Outside of the day-to-day responses to posts and messages, how often do you take a step back and look at the big picture of your strategy? Listening on Facebook is a step up from monitoring and taking action. It’s used by companies around the world to understand their customers better and inform their next marketing step.

When you pair both monitoring and listening tools, you find trends that you might not have noticed before. Each network is different, though, so your listening strategy should be customized per network.

What is Facebook listening?

Facebook listening is taking all of the information you’re given on Facebook, like comments, recommendations and private messages, and identifying trends in them. It’s an active analysis of your passively collected data. Listening gives you a better perspective on how customers feel about you (brand perception) or shapes your next marketing campaign.

Facebook listening is not seeing a private message come in and responding to it. It’s noticing that three private messages from three different people about the same topic arrived. And then informing the best department about it. Think of it as a high-level view of everything. You rule out your anomalies, take the most common issues and address them.

Facebook monitoring vs listening

Facebook monitoring is similar to general social monitoring but with more restraints. Due to privacy concerns and API limitations, Facebook limits the kind of information it provides to third-party applications. On Twitter, you’re able to conduct and save search parameters. But on Facebook, you can’t do that as easily. Private and closed Groups, private messages and billions of posts a day mean that there’s no direct way to compile all of the search results.

So what do you monitor instead? As a brand, you can take a look at your own Messenger activity, public posts, comments and related industry Groups. If there’s a specific press release, you can check on how well it’s performing with a service like Buzzsumo’s Content Analyzer.

At this point, you’ll want to understand your own goals and how they play into your approach to Facebook monitoring. If you use Facebook primarily as a customer service portal and your customers do the same, then it would be a good idea to focus your monitoring efforts around customer comments, service issues and complaints. If you have that goal but your customers aren’t there yet, then you’ll still need to look at your other service channels for a more comprehensive view of what people are saying.

example of listening for recurring keywords in FB messages

A second example is if you use Facebook’s recommendations feature to gather reviews. After you release a new product, you might receive several reviews commenting on how sturdy the new material is. Monitoring would be seeing the reviews and maybe responding to each review and thanking them. Listening would be noticing the overall trend around the word “sturdy,” making sure future products also incorporate the material and then using the word in a marketing campaign.

While monitoring is frequently reactive, Facebook listening lets you take data and proactively apply it to improving as a company.

Implementing a Facebook listening strategy

Starting a Facebook listening strategy includes the same first steps as any network. You begin with setting up your tools and understanding your goals. Why are you using a listening strategy in the first place? What do you hope to learn? If you’re brand new to this, we recommend setting up monitoring as a first step and then seeing what kind of information you gather.

Sprout inbox filtered for Facebook posts

Within Sprout’s Smart Inbox, you’re already able to see a variety of message types from Comments to Reviews. As you monitor these messages and respond to them, add a Message Tag to be used for listening. Later on, you’ll be able to generate a report based on these tags to see if any trends stand out.

Sprout inbox with tagging feature

What does this look like in practice? Sprout previously utilized the tagging feature to inform which feature needed the highest priority. Outbound messages can also be tagged so you receive a full-circle view of a product launch campaign. When Sprout was looking for which feature to develop more, it looked at the message volume for LinkedIn analytics. The number of requests for this was significant enough to make it a priority.

Sprout tag report

The generated Tag Report gives you an idea of what customers are discussing. Because these tags can be used across networks, it’ll give you a bigger view on the topic you’re looking into. A high volume around a tag “request blue color” for example, would inform a product decision for the next color.

example of facebook search as a monitoring tool

Native search in Facebook offers you the top posts for your terms. It should not be the only search that you use. Instead, it should be a part of the listening arsenal. For example, searching for your brand, industry related terms and competitors is a good use of the search function. You can narrow these results down to those that you follow, any Group, any location and any date.

pages to watch feature in Facebook analytics

Finally, to set up a monitoring strategy on Facebook to track your competitors, navigate to Insights, then Overview and then Pages to Watch. Here, you track Pages in your industry or of your competition to see how their weekly posts are performing. Watching these trends could help you think of new ways to reach your own customers.

After you set up your monitoring, schedule time in your calendar to review all of the data. It can be done at your monthly or quarterly reports review. Unless you’re analyzing a short campaign, a daily or even weekly review may not provide enough information to analyze.

Sprout sent message performance

Each report will give you different analyses on your strategy. For example, the Sent Messages report will surface which posts performed the best. Review the similarities between your top posts and you can then make adjustments to continue the content approach that your audience liked best.

In a campaign report, you’ll tag your sent messages to see how well the message is resonating with audiences. During your analysis, you’ll see what’s been working and tweak future messages and campaigns.

Examples of Facebook social listening

Let’s take a look at how other companies are using social listening for Facebook. With the below examples, you’ll hopefully take away some actionable ideas for your own company. Each brand uses social listening differently. Some may use it to inform a product feature while others might also use it for customer sentiment. Social listening isn’t an either/or scenario.



In the retail sector, Samsung looks at their competitors to see what their most common complaints are. In its launch of the new Galaxy S9, the company posted a series of videos highlighting the differences between the Galaxy and the Apple iPhone X. The videos are sarcastic and funny, with each one focusing on one feature that Apple customers often complain about. The style is much like a comedy skit and short for maximum impact. In this example, Samsung used listening on their competitors to inform their campaign strategy by tracking down commonly voiced complaints about the competitor product. Click here to learn how to leverage competitive product analysis.

Burt’s Bees

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Posted by Burt's Bees on Thursday, January 10, 2019

Noticing trends in your own industry and developing products to go with them is a natural part of a company’s growth model. Burt’s Bees saw face masks on the rise and developed their own version that fits their brand. Product research was conducted through social listening of competitors and internal analyses of what customers wanted out of them. The result was a set of new face masks responding to the problem areas that customers most wanted to fix.


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Posted by JELL-O on Friday, June 22, 2018

This super easy, NO-BAKE treat is made with COOL WHIP Mix-Ins with OREO® Cookies. Creamy, crunchy, sweet -this lush cake has it all!Find the recipe here: https://lifewiththecrustcutoff.com/cookies-cream-lush/

Posted by COOL WHIP on Friday, April 27, 2018

Cool Whip and Jell-O are both owned by Kraft. But they serve slightly different audiences. While campaigns for both are targeted to adults or those with buying power, Jell-O is more fun for kids. Kraft used social listening to understand what each of these brand’s customers want and target their products accordingly. Even the content for each is different. In the first example, Jell-O’s all about playing with the food and giving parents play ideas. In the second example, Cool Whip is oriented to those who host parties and need an easy recipe to execute.


Using Facebook listening as part of your social listening strategy gives you a leg up against competitors. Not only does it improve your own marketing strategy but it also helps develop your other departments. On Facebook, customers aren’t afraid to tell you what they like or don’t like about your products. And when a competitor is failing in one area, social listening will help you step in and fill the gap faster.

Remember, Facebook is just one piece of the puzzle for social listening. While the network does have the most widespread audience, your other social channels need to also be incorporated. One customer may be more vocal on Twitter than on Facebook. Ignoring the other channels will only limit your view of the data that you need.

We’d love to know how you use Facebook listening to inform your strategy. Tweet us @SproutSocial.