Social media has evolved to become more than just an avenue for sharing experiences and thoughts online. It’s now viewed as an invaluable channel that can help businesses expand their audience, reach target customers, and achieve growth.
Brands are also turning to social media to gain valuable customer insights. By harnessing audience sentiments, including how they perceive your brand or its competitors, you’d be able to obtain data that you can use to improve your marketing campaigns.
Checking for mentions and tracking consumer trends or keywords can be tedious, but social media listening tools can simplify and even automate these processes.
While you may have the best digital marketing tools at hand, such as the best SEO tools and the best email marketing service, your arsenal would be incomplete without the best online survey tools and social media listening tools. When utilized correctly, the right social media listening tool can help you develop a compelling story for your product or service that can delight and continuously engage your audience.
However, with the sheer number of social media listening tools available, including options for free social media tools, it can be challenging to find the best one for your organization. We’ve created this social listening tools comparison as a guide to help you find the most suitable option for your business.
What is Social Listening?
Simply put, social listening is “listening” carefully to your audience on social media channels. It involves searching for, monitoring, and analyzing online conversations that are relevant to your brand. By evaluating these conversations, you can mine insights that you can use to solidify your marketing plan, connect with your audience better, and enhance the way you interact with your customers throughout their consumer journey.
The data you track and analyze can include relevant hashtags, keywords, and mentions. With social listening, you’d also be able to determine your impact or reach through factors, such as your social ROI, trends, social sentiment, and social share of voice.
What are Social Media Listening Tools and What are They Used For?
A social media listening tool helps make big data more accessible and functional. It’s basically software that’s used to monitor and examine online conversations that are relevant to your brand.
Which of the following is true about social listening tools?
These time-saving tools enable you to access audience data and perform relevant actions. They’re used to recognize trends and determine audience sentiment toward your brand, identify influencers you can potentially work with, and measure the reach and impact of your marketing campaigns.
They can also be used as basis for refining your products or services, which can consequently lead to better customer engagement and relationships.
What Criteria Do You Need to Consider When Choosing the Best Tool for You Purpose?
One of the key determinants in choosing a social listening tool is what you want to do with it. Knowing what your goals are will help you narrow down your choices. Are you looking to engage with your customers or do you simply want to listen to their conversations? Do you want to manage and measure your online reputation or do you want a tool that can help you identify influencers you can collaborate with?
Another equally important factor to consider is a tool’s scope of coverage, which will depend on the size and complexity of your business. Also, don’t overlook the provider’s capability to provide customer support. Check if they can provide 24/7 support or walk you through an onboarding process.
What are the Key Features to Look for?
It can be tempting to go with a social listening tool that has all the bells and whistles, but consider these key features before selecting one for your company:
Data management capabilities
Under data management, you’d want to check if a tool can allow you to collect data, set up alerts, and export information. You’d also want to confirm its application programming interface or API, particularly if you want to integrate the tool into your existing systems or processes. If it’s relevant to you, you might also want to see if it has data archiving features if it’s relevant to your goals.
When it comes to data analysis, there are several key features to look for. These include channel metrics, filtering and sorting, sentiment analysis, influencer analysis, and audience analysis and targeting. You’d also want to determine a tool’s trend, topic, and theme analysis capabilities.
Is the tool easy to use and navigate or does it entail a steep learning curve for new users? A tool’s dashboard is an essential component that shouldn’t be disregarded. Make sure to take a look at its dashboard design and UX.
You should also consider if the tool’s dashboard enables in-app engagement with your audience and if allows for centralization or collaboration.
It’s not uncommon for large businesses to use different social media platforms. This makes multi-channel monitoring an important feature to consider, particularly for larger organizations that have multiple social media channels or accounts.
Consider your budget when choosing a social listening tool. Don’t be afraid to compare pricing models and packages.
It’s important not to lose sight of what you want to use the social listening tool for. Thus, it’s crucial that you examine its applications or use cases.
Reviewing the 10 Best Social Listening Tools
Agorapulse is an easy-to-use, all-in-one social media listening tool that’s equipped with practical and powerful features. It offers a unified social inbox, which lets you manage all your messages, comments, and reviews in one place. It also has intuitive publishing, which lets you plan and integrate content for all your social media channels, social listening capabilities, and access to insightful analytics.
