Survey Finds Broad Use of Social Listening

With social media channels moving inexorably toward the center of marketing communications, “social listening” is increasingly important for those trying to monetize their social media efforts. And a new survey conducted by PR News and Business Wire suggests PR managers and directors are making significant strides in the area of social listening. But they still have a few miles to go before they can start to reap the full benefits of the practice. About two-thirds of marketing and advertising executives said they collect metrics and analytics for their social programs, according to the survey. And about 14 percent of the respondents said they do not monitor such programs. Nineteen percent said they do not yet track their social channels.

Despite a lack of social media monitoring among nearly a third of the survey respondents, 73% of them said they have seen an increase in the need/use for such monitoring at their company in the past 12 months (while 12 percent of the respondents said they have not seen a need and 14 percent said they have “not yet” seen a need for such practices).

The survey, which was fielded in October, produced nearly 300 responses. Respondents included C-level executives, PR and IR managers and communications pros from both the corporate and agency sides of the business.

The survey, titled “How are PR Pros Using Social Listening for Their Organizations,” found a mixed bag regarding whether social media accurately reflects the value of PR work. Nearly half of the respondents said it did “somewhat,” while 17 percent of the respondents said it did illustrate their value as PR practitioners. A notably large number, 22 percent, said social media did not accurately illustrate PR’s value.

“If PR pros and marketers don’t think [social media measurement] demonstrates their value, they can’t impress the C-suite,” said Sandra Fathi, president and founder of Affect, a public relations and social media agency. “They’re either measuring the wrong things, or not getting all of the insights they need to prove the value of their work.”

She added: “If you want more budget, more headcount and to increase the effectiveness of social media, you have to show how it supports your business. You have to make a business case for the expense and how social media data supports the company’s overall goals” and KPIs.

Perhaps part of the problem is that PR pros need to make a more convincing case tying social media to financial objectives. On a scale of 1-10—with 10 being the highest—just 19 percent of the respondents cited the number 10 on the scale, in terms of how important social listening is to the company.

Nearly 30 percent of the respondents chose numbers 1 to 5 on the scale and about 10 percent chose number 9. Communicators need to do a better job of “educating upper management not only on what the social media data is, but how important it is for internal purposes,” said Serena Ehrlich, director of social media at Business Wire. “When PR pros don’t take that step they’re missing all the actionable opportunities.”

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Serena Ehrlich,; Sandra Fathi,

This article originally appeared in the November 17, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.