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

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