While it offers a free plan, Agorapulse’s paid plans start at $79 per month (when billed annually) for Pro, followed by the Premium plan at $159 a month, and Enterprise (price available upon request), which is for companies that want flexibility and full control.
- With add-on features for customization
- Shared calendars for collaboration
- Resources for free social media marketing tools
- Paid Pro plan has no access to team reports and shared calendars
- No Google My Business or Pinterest integration
One of the most well-known social media listening tools, Sprout Social enables teams and organizations to uncover trends and gain insights from social data. Its capabilities, which include listening, publishing, engagement, and analytics features, let you optimize your operations across different areas of your organization.
Sprout Social’s social media management and software solutions can help you make informed brand and business strategies, as well as more strategic decision-making processes. Its core features include audience analysis, consumer research, influencer recognition, campaign analysis, and competitor comparison.
Sprout Social’s Standard plan starts at $89 per user per month and is equipped with tools, such as a social content calendar and an all-in-one social inbox, to help you get started. The Professional plan costs $149 per user per month, while the Advanced plan goes for $249 a month per user when billed annually.
- User-friendly platform with seamless network and business integrations
- Premium solutions, such as premium analytics and employee advocacy, can be added to any plan of your choosing
- No free plan
- Increased costs when adding a new user, as plans are charged on a “per user per month” basis
Hootsuite Insights integrates Iris, an AI analyst, into its platform to give you a social listening tool that translates data from real-time conversations into insights at a faster rate. It’s also capable of helping you measure your risk and opportunities, allowing you to maintain a competitive edge.
This social media listening tool offers solutions that can help simplify consumer research while allowing you to monitor trends in real-time. Hootsuite Insights lets you set alerts that can aid you in protecting your brand reputation and respond quickly to online conversations that cause concern. These alerts instantly notify you when something unusual happens, such as sudden spikes in volume or brand sentiment.
Hootsuite Insights’ paid plans start at $19 per month for the Professional plan. The Team plan for three users costs $99 a month, while the Business plan, which covers five users, goes for $599 per month. An Enterprise plan that covers unlimited users is also available.
- Site coverage includes tracking mentions on forums, blogs, and news sites, not just on social media channels
- Data visualization capabilities
- No free plan for individuals
- Relatively expensive monthly fees; professional plan only covers one user
Find out what type of content works and make it matter with BuzzSumo. This social listening platform has four components: Discovery, Research, Influencers, and Monitoring. The Discovery component helps you find high-performing content, while the Research component analyzes data that you can then use to strengthen your marketing strategy.
BuzzSumo’s Influencers component enables you to identify thought leaders whom you can engage with to bolster your marketing campaign or brand image. Its Monitoring component lets you create alerts for keywords that matter for your business. It also lets you track and respond rapidly to mentions, trends, and updates.
BuzzSumo offers a Free plan with limited access. When billed annually, the Pro plan starts at $79 per month, the Plus plan at $139 a month, and the Large plan at $239 monthly.
- Capable of identifying relevant journalists so you can better prioritize your outreach
- With Chrome extension
- Can get expensive
- Fewer integrations
Keyhole is backed by powerful analytics and a robust set of features. It saves you time by automating reporting and data gathering, giving you access to data you can actually use and understand in just a few minutes. Moreover, Keyhole utilizes an AI-driven sentiment analysis that informs you of how your target audience feels about your brand and your competitors.
It also has hashtag analytics that’s backed by AI, helping you predict your hashtag’s potential for success. Other features you might want to check out include data analysis, influencers dashboard, account trackers, easy reports, social media analytics, and blogs and forums analytics.
Paid plans start at $179 per month for the Professional plan. The Corporate and Enterprise plans cost $539 and $999 per month, respectively.
- Exportable data (Excel)
- Customizable and flexible plans
- Expensive monthly plans
- May have a steep learning curve
One of the best social listening tools, Mention lets you monitor over 1 billion sources in 42 languages across the web to help you find conversations that matter to you in a more global setting.
As a social listening tool, it’s equipped with Smart folders that enable you to organize important posts. It also has robust filtering options, so you can include or exclude content to better sharpen your marketing campaign focus.
