How Do Social Listening Tools Work?

First things first – Social listening is the process of finding out what people are saying about a particular topic, brand, personality, etc. online. (You may read our previous blog “Social Listening 101” to learn more. You may also be interested in this interesting discussion on social media monitoring). In a very basic sense, social listening can be done by searching for keywords in the search bars of social media sites and manually checking through the post results:

Searching for posts on social media sites

While this sounds easy enough, it’s an incredibly tedious method and will not give you the full picture of what online conversations around a certain topic are about. That’s where social listening tools like Circus Social’s 20/Twenty come in handy. 

What do social listening tools do?

Simply put, social listening tools work like a Google search engine, displaying mentions of a keyword or topic from social media sites (like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit), blogs, forums, e-commerce, and product review sites, among many others. It’s important to note that only public posts are legally allowed to be crawled by social listening tools. If you come across a tool that provides private data, it’s probably been generated through illegal means. Circus Social works with reputable data providers and social media platforms to gain special access to public data. This is done after going through extensive reviews to ensure your private data is not accessed and personally identifiable information is not extracted and available.

How is data obtained from these sources?

Data is primarily obtained through data partnerships with companies such as GNIP (Twitter data provider), Facebook, Google, and many other sources. In addition to this, Circus Social has proprietary data crawlers that capture public data on blogs, forums, and websites via RSS feeds or APIs.

How can social listening tools find relevant mentions?

Searching for data in social listening tools such as 20/Twenty is done using keywords. If you want to find out what people are saying about iPhones, simply type in the term “iPhone” and online posts containing this term will appear:

From #iPhone to Apple phone, there are so many ways in which iPhones are discussed, which is why you need to include other relevant keywords when conducting a search. This is called a Boolean query, which is a combination of words and operators. There are a number of operators you can use to make your search term more robust, but these are the most common ones:

Circus Social's Boolean Operator Guide

So how can we improve our search for mentions of iPhone? We can use a Boolean query like this:

iphone OR “#iphone” OR “#iphoneSE” OR “#iphone11” OR “#iphone11pro” OR “#iphone11promax” OR ((apple) AND (phone OR cellphone OR mobile))

By adding a few more keywords and Boolean operators, our search results increased by more than 2,000 mentions:

Searching for keywords on 20/Twenty

We hope that our simple explainer of how social listening works has piqued your interest! Check out the video below to see what else is possible in 20/Twenty.

If you’d like to learn more about the data 20/Twenty can track, feel free to reach out to us by email at insights@circussocial.com or contact us here

Social Listening 101: Why Is It Important?

Social Listening

What is social listening? 

Sounds like something scary? Like your every move is under surveillance and is being listened to? No, no, not at all. This article aims to clear up such misunderstandings and tell you more about social listening, and why it’s important for all businesses – big and small.

Social listening is a form of digital intelligence that tracks publicly available information and conversations in an effort to understand what your consumers’ preferences are. This can be found in various forms (not limited to) such as public online forums, influencer blogs, Facebook comments, news articles, etc. 

Now why is that important?

In 2019, a study reported that there are 3.96 billion people on social media, with each user being active on an average of 9 social platforms. With the current accessibility to the internet and a growing youth population, you can expect an even greater increase (19%) for unique netizen growth. Essentially, you are looking at the world’s largest data group for businesses to tap into for insights and information. 

Here is a generic overview of why social listening is important for your business. (We’ll cover some topics in more detail in our upcoming blog posts – stay tuned for more!)

1. Consumer & Audience Insights

Surveys, focus groups, and feedback forms are great ways to obtain consumer feedback… But what about what they’re saying behind your back? From Twitter to online forums, social media is where most of your consumers’ conversations are taking place. Through social listening, your brand can easily keep track of all these conversations in one dashboard, and uncover what they love, hate, and can’t stop talking about.

