Social media listening, also known as social media monitoring, is the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product or brand on the Internet.
Conversations on the Internet produce massive amounts of unstructured data. It's important, therefore, to define what the goals are for a social media listening initiative. Depending on the goal, the right tool might be a series of free Google Alerts or an expensive software suite that includes ad hoc analysis and full integration with legacy customer relationship management (CRM) applications.
Both social media and person-to-person information-gathering have value, but social media listening is quickly becoming an important customer intelligence tool. There are several ways to use social media to gain insight, including monitoring online customer support forums, using software tools to gather comments from social outlets such as Facebook and Twitter and encouraging customers to suggest new product features and vote on their favorites.
In a large enterprise, social media monitoring tools can mine text for specific keywords on social networking websites and blogs and in discussion forums and other social media. Essentially, monitoring software transposes specific words or phrases in unstructured data into numerical values which are linked to structured data in a database so the data can to be analyzed with traditional data mining techniques.