What’s the Difference Between Social Listening and Social Audience Insights?

Jun 21, 2023 | Audience Intelligence, B2C

When you think about where your target audience frequents most—odds are, social media comes top of mind. Social media usage is astounding. With 4.8 billion active users and an average 2.5 hours of usage a day, it’s an infinite source for audience insights that continues to grow exponentially as new channels are introduced.

Most marketers would agree that social listening is an integral part of their strategy. But what many don’t realize is that social listening alone is limited and provides a superficial snapshot of your audience. What you’re really looking for is social audience insights.

In this blog, we’ll explore:

Social listening vs. social audience insights
How and where to gain access to social audience insights
Social listening vs. social audience insights: What a social audience insights platform can do that a social listening platform can’t
Social listening + social audience insights: Capabilities when you combine both platforms
The key components of a world-class social audience insights platform

Social Listening vs. Social Audience Insights

What’s the difference between social listening versus social audience insights? Let’s take a look at their definitions:

  • Social Listening: A curation of topics and trends that the public is actively engaging with on social media.
  • Social Audience Insights: A holistic view of audience behavior—including self-declared interests, beliefs, and sentiments—across the social platforms they frequent.

Put simply—social listening is simply monitoring audience engagement across social media while social audience insights deliver a true understanding of who they are.

We’re not here to say that social listening isn’t worthwhile. It certainly is. Staying up on the latest trends and how consumers interact with your brand and your competitors is essential to creating engaging content that resonates with your audience. But it’s also important to recognize that simply monitoring social engagement does not equate to knowing who your audience is.

How and where to gain access to social audience insights

Screenshot of a Silhouette Audience Report

To unlock social audience insights, you need access to a social audience insights platform like Silhouette™. From there, you will have actionable insights needed to inform data-driven decisions and create 1:1 marketing experiences consumers expect. Here’s how it works:

1. Gain a holistic view of your audience members across the social channels they engage on

Silhouette’s easy-to-use UI lets you create custom audiences and pull key insights from across major social channels including:

  • TikTok
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Twitch
  • Reddit

Using Silhouette’s patented technology, you can accurately identify who your audience members are, and stitch together key insights about them across the social channels they engage on.

2. Understand what matters to them (and what doesn’t)

Once you have a holistic view of your audience members, you can start to understand who they are, and what matters to them most. The best part? You can even gain a comprehensive understanding of any competitor, brand, influencer or social audience.

3. Start building game-changing relationships with your audience

Once you understand who your audience is and what matters to them most, taking action that drives engagement and conversion is the easy part. In the next section, we’ll break down how you can take action with these deep consumer insights.

Social listening vs. social audience insights: What a social audience insights platform can do that a social listening platform can’t

Screenshot of Silhouette’s Audience Builder

Social audience insights pick up where social listening leaves off and gives marketers a complete download on any consumer audience that informs decisions, and provides actionable next steps.

Whenever consumers engage on social, they leave behind valuable behavioral information that helps you to define who they are and what motivates them. A powerful social audience insights platform will help you stitch together these interactions so that you can:

  • Conduct consumer-based research: Analyze your customer base to identify and compare niche audience segments, or create new consumer audiences within Silhouette for valuable insights that will guide future go-to-market activities.
  • Gain holistic customer data: Gain a 360-degree view of current customers by enriching first or third-party datasets with self-declared audience data.
  • Develop highly accurate buy personas: Remove assumptions and sole reliance on purchase data in your persona development by understanding a customer’s self-declared interests, passions, and more.
  • Run a competitor analysis: Understand key insights about your competitors’ audiences so that you can identify new marketing opportunities and create highly targeted campaigns.
  • Expand survey & panel insights: Enrich existing panel data to take a more data-driven approach to audience profiling and survey targeting.
  • Discover and validate influencers: Uncover influencers without relying solely on vanity metrics and start with an audience-first approach to find the influencers who will have the most impact across your audience.
  • Deploy unparalleled brand impact studies: Finally identify those exposed to your social and influencer campaigns to run advanced sales attribution and brand lift studies.
  • Take action on earned, social and influencer audiences: Reach and retarget any custom audience including earned, social, and influencer audiences by seamlessly building, analyzing, and activating relevant segments across the digital ecosystem.

Social listening + social audience insights: Capabilities when you combine both platforms

While both platforms have incredible capabilities on their own, they can be integrated, enabling even more insights across audiences engaging on social. When combined, you gain the ability to create social panels, allowing you to:

  1. Build a custom audience in a social audience insight platform (like Silhouette) that you can then export to your preferred listening tool for monitoring.
  2. Import Twitter IDs into a social audience insight platform for deeper audience analysis.

If you’re looking to learn more about social panels and capabilities, check out this blog post.

The key components of a world-class social audience insights platform

Social audience insights are a game changer for marketers, but only if you have the right platform. If you’re looking to add one to your tech stack, here are some key features to look for:

  • Multi-channel insights: Too many platforms only pull from Twitter or leverage modeled data or AI. But we know many individuals engage across several platforms so if you’re not capturing that behavior you’ll have major gaps in your audience data. Silhouette is the only platform on the market that can capture insights across major social channels (TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).
  • Identity Graph: Being able to map social engagement to a specific customer or audience is a must if you want holistic actionable data. Silhouette’s patented Identity Graph can map billions of social accounts to millions of verified individuals and offline identities.
  • Sophisticated measurement tools: Obtaining audience insights is step 1, but making them actionable is step 2. Make sure your audience insights platform allows you to take action like building segmented audiences, running analyses, and connecting your first-party data with third-party sources to attribute value to your campaigns and measure brand impact. Something Silhouette allows.
  • Fully-compliant & respectful of consumers data: Respecting consumer privacy and being fully compliant with the latest data regulations is essential. StatSocial’s data is built without a reliance on cookies or device IDs, providing marketers with confidence that they are prepared for today’s constantly evolving privacy laws and regulations.

Final thoughts: There’s social listening and then there’s hearing

If social listening is the Queen, then social audience insights are the Ace. Social listening grants you an aerial view of trending topics, while social audience insights gives you ground-level access to your audience interests and motivations.

Want to see how Silhouette works? Check out this video:

This blog was originally published in August of 2021 but has been updated with the latest information in June of 2023.


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