Social Media Monitoring & Listening

Article 4 min
Review social media monitoring and listening and how it fits into the RPIE process.

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 as well as the performance of allies and adversaries.

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, commander, brand mentions and 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.

Monitoring and listening are often used synonymously but there is a distinct difference. Monitoring is about tracking the data 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 while listening tells you why it is being said. Social media monitoring is reactive while listening is proactive. The two combined are very powerful tools.

Why Monitor & Listen?

Effective social media monitoring and listening programs can help you to:

  • Gather valuable feedback
  • 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

SMML Tools

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 the tools are just that: tools. A hammer won't build your house. You have to build your house but you do so using the hammer. There are free and pay options. Carefully research the tools before purchasing to ensure it does everything you expect. You can start with this list of possible tools.

SMML & The RPIE Process

Research, planning, implementation and evaluation (RPIE) 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 familiarize yourself with how SMML fits in.

Click a target to reveal more in-depth information.

Social Media Monitoring & Listening with R.P.I.E.

Diagram of each of the following steps in a cycle
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1. Research

Provide the data and analysis for future steps. Use platform analytics and the SMML tools available to you.

Explore questions such as:

  • What are people talking about?
  • What’s trending?
  • What do you find when you audit a hashtag? Did it further your reach? Who else is using the hashtag?
  • What are the primary and secondary keywords?
  • Are key stakeholders present?
  • Are there any influencers that can be leveraged?
  • Who is talking about your brand?
  • Where is your brand being mentioned?
  • How are people talking about your brand?
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2. Planning

Make decisions about what you'll post and how you'll reach your audience.


  • Identify target audiences
    • Who does this problem or opportunity effect?
    • Where is the target audience in the information environment?
    • Which conversations should you engage with to reach the target audience?
    • What hashtags should be used to reach the target audience?
  • Craft post
    • What did your SMML tell you in the Research stage?
    • What, when, how will we communicate?
    • Where are messages coming from?
    • What trends should you worry about?
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3. Implementation

Continue the process of monitoring and listening as you send your posts out. Social media provides instantaneous and ongoing data for reach, response, and relevance. You have to be able to keep up.


  • How are messages resonating with the audience?
  • What is trending?
  • What is working?
  • What hashtags penetrate? Which gets abandoned?
  • What is the real-time discourse?
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4. Evaluation

Decide prior to posting when you'll evaluate. When it's time, assess the progress and results of the campaign and process by asking:

  • How did the messages resonate?
  • Did the discourse cause changes in attitude, actions, behaviors?
  • How can this support a holistic assessment with SMML?
  • How do you compare to the competition?

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