Mention has an alert feature that’s powered by Boolean operators, giving you notifications that are flexible and precise. It’s also equipped with a query builder that you can use to easily combine keywords and operators.
While Mention offers a free version, it also has paid plans starting at $29 a month for the Solo plan, and the Pro plan, which costs $99 per month. There’s also the ProPlus plan, which costs $199 per month. It also has a Company plan for teams and agencies.
- Affordable plans
- Easy to set up and navigate
- Limited integrations
- Some searches may be inaccurate if the search function isn’t properly set up
Awario is a great social media listening tool to have if you’re looking to focus on building brand awareness. It tracks keywords by crawling over 13 billion webpages in different languages. It also makes it more convenient for you to drive customer engagement, as it lets you communicate with your audience in-app.
It utilizes Boolean search, which gives you different search modes, so you can optimize every search you do, whether it’s for a keyword or an abbreviation. This feature also lets you specify the language of results, allowing you to track how your brand is doing in an international setting. It’s easy to set up as it is, but you can also customize it to create your ideal query and get more precise data.
It also has Awario Leads for lead generation and social selling. This gives you a real-time glimpse of sales opportunities.
The Starter plan costs $24 per month when billed annually. The Pro and Enterprise plans cost $74 and $249 a month, respectively.
- Capable of generating shareable links
- Can generate white-label reports
- Lacks robust integrations across apps and systems
- May entail a learning curve for new users
Brandwatch is a consumer intelligence platform that lets you search, segment, analyze, and share your insights across your organization. It has add-on apps, such as Consumer Research, BuzzSumo, and Reviews, that enhance its functionality.
Brandwatch is flexible and gives you a UI that you can reconfigure to gain insight. It also lets you upload your own data to spot components, such as spot sentiment and key topics.
Plans are not shown on the website. Contact Brandwatch if you want to learn more about their pricing.
- Exportable data via Brandwatch API or via Excel, PPT, or PDF
- Comprehensive and historical consumer data reach that track 1.4 trillion historical conversations as far back as 2010
- Can be challenging to set up and manipulate
- Lacks publishing tools
Falcon.io is a social media management and customer experience platform that’s now powered by Brandwatch. This social listening tool has a collaborative content calendar that lets you create paid and organic posts for all your social media channels.
This feature makes it easier for you to manage your networks, teams, and workflows. Moreover, Falcon.io lets you merge all your social data with your existing CRM so you can get more insightful results in real time.
Its new Listen software is powered by AI, enabling you to immediately track and respond to any negative comments for better crisis management. Other features include unlimited search queries backed by 48 Boolean operators, sentiment analysis, social inbox integration, and AI smart alerts.
Essentials plan starts at $108 per seat per month. Pricing for the Suite option is available upon request.
- Covers multiple languages for improved search optimization
- Access to insights from across millions of data points and historical data
- Mobile app has only a few features
- Pricey starting plan, especially if you’re looking to add more team members
Buffer is an intuitive social media listening tool that provides you with a centralized dashboard. With this, you can plan and publish content and communicate directly with your audience. It also makes planning and team collaboration easier.
Furthermore, this intuitive dashboard lets you monitor performance and create reports for various social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buffer is also capable of generating white-label reports and exporting these as PDFs.
Buffer offers a free plan that lets you manage up to three channels. Its paid plan starts at $5 per channel per month. If you want to broaden its capabilities, you can opt for an add-on Team pack, which would bring your total to $10 per social channel per month.
- Open source
- A new feature lets you directly design and import images from Canva
- Limited integrations with other social media networks
- Mobile app lacks some of the features that can be found on the web version
Each social listening tool on our list can provide you with data you can use to spot trends. You can use social listening insights to strengthen your marketing campaigns, branding, and product or service offering. By acting on the data generated by these social media listening tools, you’d be able to gain a competitive edge and have the potential to take your business to new heights.
Best Social Listening Tools — FAQs
Are there any free social listening tools?
There are several free social media tools you can use. Some of these tools have paid plans but also offer a free plan for individuals who are just starting social media marketing. These include:
- Google Analytics
- Google News
- Google Trends
What is the best social media monitoring tool?
The answer to this largely depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Depending on your objectives, here are some of the best social listening tools you can check out:
- Hootsuite Insights
- Sprout Social
- Zoho Social
- Google Alert
- Union Metrics