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Audience Listening Tools

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Social listening

If you really want to get to know your audience, you will have to engage in active listening over a period of time. It’s important to note here that you’re not listening for mentions of your brand or company by the audience. What you’re listening for is what matters to them in order to facilitate more personalized engagement.

Finding relevant hashtags

Finding relevant hashtags is another way of discovering new people in conversations. There are a few ways to find hashtags on Twitter.

  • In Klear and Affinio, you start to create a list of influencers. If you follow your list of influencers and participants in a community, you will start to recognize hashtags used on a regular basis.
  • If you haven’t come across hashtags that influencers and your audience are using, you can go to RiteTag and search for hashtags around a topic. They have a simple search on their home page that allows you to enter a topic and search for potential hashtags used to discuss that topic.
  • Another tool to search for potential hashtags is Keyhole. A quick search found on their home page will give you a snapshot of hashtags.

On Instagram, though there are tools you can use to find popular hashtags, the most effective way to research hashtags is through the native Instagram mobile application. It not only shows you the results for general hashtags, but it also suggests all sorts of other hashtags you should look into.

Discussion groups

Another great source for social listening are discussion groups. Discussion groups are usually present when a community has great density. Discussion groups exist on many social platforms and can be a great way to discover the culture of a community. Here are a few examples:

  • Linkedin groups.
  • Reddit is a huge group of discussion boards online. Within the board, there are hundreds of thousands of conversations around specific topics and these are called sub-Reddits. Within these sub-Reddits, you will find very enthusiastic, passionate members of communities of interest. There are sub-Reddits for pretty much every topic that you can imagine.
  • Facebook groups.
  • Google groups. Google groups work very much like Facebook and LinkedIn groups, although they usually communicate through email threads. You can find a Google group on pretty much any topic.

When you join these groups, make sure you turn your notifications on, as you can’t usually enter them into a social listening platform. By following them on a regular basis, you can find out what they’re most passionate about, so that you can facilitate more personal conversations down the line.

Finding influencers across other networks

Ensure you are covering off as many networks as possible when following your influencers and participants. They may be sharing things on various platforms that they aren’t sharing on Twitter. Are they on Medium, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Periscope, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, or Tumblr, and do they have a blog?

Most people use similar usernames and handles across all of their networks. But if not, you can usually search and locate them within the directory of each platform. It is important to try to find key influencers across various platforms because they may be sharing things on one platform that they’re not sharing on another.

Monitoring tools

You can use monitoring tools to help you track multiple users and conversations within your communities.

A social media monitoring tool assists you in following many people across various channels more easily. There are many of these tools available, including:

  • Hootsuite
  • Tint
  • Tagboard
  • Mention

When it comes to social, audiences shift over time. So keeping track of the audience discussion on these tools will help you to update your understanding along the way. You will need to make social listening an ongoing part of your role.


Here are some screenshots of Hootsuite (see slide ‘Hootsuite’). In order to track across more than three social networks, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid pro version. You can use Hootsuite’s Streams tab to monitor different networks or communities.

There are a bunch of ways to set up your social listening in Hootsuite. But to start, you need to add social streams. So click on the ‘+ Add Stream’ button at the top of the page. A pop-up will appear asking you to either connect to various networks or choose a stream from one of your networks to add. You can add the list you have created or create a stream for a hashtag that you want to follow.

There are also several apps within Hootsuite that allow you to add extra analysis on the discussions, helping you see who are the most influential people, which hashtags are emerging, shifting word clouds, and so on.


Tint makes a really lovely social listening dashboard. Nasdaq even uses Tint as its big social listening dashboard. You can create dashboards across multiple networks based on hashtags, users, groups, lists, and more depending on the network.


Tagboard is incredibly simple to set up, but you can only follow one stream at a time, and if you want to set up a permanent tagboard to track, you’ll have to pay. To set it up, just go to tagboard.com and type a hashtag into the search box. The result will be a real-time stream of all of the social media from across various platforms that use that hashtag. The advantage of Tagboard is that, after you create a tagboard, you can share it with your entire team so that everyone can follow along and get to know the audience better.

Native social listening

Monitoring natively involves following everyone that you can and immersing yourself in the conversation for a few weeks. Most people will say this is unrealistic, but it is the best way to understand what’s going on and get a full picture of the members of a community. Social listening in real time allows you to get into your social groove. It gives you greater insights into the people that you’re following and also creates opportunities for social connection in real time.

So if, say, there’s a community member in the list looking for a great restaurant in a city that you know really well and you know some great restaurants, you can jump in at that time and create a connection with that user by offering up your suggestions. The more helpful you are, the more that you’ll build rapport that will really come in useful over time.

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Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt is an executive-level digital marketing professional with over 20 years of experience. She is the founder of Truly Inc., the author of one of the first books on how the social web is changing business, and a professional public speaker. Tara has created and executed proven digital and social strategies across multiple industries. She specializes in relationship and inbound marketing, with a passion for data-driven strategy.

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    Social Research
    Tara Hunt
    Skills Expert

    The Social Research module introduces key social media concepts, including the Digital Marketing Institute’s 3i Principles for successful digital marketing, and the role and responsibilities of the social media marketer. It then dives into the topic of social research and explains its importance to digital marketers. It equips marketers with the research tools and techniques needed to engage in effective audience research, competitive and industry research, and cultural research. It also explains how marketers can gain valuable insights from their research data.