It’s clear that social media plays an increasingly important role in brand communication. Before the arrival of giants like Facebook or Twitter, brands couldn’t even dream about developing such close relationships with their audiences or having real-time conversations with consumers from every corner of the world. Social media analytics can bring you a host of powerful insights for developing a better-targeted and efficient content marketing strategy.

Knowing your audience is crucial when you’re developing content and one way to get a better grasp on consumers is through social listening.

Why is Social Listening So Important?

Here are six reasons why you should start to listen to the global conversation:

1. Gain access to powerful marketing analytics.

Marketers who listen closely to social media gain a wide range of insights that help them uncover what is being said about a brand, who is saying it, how often it’s being said, where they’re saying it, and who the main influencers are in the sector. Thanks to all this information, marketers can construct a map of influences, focusing on specific groups of users who are interested in their niche and have the potential to become clients.

By keeping tabs on what’s happening inside their audience, marketers can improve their marketing content by leveraging topic insights and creating content optimized for SEO and even PPC strategies.

2. Improve your understanding of consumer behavior.

Brands that choose to pay close attention to their consumers can easily understand them—especially the key problems, motivations and issues audiences have with their products or services. Knowing what makes customers tick is excellent for developing great customer service, but it will power content creation as well.

Knowledge about audience demographics is important, but it’s not the entire story. The context in which conversations happen is a key factor to take into account when developing a content marketing strategy adapted to the needs of target audiences.

3. Uncover key topics behind online conversations.

It’s one thing to observe social trends and how they fluctuate, but it’s quite another to know who is responsible for these changes. Knowing what factors influence conversations happening in your sector will equip you with insights that can serve as foundation for your content strategy.

Using the right social listening tools, you’ll be able to track trends and get a broader perspective on thousands of conversations happening on social media. Tapping into those trends is the best way to keep your content fresh, engaging and relevant to your audiences.

4. Improve your response time.

Staying relevant in the constantly changing social media landscape is a challenge for brands. We all know the value of real-time marketing, but brands often forget to track reactions to current events and are relatively slow in finding out about breaking news.

Still, lots of brands strive to create content in response to hot topics. One of the best examples of the practice is Oreo’s incredibly successful ‘Dunk in the Dark’ Superbowl tweet.

Apart from improving your response time, social media listening will also help you to spot trends in content engagement, such as the times of day when your audience is most likely to consume your content This is a strategy devised by Jay Baer, who noticed how business people often schedule their days around meetings, leaving the minutes around the top and bottom of the hour free for roaming the web.

5. Identify influencers.

Creating content is pointless if you’re not sure it will be seen. Promoting your content through your social channels is the bare minimum for content promotion; if you’re looking to improve your chances at going viral, try reaching out to influencers.

Social listening tools are there to help you decide whose voice is relevant, respected and appreciated most by your target audience. Use social listening tools to determine who is most active, has the widest reach, how often people engage with them, and what their impact score is. These people can provide serious help with amplifying the reach of your marketing content.

6. Measure the success of your marketing content.

All your efforts spent on creating great content won’t matter if you cannot properly measure its success among your audiences. All aspects of digital marketing should be measured—how else will you know that you’re on the right track?

While tracking your own social channels is relatively easy, doing the same with the so-called ‘earned mentions’ is a bit more complex, but achievable with social listening tools. Depending on your digital marketing goals, social listening can bring you different insights into how your content is received by the target audience and what happens to it once it’s published online.

Top Social Listening Tools

Now that you know why social listening is worth the effort, here are eight listening tools used daily by digital marketers all over the globe:

1. Social Searcher

If you’re a social listening newbie, this is the best tool to start your adventure. By typing a keyword, you’ll instantly receive search results that cover social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and online platforms like Reddit, Vimeo, Tumblr or Dailmotion. The tool displays the time period of the social activity, showing how often people talk about a topic. You can easily set up an email alert for specific keywords, monitor them all over a period of time and later export the results to CSV.

2. Topsy

A classic social listening tool, Topsy focuses on blogs and multimedia. One keyword query will give you access to a complete list of mentions, as well as some analytics insights like sentiment measurement, which shows the general attitude towards your keyword. You can set up alerts for emails tied to your Twitter or Facebook account. You don’t even have to register to use this tool.

3. Icerocket

This tool is great for anyone ready to delve into the world of blogging. Icerocket covers all blogs on the web, as well as other social platforms. Under the section called ‘Big Buzz’ you’ll discover what’s happening with your keyword on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other social networks. Icerocket is really intuitive to use and you can do it without registering.

4. TweetDeck

If you’re an avid user of Twitter, this tool will be a perfect match. You can manage all your activity on this lively social network: scheduling tweets, monitoring messages and interactions, tracking specific hashtags and even managing several accounts at once. The last point can be a lifesaver if you’re running both personal and professional Twitter profiles, but we’ve all seen plenty of public mix ups that were disastrous for brands, so be careful here.

5. Social Mention

This social listening tool has a very wide reach and collects information from many different platforms—from classic giants like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to smaller, niche networks and websites like Photobucket. The analytics section shows how many of those sources are active and the general feeling or sentiment about the keyword. No registration is required.

6. Trackur

Yet another great tool for social monitoring, Trackur has an intuitive analytics interface that shows you a host of results from Google+, Twitter, Facebook and many other sources. In fact, the analytics are so rich that you’ll see reporting on keyword discovery, top trends, automated sentiment analysis and influence scoring.

7. TweetReach

Twitter fanatics love TweetReach because it’s unique in showing the long-term impact of your activity. You can measure the influence of your social media interactions on your brand status or analyze how far your tweets travel. You can even track your most influential followers who will point you in the right direction when choosing the type of content to share on your social channels.

8. Klout

Klout is controversial because it promises to measure user engagement with a given keyword. Whatever it means, Klout derives all its insights from Twitter activity. You can see what users are saying about a keyword, and who serves as their top influencer. Some marketers love Klout, others hate it; only you can decide how much value the platform brings to your work.

All in all, social listening can do a lot of good for your content strategy. Set up email alerts for relevant keywords, track their popularity, identify key influencers and let your content speak for your brand. Complete the cycle by distributing and promoting content on social media, tracking the results and making incremental improvements with each new piece you develop.