to their established needs as an active audience.  Social listening fosters the ability for brands to be responsive and innovative.  Social listening allows brands to humanize their consumer experience during a time of increasing automation online.  By understanding more about the consumers you are trying to reach through the process of social listening, your brand is better positioned to connect with them through an improved social presence, provide engaging and valuable content, and be increasingly responsive to your audience.  

About the author:

Margaret C. Stewart, SMS, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Florida (UNF) where she teaches courses in communication theory, professional public speaking, mediated communication, and strategic social media in the School of Communication.  She is also a certified Social Media Strategist (SMS) and trainer through the National Institute for Social Media (NISM) and a consultant for Socially Inspired, LLC.  She offers training and coaching on social listening, social media for crisis management, public speaking, interview training, and communication in leadership. Margaret is passionate about sharing her knowledge with students, practitioners, and fellow educators, and is committed to providing training that is engaging, valuable, and empowering.  Contact:  [email protected]


Stewart, M. C. & Arnold, C. L. (2017). Defining social listening: Recognizing an emerging 

dimension of listening. International Journal of Listening, 32(2), 85-100. doi: 


Stewart, M.C. & Arnold, C.L. (2018).  Interpersonal and organizational social listening 

purposes in a global mediated society.  Florida Communication Association 

Convention, Orlando, FL, October 2018.