The Word Cloud in 20/Twenty is a great way to find out what people are discussing around a topic of interest:

Word Cloud from 20/Twenty - Social Listening Insights

2. Campaign Tracking

There’s no way to prove success unless you can measure it – which is why it is so important to be on top of your campaign performance. CPCs and CTRs may be useful when you are considering digital metrics, but what about the nuanced details that will help ensure the success of your next campaign? Social listening can help answer some of the most important questions about your campaign’s performance, such as:

  • How many people were talking about the campaign?
  • What did people say about the campaign?
  • Did the campaign generate more positive, negative, or neutral sentiments?
  • Which channels were most of the mentions coming from?

3. Competitive Tracking

With competitive analysis and research, one of the most important figures is Share of Voice, to uncover which brand is driving the most conversations. This is the closest way to track market share which makes it critical in assessing your efforts.

One of the many features 20/Twenty offers is the ability to compare the estimated reach, number of mentions, and volume of engagement across different brands. In the chart below, we can see that Chanel has surpassed Dior and Estee Lauder, having a much wider reach and generating the most organic mentions.

Leaderboard & Health Chart in 20/Twenty - Social Listening Insights

4. Industry & Market Trendspotting

Sharing content solely around your brand or products is not enough to keep audiences engaged. Brands are now leveraging on trending content such as the 10 Year Challenge to boost engagement and maintain relevancy with audiences. While most brands play catch up and jump on a trend as it’s peaking, wouldn’t it be more efficient to identify emerging trends before they go viral – keeping your brand ahead of the curve?

While you can pay someone to continually look through social sites and update you with the latest trends and memes, having a social listening tool that updates you on trends that matter will make the content creation process much easier.

For more tips on what trends are worth riding on, check out the trendspotting checklist we curated! Hit 6 out of 10 and you’re good to go.

5. Influencer Opportunities

When it comes to purchasing a product or switching brands, people no longer rely on just advertisements or product reviews. Influencers have become one of the top sources that consumers go to before making a purchasing decision.

If your brand is already engaged with influencers, social listening can help you keep track of the content being shared, and to assess the effectiveness and ROI of each post. Alternatively, if you’re looking for influencers to collaborate with, social listening can identify influential people in your industry who may or may not be talking about your brand or products.

6. Crisis Management & Prevention

From negative reviews to social media blunders, crisis situations like these can make or break a company. Ensuring you have social listening set up is essential to stay on top of negative sentiments about your brand, campaign, or products. After mitigating the issue at hand, you are even able to track the changes of the conversations to ensure everything is handled.

Ultimately, social listening and intelligence can be used in a breadth of situations in order to track and analyse your company’s key objectives. It’s functionality and deep pockets of data can prove invaluable to any company. If you want to find out more, reach out to us at insights@circussocial.com.

TikTok Myths Debunked With Social Listening: Myth #5

Before we delve into the last myth we uprooted with insights from social listening with 20/Twenty, refresh your memory on the first 4, starting with Myth #1: “TikTok is only popular in the West”.

MYTH 5: “Brands can’t track their ROI from TikTok campaigns”

Not anymore! Despite being late to the party, TikTok has recently decided to open up its API integration. This is huge news for a number of reasons:

  • Ability to track and measure the performance of owned content
  • Gain consumer and audience insights by tracking what TikTok users post
  • Staying updated on the latest trends and viral content – allowing for social listening
  • Content inspiration for brands and influencer
  • Influencer identification by spotting engaging content

Key metrics that can currently be pulled in from TikTok include engagement data points such as likes, comments, shares, and views, as well as some information on the post’s author. Our social listening tool, 20/Twenty, helps users make sense of this data in the form of charts and graphs. Using the Conversation Over Time graph available in our Insights section, you can easily pinpoint the days when conversations around a topic of interest spike – indicative that something may be trending.

Social Listening - Conversation Over Time chart - tiktok

Want to compare the volume of conversations on TikTok to other online channels? Our Channel Analysis section offers just that.

Social Listening - Channel Analysis chart-tiktok

Now that we’ve debunked all these myths, don’t you think TikTok is a social media platform worth considering in your upcoming business strategy?

