Social Listening: Getting to know customers or cyber stalking?

Are you listening? People are talking about you!

Companies have begun to dive into the emerging trend of social listening. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube, for many, we have come to a stage where we cannot go an hour without checking one or more of our social media accounts and posting information of relevance about ourselves. I Know myself can be counted as one of these culprits and organisations around the world are taking advantage of this. Social media has changed the way companies do business.

What is social listening you may ask?

According to Brandwatch it is the act of taking note and identifying what is being said about your company, product or brand across the internet.

By actively listening for mentions or negotiations, you can make sure that you don’t miss out on the chance to satisfy customers or gather valuable feedback. To accomplish this, Sprout Social state that you must ensure you are tracking all variations of your brands name, with and without the @ symbol.

Tools that companies are using,

Customers are being monitored by companies all across the internet in order to know and understand what they are saying about them. This is done through the use of a selection of tools. The Social Media Examiner has compiled a list of some of the best listening tools available, they range from, Social Mention to Talkwalker, Topsy and Hootsuit.

Through researching and reading about social listening there are both positive and negatives to monitoring people on social for commercial purposes. However, as a marketing student I believe that there are ample added benefits to the power of social listening.

Benefits of Social Listening –

Business2Community, mentions how it enables companies to spot trends, identify what consumers are saying about your brand, what consumers are doing online, understand what social media platforms your target audience hang out on, identify people to target future content towards, find sale opportunities and it also allows for re-marketing. Re-marketing enables companies to understand what their targeted customers are doing, apprehend their behaviour and therefore TARGET them with relevant material.

Many people believe that the advert that has popped up on their side bar relating to the product that they were just searching is coincidental, but it’s not. Social media listening enables companies to see the certain things that people were searching for and therefore target them with specific and relatable marketable advertising in order to grab their attention and gain greater sales. Clever I know! It’s not regarded as stalking, it’s just smart marketing.

But is it ethical?

Some customers believe that if they post content online, it is expected that social sites won’t use them, when in fact for the vast majority of the time, the minute you press post it’s public. Users feel that they have an implied right of privacy but privacy on the internet is almost a thing of the past.

Jennifer Golbeck, speaks about how Target sent a flyer to a young girl’s home with advertisements about baby bottles and nappy’s 2 weeks before she had even told her parents she was pregnant. They were able to find out that information through the material she had provided online but was this too far? This displays the capabilities that companies can gain through the use of social listening at the moment but they also need to know at what point to stop and allow the user to retain control.

Eli Pariser also mentions in his TedTalk, how the internet is using our behaviour to target us with things. He states “It’s providing us with information with what it thinks we want to see not what we need to see”.

These talks enhance our knowledge on the power of social media listening but are many companies sticking to the online code of ethics?

According to EphMRA “researchers are bound by the terms and conditions attached to access of the online services”. Therefore, many online social media services include intellectual property rights. However consent for listening must also be included and if not, it’s free for all, companies can read and summarise the content. Many companies are taking advantage of it and using it to their marketing advantage.


In my opinion social media listening is essential for companies, so that they can keep up-to-date and track what’s being said about them online. It can also help them to do better than their competitors.

Until next time,






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s