What’s the Difference Between Social Listening, Analytics and Intelligence?

Sunday September 4, 2016 comments Tags: Brandwatch, Social Media, Social Analytics, Social Listening

Guest Post: Brandwatch

Social listening, social analytics and social intelligence. It’s all the same, right?

Well … not quite. We were asked this very question on Twitter, so we thought it worth writing an explanation for all to read.

Firstly, no, technically, the terms don’t mean the same thing. However, they are often used interchangeably to discuss activities related to social media monitoring (that’s what we do!)

Even more confusingly, whilst they are often used to mean the same thing, they are also used differently by different people and companies within the industry.

Here’s an explanation of the differences, and how each term is frequently used.

Social Listening


Let’s start with social listening. Social listening – or more accurately social media listening – is another way of saying social media monitoring. It’s the process of capturing mentions of your brand (or anything, really – brand, topic, competitor, etc) that are found across the internet.

It need not necessarily be social media sites; it also includes tracking blogs, news sites, forums and so on. It is, if you like, the harvesting of online data. Often done with a platform like ours (we create all our own technology and crawl our own data) or even through an API. 

Most people, when using a social media monitoring tool, will talk about social listening as the thing they’re doing with that tool.

Social Media Analytics

social analytics

That leads us nicely to social media analytics. Social media analytics is the process of actually analysing that data, again often with a tool like ours. It might also be called social media analysis.

The analytics part is finding insight from the data – who is saying what, topics of conversation, where it takes place, authors, and so on. That involves tools and features such as author analysis, page type analysis, topic andsentiment analysis etc.

The term is often used to mean social media monitoring, or social listening, as generally you don’t listen or monitor without doing the analytics part, and usually use the same tool for both stages.

Social Intelligence


That leads us to intelligence. Oft used to mean social media analytics, social media intelligence – or sometimes social intelligence (not to be confused with human social intelligence) – means the knowledge or insights gained from analysing social media data.

That could be, say, the knowledge that your customers hate a feature of your product, so that you can then inform your product development team.

Or the knowledge that your target audience really love rap music right now, so that’d be a good thing to capitalise on in your marketing.

They’re the kind of insights that our clients have detailed in these case studies about their use of Brandwatch.

Social media intelligence is ultimately about helping make business decisions based on social media analysis and data. It’s often also called social business intelligence, for this reason.


So, you can see why the terms are often used interchangeably; they’re all related and often involve in the same activity.

Confusing, we know, but it’s because it’s such a young industry and the terminology is still developing and changing as the industry does. Hopefully this makes things a bit clearer.

You can view our webinar with Gleanster, all about social intelligence across your business, below.