If your brand is already working with TikTok, wouldn’t it be great to have all you need to know about this and other social media platforms in one complete dashboard? Circus Social has recently integrated TikTok as a core platform enabled for full social listening in 20/Twenty.

If you have any questions about tracking TikTok or would like to find out more about 20/Twenty, reach out to us at insights@circussocial.com.

TikTok Myths Debunked With Social Listening: Myth #4

Haven’t read up on the first 3 myths uprooted with social listening? Check out myth 1, 2, and 3 before reading ahead!

MYTH 4: “Promoting your brand on TikTok is a waste of resources”

False! Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok’s algorithm works to promote organic content that is engaging. For instance, if someone makes it through your entire video (which is a strong testament, in this day and age), it will be recommended to four other viewers. This opens up massive opportunities for brands to get on top of the curve – and all it takes is a smartphone and a creative mind.

Fenty Beauty actively posts on TikTok at least 4 times a week, ranging from product swatches to tutorials and comedy skits. One of their best performing posts in July was a best-practices makeup tutorial that was relatively easy to create with little to no post-processing. (Learn how you can track this and more with social listening, here) By having the person in the video apply her make-up while speaking directly to viewers, this gave the video an organic feel. Adding catchy and trending tunes in the background was also a great way to engage viewers.  This video was viewed over 100,000 times and received 19,000 forms of engagement. Most commentators appreciate how easy the guide was to follow, and also shared their own makeup routines.

Social listening - Person doing a makeup tutorial

Fun fact: Jacob Pace, the CEO of Flighthouse, an entertainment brand and production studio, noted that when people try to learn a dance from TikTok, they need to watch the video numerous times. These repeated views are the reason why TikTok continues to recommend dance videos so often. Stay tuned for more insights uncovered on TikTok with social listening from 20/Twenty.

Check out the next interesting myth about TikTok we blasted right here!

TikTok Myths Debunked With Social Listening: Myth #3

Catch up on Myth #1 and Myth #2 before we delve into our next TikTok myth uprooted yet again with insights from social listening!

MYTH 3: “TikTok is just a lip-syncing and dancing app”

While you may be familiar with the likes of the #Savage and #ToosieSlide challenges, there is so much more to the world of this exciting platform, such as product reviews, recipe sharing, comedy skits and more.

Essentially, TikTok is a platform for all creators to not only share their talents, but their views on products, brands, and other topics of interest. For instance, TikTok user @neko_chann’s eyeliner tutorial using Fenty Beauty’s Flyliner garnered a whopping 470K views and over 100K in engagement. With stats this high, this type of organic content is guaranteed to increase brand and product awareness, influence product purchasing decisions as well as its credibility.

We continued to dig deeper with social listening and check out more myths we busted right here!

Social listening- Circus Social - Person putting on eyeliner on tiktok

TikTok Myths Debunked With Social Listening: Myth #2

Missed out on the first TikTok myth we debunked with our social listening power tool, 20/Twenty? Visit this blog post. On day 2 of the 5 TikTok Myths We Debunked, we look into:

MYTH #2: “Gen Zers are the only ones who use TikTok”.

While TikTok’s user base is indeed skewed towards the Gen Z demographic, Oberlo’s study of the US market indicates that the number of adults using the app are growing – from 2.6 million in October 2017 to 14.3 million in March 2019.

Number of US adults using TikTok

The demographics of this platform’s users can also vary depending on the type of content being shared. For instance, let’s take a look at users posting content around Fenty Beauty for instance. Using our social listening tool, 20/Twenty, we tracked Fenty Beauty-related TikToks globally and found that most of the content was shared by Millennials in their mid-to-late 20s.

Even senior citizens are on TikTok, and some of them are really popular! Grandma’s Sandy (@sandybepsycho) and Droniak (@grandma_droniak) are TikTok favorites, with more than 38 million & 7 million accumulated likes respectively. Grandma Sandy shares content with her grandson and hops on dance trends, while Grandma Droniak is well-known for her “A Day In My Life” videos and humorous use of lingos such as lit and glow-up.

