In a digital media strategy, social media monitoring and listening (SMML) is the strategic process of tracking the information environment and extracting key insights about your social media performance. The authority for public affairs to use publicly available information is found in DoDD 3115.18.
Monitoring vs. Listening
Social media monitoring is the process of identifying and determining what is being said about a brand, individual or product through different social and online channels. It involves tracking and measuring your command, your commander and your brand mentions, including hashtags. It focuses on individual messages and the mitigation of risk. Monitoring is ongoing, consistent and oftentimes automated. It's used to track what stakeholders and your audience are saying about your organization and relevant issues or crises when they arise.
Social media listening is the process of watching specific social media channels, mentions of your brand, competitors and product to learn more about a specific narrative within the information environment. The goal is to understand the effect of Public Affairs decisions and actions by taking an active and strategic approach to knowing what and where to listen. Listening gives you insight into why people are responding a certain way so you know how to better communicate.
Social media listening is the research and monitoring of narratives within the information environment to understand dynamics that affect PA decisions and actions. By keeping the proverbial "ear to the ground," listening gives you insight into why people are responding a certain way, so you know how to communicate better.
Monitoring and listening are often used synonymously, but there is a distinct difference. Monitoring is about tracking the data that you need to gain insight into your brand, while listening is about analyzing data, verifying or defining your strategy and taking action. Monitoring tells you what is being said, and listening tells you why it is being said. Social media monitoring is reactive, and listening is proactive. The two combined are very powerful tools.
Why Monitor & Listen?
Your overarching social media strategy is guided by the principles of DoDI 5400.17. Effective social media monitoring and listening can help you to:
- Gather valuable feedback on content performance
- Improve digital communication efforts
- Mitigate risks and crisis
- Keep a pulse on the information environment
- Humanize public affairs actions
- Leverage research for planning campaigns
- Move from being reactive to being proactive
- Know the trends
- Get ahead of a story to develop talking points
- Understand what your audience is talking about and ways to reach them
- Find out where people need help or information
There are a variety of tools that can be used to collect and analyze SMML data. Prior to acquiring and implementing a tool, it is critical to establish your SMML process. Most importantly, remember that the tools are just that, tools. A hammer alone won't build your house. There are free and paid options. Some of the more popular options include HootSuite, ZohoSocial, Sprout Social, Meltwater and AgoraPulse. Carefully research the tool before purchasing to ensure it does everything you expect. Check out G2's list of Best Social Media Monitoring Tools.
Applying RPIE to SMML
Research, planning, implementation and evaluation are the core pieces of the communication planning process. It is built into all military planning processes, and SMML is a perfect application of the RPIE process.
Explore each RPIE component to learn how to incorporate SMML into your social media strategy or campaign.