Social listening vs prompted listening: What's the difference?

published on 30 November 2022

Businesses use social listening today to understand consumer trends and identify potential problems before they become serious issues.

They want to know what people are saying about their brand, their products, and their services. They also want to know what people are saying about their competitors.

This information can help businesses make decisions about how to best engage with consumers on social media.

Limitations of social listening

Although social listening can be a valuable tool for businesses, it does have its limitations.

One of the biggest limitations of social listening is that it can only provide a snapshot of what people are saying about a brand at any given time based on the keywords you're monitoring. It is not possible to track all conversations about a brand on social media if those keywords are not present.

Another limitation of social listening is that it often ends up picking up on extremely positive or negative sentiment, because people tend to share extremes on social media by default. You end up paying too much attention to extreme viewpoints that may not represent your general consumer base.

Finally, people don't tend to share their thoughts, ideas and desires on social media unprompted. Imagine trying to understand consumer preferences into curly hair care or the type of stock pot they wish they had by passively listening in on social posts. You'll get very limited data to begin with, and what you find will represent the extremes.

Just think of yourself. When was the last time you shared on Twitter your wonderful idea for an herby stock pot? Never.

Prompted listening

So we have to prompt people to ask them to share their ideas, but what's the best way of doing this?

Yes, you could ask your brand's followers on social media to provide feedback about your products or services, but we all know people don't really engage with brands on social media - even if it's prompted - except to complain.

Your only choice then seems to be old-school surveys or focus groups, which take on average 6-8 weeks to complete and are prone to skewed results based on the consumer sample you get.

Why not leverage creators?

Creators are now synonymous with social media, as they drive a ton of engagement. Instead of just using creators to promote a service or product, you can ask the creator to prompt their audience on your behalf for those burning questions you have in mind.

A creator's relationship with their audience is based on authenticity, which means people are more likely to answer the questions truthfully if it's the creator asking them versus you as the brand.

This means you end up with authentic feedback from the same exact consumers you target for marketing. You also understand trends on topics people don't normally share on social media. Plus, you get this feedback within 24 hours versus 6-8 weeks if you were to go down the route of doing a survey or a focus group instead.

Real-time consumer feedback

Let's say you're on board with prompted listening and you've partnered with several creators to ask a few questions to their audience for you as part of their sponsored posts.

Now, how do you analyse the audience responses?

You could manually trawl through hundreds of comments to understand what's being said, or you could employ a tool like Multytude to do the heavy lifting for you.

Multytude is a real-time comments analysis tool, allowing the creator and the brand to see analysed responses in real-time to all of their questions on live streams or video-on-demand. It enables creators and brands to:

  • Run dynamic polls
  • Explore live maps (to visualise places mentioned in the chat such as seeing where the audience is watching from)
  • Discover word clouds (to understand most mentioned ideas and trends to open-ended questions)
  • Run an Ask-me-Anything session (to discover frequently asked questions and topics about your brand, product or category)

Multytude is available for creators and brands on YouTube, Instagram and Twitch. You can find out more about it here.

Don't get us wrong. Social listening has its place.

You need to constantly keep an ear on social chatter to quell consumer discontent, engage with positive comments, and just be active on social media.

But it is actually not a great tool to discover consumer trends. You can't let extreme sentiments dictate your strategy or product development.

You need to add prompted listening to your arsenal, engage with creators for consumer insights, and be agile in discovering and jumping on authentic consumer trends.

Better yet, now that you know the consumer preferences of your partner creators, you can prepare personalised marketing narratives for them each to improve your marketing performance.

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