TikTok Myth 2: “Gen Zers are the only ones who use TikTok” - Social listening with 20/Twenty


We’ve busted another myth, check it out right here!

TikTok Myths Debunked With Social Listening: Myth #1

If you’ve spent the better part of the past 6 months staying at home, chances are you’ve heard of (or tried) one of the many dance challenges shared on TikTok and the rest of social media. We’re here to uncover more about happenings on this platform with a social listening dive!

While learning new moves is certainly a great way to pass time, TikTok offers much more than just that. The app is not just popular with individuals – big brands like Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty have also jumped on the bandwagon. While Fenty’s Instagram page is more refined and filled with carefully-curated content such as official product announcements, their TikTok page is a little more playful, containing makeup-related memes and fun tutorials that earn a high volume of engagement.

Many marketers have assumptions about who should use this platform (“It’s only for kids”) and what you can do with it (“it’s just an app to learn dances”), and Circus Social’s 20/Twenty is here to debunk the top myths we’ve found around TikTok! Keep an eye out as we’ll be debunking one TikTok myth a day this week!

MYTH 1: “TikTok is only popular in the West”

False! Ironically, this is the only mainstream social media platform that did not originate from the West. In 2019, Sensor Tower reported that TikTok amassed over 738 million downloads globally. An estimated 190 million of these came from Southeast Asia – that’s 25% of all downloads! Indonesia accounts for the most number of active TikTok-ers in Southeast Asia, sitting at approximately 81 million downloads.

TikTok User Demographics
Image courtesy of BusinessOfApps

There’s more where this came from! Check out more myths busted with social listening here.

What Do You Do When You Can’t Trust Market Research?

Frustration From Market Research

I still recall back in school when we had to sit through surveys, I would blindly fill up the questionnaires because (i) it’s not graded (for me at least) and (ii) it’s boring. I didn’t think it was important at all – I mean, who really cares and takes them seriously, right? Market analysis..phew!

Fast forward 15 years later – That person is me.

As a skeptic who questions the soundness of everything, the workings of market research is a huge conundrum. Businesses are spending huge budgets to back “data-driven” consumer insights, and governments are counting on these findings to craft and implement public policies. But what happens when the data is less accurate than we’d like it to be? Having the privilege of being both a researcher and a consumer, it’s easy to see why many can’t trust market analysis or research, even when it’s conducted by the biggest and most experienced agencies. 

Tradition rarely triumphs.   

Following the great mantra “look inward before looking outward”, let’s start with innate issues that can be regulated by research agencies. From the logistical set up, to research design, agencies have the liberty to control everything. However, the commercial nature of market research makes it challenging for agencies to prioritize sanctity of research over profitability. Case in point – Established agencies are generally slower to innovate because the success of their current business model creates a strong inertia to deviate from.

Having said that, even a foolproof methodology is only half the battle won; you’ll need genuine data to derive credible insights. That’s where most problems arise – Not from the research design, but when researchers fail to see from the lens of a consumer. 

Consumers don’t care about your surveys. 

As a consumer, there isn’t enough skin in the game to want to help businesses improve through  genuine feedback. With competitors aplenty, we can always buy from someone else who already meets our needs, without all the hassle. This is where most researchers get blindsided – Just because you care about the findings doesn’t mean the consumer does.  

One may suggest that incentives give consumers a reason to care, but when was the last time you whole-heartedly completed a survey for cash? Chances are, you rushed through it just for the reward. Aside from concerns around data integrity, the consumer of 2020 is no longer enticed by measly incentives. This is especially true for Millennials, who are now more time-sensitive and digitized than ever before – making it harder to capture their fleeting attention. While not paying attention to Millennials wouldn’t be an issue 15 years ago (since most were still in school), they are now the largest market drivers across the globe. 

Pessimists may view the points above and render market research obsolete with no redeeming factors, but in reality, all you need is a little creativity to break out of the traditional mould in deriving consumer insights. Thanks to the agility of startups and our belief in the potential of social intelligence, the research team at Circus Social has developed a methodology that not only protects the quality of consumer insights, but ensures we understand consumers who matter the most – the Millennials.

