Every successful startup knows that once your product or company launches, the grind does not stop there. In fact, a crucial element of continued success for startups is audience research. 

At first mention you may think of audience research as simply quantitative–numbers reflective of mentions, likes, and impressions. The issue with these traditional metrics is that they miss out on the qualitative aspect of the conversations that are happening about your company. That’s where social listening comes into play.

What is social listening? 

Social listening is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: listening to what is happening on social media. But more specifically, it is tracking social media for mentions of your startup and understanding those conversations that your audience is having about your company and industry. 

It is important to distinguish social media monitoring from social listening. While social media monitoring is concerned with direct responses to consumer messages and reactive messages, social listening, according to Sprout Social, “accesses the full spectrum of conversation around your industry, brand, and any topics relevant to your brand” leading to proactive rather than reactive measures. It is a method of gauging social media sentiment beyond the numbers. 

Social listening is a long term, strategy-focused tactic that can help direct your company’s campaigns, provide a valuable comparison of your company to the competition, and associate your company to important industry trends and insights. 

How to socially listen

In order to truly ‘socially listen’ your startup will need to analyze these conversations. What are people saying about your company? Is there a conversation that indicates a need for improvement? What is the reaction from the public? Who is reacting? What holes in your industry can your company fill? Analyzing these conversations will help your startup develop the questions necessary for growth and inform strategic moves for the company. 

Here are key areas that social listening can shed light on for your startup:


Understanding what the public thinks about your company is essential for evolving your company’s brand and customer experience strategy. Determining common customer comments, grievances, or positive reactions to your company through social listening gives your company actionable insights. This data can then inform how your startup answers those questions, resolves those grievances, and expands on the areas that your audience is reacting positively to. 


Social listening can also put your company ahead of the curve by revealing industry trends. A long term social listening strategy that includes hashtag analysis and discussion monitoring will better position your startup to find influencers in your industry, notice rising competitors, and spot trending topics and possible disruptors.  

Put simply, social listening will make your company trend aware. A company that understands what is trending is better equipped to partake in those trends and adapt to changing industry conditions. 

Keeping an eye on the competition

Lastly, social listening can reveal information about your startup’s competitors. Not only can you analyze who in your competitor space is dominating the conversation, but you can also analyze expressions of dissatisfaction to find the holes in your competitors’ strategy that your company can fill. Your startup can also analyze where the competition is surpassing your company and adjust your strategy to close the gap. 

Social listening tools

At this point you may be wondering how your tech startup could possibly measure the mood of the internet beyond the numbers. Luckily, there are a myriad of social listening tools to make the job easy. Here are some affordable options to consider for your startup:


Brandwatch tracks the conversations that people are having online and then uses web crawler technology, natural language processing, and search index technology to reveal consumer insights. It makes large scale data accessible and provides an analysis of conversations, tone, and potential crises to direct your startup’s actionable insights. 


Awario is a social listening tool that rivals some of the pricier enterprise level tools. Much like with Brandwatch, you can monitor mentions and competitors. But with Awario you can also find copies of your startup’s content, find brand mentions that are not accompanied by backlinks and find people who are asking about a product or service that your company could provide them with. 

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a social analytics tool that puts data into perspective. Sprout’s tools are comprehensive, spanning brand monitoring to marketing insights. The platform is equipped with a smart inbox that keeps track of every conversation about your brand so you can easily engage with these conversations and analyze all platforms in one place. You can also track phrases, hashtags, and keywords relevant to your industry and tap in to those conversations. Sprout even provides a trends report so that your startup can plainly see how your campaign is being reacted to and also determine share of voice. 


This Twitter specific tool provides an easy-to-manage dashboard for your startup’s Twitter account. You can set up custom brand search streams to see where your company is being mentioned, but not necessarily tagged, and apply filters to easily monitor Twitter conversations. Best of all, it’s free to use!


Social listening is more than a buzzword. It is a tool that can level the playing field for startups entering an industry in competition with larger businesses. If your startup successfully implements social listening it will not only be better poised to disrupt, but it will grow better and more sustainable relationships with your audience. With social listening you can stop guessing what your customers want and instead know exactly what they want and make it happen.

About Author: Mary Jenkins is a Senior Communications Associate at Swyft, a tech startup PR firm in Austin with satellite offices in San Francisco, Houston and Denver. She was an intern at Swyft right after graduating from Texas State University with a degree in Public Relations and Mass Communications.

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