5 Reasons Why Social Listening is Table Stakes

Do you remember 2005? That’s the year you probably got that sweet Motorola Razr. If you were in college, your school may have even been lucky enough to get invited to join www.thefacebook.com, and the word “Tweet” didn’t even exist yet. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, only 8% of adult internet users in the US were even on social networks at the time. That's only about 12 million people. Sure, social media was generating useful data, but for brands, there simply wasn’t enough volume to be worth listening to yet.

Now fast-forward 10 years to 2015. There were 176 million new people who joined social in 2015 alone. Think about that. Really think about it. That’s 176 million new people producing, viewing, and interacting with content every single day, sending signals out into the social-verse about what they care about, who they care about, and how they connect with what’s most important to them.

176 million new people joined social in 2015 alone.


Today there are over 2 billion active social media users sending out these signals. The volume isn’t just there, it’s deafening. Even still, consumers expect brands to be able to cut through this noise to reach them at scale with content and engagement that resonates on a personal level. That’s no easy task – and that’s exactly why social listening shouldn’t be considered a “nice to have.” It’s no longer just a great opportunity for social teams who decide to take advantage of it. Social listening is table stakes—for you non-poker players, that means it's a must-have—and we’ve got five reasons to prove it:

1. Because social is the biggest focus group in history.

No matter your industry or your business goals, you need to connect with your customers — and your customers are on social. With over 2 billion active social media users worldwide, social is the biggest focus group that has ever existed. And the best part? You can access it at any time, for any reason—big or small.

Listening to the market has never been so literal. Before social, “listening to the market” usually meant tracking macroeconomic trends and financials across regions, product/service categories, or individual products. Now it literally means listening to your customers. Not in a small room with 10 people that you’re hoping represent your broader target audience. Instead, social gives you access to the actual people who love your brand and who you are trying to reach. That’s powerful.

2. Because “don’t work harder, work smarter” isn’t just a corny motivational slogan.

I know, I know, you’ve heard this one before, but I would argue that nowhere is this more relevant than in social listening. Every part of every organization wants to use data in their decision-making, but using data only matters if you can easily turn that data into insight and that insight into action. With a smart social marketing solution that infuses listening and insights right along with your publishing, analytics, and engagement, you can empower your team to move quickly from insights to action.

The key to working “smarter” in social is relying on social data to provide context for everything you do. It’s about infusing social insights from strategy through execution. For your strategy, it’s important to be able to provide context around your industry and competitors. You need to be able to identify trends, benchmark against top performers, and understand your competitors’ strategies and audiences so that you can differentiate in the market. Once you have a solid strategy in place, it’s just as important to have the tactical context for executing that strategy. You need to know the people you’re trying to reach (who they are, what they care about) so that you can design effective campaigns and create the type of content that you know will be most engaging for them.

3. Because social listening makes scale not only possible, but personal.

As consumers, our relationships with brands feel personal because they are personal. Your audiences and followers on social have extraordinarily high expectations of you. Simply trying to reach as many people as possible with the same message isn’t good enough anymore. You need to reach your audiences with messages that resonate with them on a personal level.

Trying to reach a ton of people with the same message isn't good enough anymore.


To reach people at scale, you need to understand people at scale. To understand people at scale, you need to listen to people at scale. You need to know what type of content they engage with most, what recent events or pop culture phenomenon is trending with them, when they’re on social and why. Teams with social listening can dive into all these questions and more to make sure that the content they’re creating works best for the audiences they’re trying to reach before they publish.

4. Because marketing happens at the speed of social.

Of course social is just one part of your well-balanced omni-channel marketing strategy. But when it comes down to it, all marketing happens at the speed of social. Your customers live in a fast-paced world both online and off. Breaking news comes across their screens in the flash of a Tweet at all hours of the day. They find out about flash sales at their favorite retailers, new products from their favorite brands, and what TV shows their friends are bingeing all in one quick scroll down their Facebook News Feed.

Long-term social strategy and brand plays are important; that’s not changing. However, it’s also important to remain flexible to keep up with the speed of social and take advantage of real-time insights and marketing opportunities. Social listening is crucial for this. Keeping your ear to the ground allows you to spot trends you might not be aware of and know when to jump in. It helps you only identify crises but also decide if you should engage, and if so, when.

5. Because you can’t afford not to.

Stay competitive in your industry, stay competitive amongst your competitors, stay competitive against your own best content and campaigns. You’re not the only brand trying to reach the people you need to connect with – but with the right social insights, your team can be armed with the actionable information they need to cut through the noise.

The landscape is evolving: social is growing up. “Nice to haves” are now “must haves” as brands vie for their audience’s attention and scale becomes personal. Social listening is the biggest focus group in history, helping your teams work smarter to stay competitive and execute marketing at the speed of social. All of this means that social listening is a must-have for any savvy marketing organization.

Editor’s note: Learn about how you can move easily from insights to action and empower your social teams to take advantage of social insights at every step of your journey with Spredfast’s Social Media Management Solution.

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Christina Burgess is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Spredfast, where she helps tell the story about how Spredfast can help every organization realize the value of social. She is a boomerang Texan, who came to Austin via Washington D.C. and she is probably daydreaming about hiking or wandering through a museum right now.