Introducing Research@CS. 

What is Research @CS?

Though the industry has been around since the 1930s, a major bulk of the evolution of the market research industry has been dominated by self-reported data. Arduous data collection processes have become a huge obstacle in turnaround, but what’s worse is when this hurdle unknowingly compromises research integrity. With the internet creating a wealth of new data sources, research no longer needs to be confined to the traditional surveys and focus group discussions. Research@CS is the millennial of market research – research redesigned with 360° integration of social listening, gamified surveys and cultural studies.

How does this work?

As with every problem in the history of mankind, there is no perfect solution to answer all your research questions. Surveys concisely relay your questions to the respondents, yet people are incentivised for ingenuity. Focus groups open your eyes to the most unexpected ideas, but how often do you get the best moderators and innovative thinkers in the same room? All methodology comes with its pros and cons, and it is our responsibility to build on the strength and eliminate the noises in each method in order to hear what the consumers really have to say. 

Why is this better?

When we start depending less on tedious self-reported questions and answers, data integrity gets fortified – which in turn assures the credibility of insights. Opinions can rarely get any more truthful than unprompted views on social media, which is why social listening is our preferred method in gathering qualitative insights. By collaborating with partners that have access to communities of Millennials, these questionnaires that come in the form of gamified surveys are no longer a chore, but a fun relief from one’s daily routine.

Thanks to the widespread internet culture, a hefty financial investment and lengthy time commitment are no longer requirements for better insights. Since consumer responses are but a click away, our average study only needs a quarter of the time of traditional research – freeing up more time for stakeholders to strategize using our insights. The cost savings are also unparalleled – a simple research which could easily cost 5-figures, can now be done at a fraction of the price.  

At the end of the day, it boils down to what businesses are trying to get out of their research. Not all organizations wish to make changes, or have the operational capacity to make changes, that are driven by consumer insights; some are solely doing market research as a SOP, while others are down and ready for action. If you are a B2C business looking for direction on decisions, you probably want to start listening to your biggest consumers – because not only do millennials purchase, they influence others to do the same. 

And if you don’t trust market research as it is, Research@CS may just be what you were looking for – the millennial of market research that celebrates the digital age, embraces the short attention span and gives you the actionable, reliable and non incentivised insights that you couldn’t get before.

To find out more about what we do at Research@CS (or maybe have a debate with me on any of the points above), feel free to reach out at jillian.chi@circussocial.com.

National Day 2020 Buzz

While the fight against COVID-19 continues in Singapore, National Day 2020 is still proceeding ahead, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Circus Social analysed conversations from netizens around Singapore to uncover the most discussed topics in relation to NDP 2020. Most Singaporeans commented on the constant sounds of fighter jets flying above their home, and also disapproved of the plan for fighter jets to fly over hospital around the region.

Circus Social's Pre-NDP 2020 Infographic

Check out our coverage of conversations pre-NDP 2019 in this blog post. For more information on how Circus Social does analysis and real-time tracking, reach out to sales@circussocial.com.

#GE2020: Keeping Up With The Elections

Following PM Lee’s speech on June 23rd, it was announced that the 2020 General Election will be held on July 10th. From first time voters voicing their excitement to some questioning the timing of the election, this is the prime time where citizens’ voices are amplified – and social media is the centre stage where all opinions and discussions come to light.

Using 20/Twenty, we analyzed conversations from netizens in Singapore and uncovered their sentiments towards the various political parties, as well as the hot topics of discussion that have risen in the past week.

Circus Social GE2020 Infographic

Keeping track of the latest news and conversations around the General Election may be difficult, which is why Circus Social has launched SGElection Dashboard – a convenient way to keep track of all pre- and post-election conversations across social media. Discover the top conversation themes, netizens’ sentiments towards candidates, the most discussed political parties and candidates, and more – all in one dashboard.

If you’re interested in staying updated on conversations surrounding GE2020, reach out to our sales team at sales@circussocial.com.