Key Insights from the State of Social Listening Report 2023

Social listening has become a staple for marketing and public relations teams. Need to monitor campaign resonance? Analyze the latest trends? Benchmark your share of voice? Social data has your back. But here’s the million-dollar question – is your brand unleashing social listening’s full potential or just scratching the surface? The 2023 State of Social Listening report suggests more gold to be mined. While social listening excels at marketing measurement, over-reliance on vanity metrics means strategic insights are being missed.

With small but mighty tweaks, brands can evolve social data into a trusted advisor that reveals growth opportunities. This post explores those incremental enhancements that could give your brand a sustained competitive advantage. The future of social listening is unwritten – but those who embrace it now will shape it in their favor.

Key Insights 📈

  • Social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok dominate as the primary data sources for social listening efforts. However, there is growing interest in alternative sources like Reddit for consumer insights. This indicates social listening is still heavily focused on social media conversations. 
  • The top objectives are understanding attitudes and opinions, brand health tracking, and competitive intelligence. This shows social listening is commonly used to support core marketing needs around branding, positioning, and performance measurement.
  • The common use cases are trend detection, brand monitoring, campaign analysis, and competitive benchmarking. This further highlights the marketing measurement focus of many social listening initiatives.
  • Data quality and access remain persistent challenges, especially with desired sources like TikTok, which hinders marketing’s ability to fully understand conversations around their brand and category.
  • Budget limitations are a top concern, especially for agencies supporting social listening. Securing adequate investment will be critical for fully leveraging social data’s potential.
  • Leadership understanding of social listening’s value has slightly declined, indicating more education on ROI may be needed. Clear use cases linked to marketing outcomes can help.
  • Brands are outsourcing more social listening work to agencies, especially for ad hoc projects and dashboard creation. Agencies can become strategic partners to fill analytical gaps.
  • There is heavy reliance on set KPIs and metrics vs. leveraging analytical frameworks. Applying more strategic marketing frameworks could reveal more impactful insights.

Evolving Social Listening to Unlock Deeper Marketing Insights

The recent from The Social Intelligence Lab provides excellent insight into the current maturity of social listening. The report aimed to evaluate how this practice has developed across the industry. 

The survey results show that marketing teams commonly use social listening for measurement purposes. It helps them track brand health, analyze campaign performance, monitor competitors, and identify trends. Social listening has firmly established itself as a helpful marketing data source.

51% spend between US $50-199K and 2.3% of respondents (all enterprise companies) spend US $2.5-5m on social listening technologies

However, the report highlights that there are still challenges like data access and budget constraints. There also seems to be over-reliance on vanity metrics vs. strategic insights. This suggests an opportunity exists to evolve social listening to drive more impactful insights that can inform marketing strategy and planning. 

This post explores how marketers can unlock more excellent value from social data to elevate their understanding of customers and markets. By addressing some of the current limitations, social listening has the potential to become an indispensable strategic resource.

Current Role of Social Listening for Marketing Teams

The State of Social Listening report shows that social media platforms dominate primary data sources of social listening initiatives. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok were the top channels used by respondents. This indicates that much social listening focuses on monitoring branded social media conversations.

The three most mentioned social listening tools in 2023 were Brandwatch, Sprinklr and Talkwalker

In line with this, the primary objectives for social data analysis are understanding attitudes and opinions, brand health tracking, and competitive intelligence. The everyday use cases are detecting trends, brand monitoring, campaign analysis, and competitive benchmarking. 

This all points to social listening being primarily leveraged for marketing measurement activities. It provides valuable feedback on brand perception, campaign resonance, share of voice, and performance vs. competitors. Key strengths are real-time monitoring and quantitative metrics.

However, over-indexing on social media limits perspective. The report showed reliance on set KPIs over applying strategic marketing frameworks. There is also heavy dependence on marketing technology for analysis vs. human interpretation. 

This suggests that social listening fails to generate deeper qualitative insights that can meaningfully inform marketing strategy and planning. There is a missed opportunity to evolve.

Challenges Limiting the Impact of Social Listening 

The 2023 report highlighted several challenges that may be preventing social listening from unlocking more marketing value:

  • Budget constraints were a top concern, especially for agencies supporting social listening initiatives. Securing adequate investment is critical to fully leveraging the potential of social data.
  • Lack of leadership understanding – The report showed a decline in appreciation of social listening’s value. More education on ROI and clear use cases linked to marketing outcomes is needed.
  • Outsourcing analytical tasks – Brands increasingly outsource social listening work to agencies, especially for ad hoc projects and dashboard creation. This misses the opportunity to make agencies more strategic insight partners.
  • Confusion on the role of technology – Many expect technology to automatically surface strategic insights from data, but expert human analysis is still essential. This gap leads to disappointment. 
  • Data quality and access challenges – Desired sources like TikTok remain struggling due to API restrictions. This hinders a complete view of relevant conversations.

Addressing these challenges will be critical for social listening to evolve from a pure measurement function into a strategic marketing resource that can deeply inform planning.

‘Data quality’ and ‘data sources covered’ are the most important features that people look for, but were also the main limitations of their tools

Steps to Unleash Greater Marketing Value from Social Data

Based on the insights from the report, here are some steps marketing leaders can take to drive more strategic value from social listening:

  • Prioritize high-impact business questions – Rather than tracking vanity metrics, focus social listening on questions that will inform critical marketing decisions and strategies. Take a more hypothesis-driven approach. 
  • Apply analytical frameworks – Leverage relevant frameworks from the social sciences like segmentation, customer journey mapping, and jobs-to-be-done. This brings more strategic context.
  • Look beyond social media – Incorporate data sources like forums, search trends, and reviews to understand the broader context around customer conversations. 
  • Make agencies insight partners – Evolve agency relationships to focus on collaborating on strategy and extracting meaning from the data vs. just conducting tactical analysis.
  • Educate leadership on potential – Demonstrate how deeper qualitative insights from social data can identify growth opportunities and influence planning.

With some incremental steps to enhance current approaches, social listening has tremendous potential to become an indispensable strategic resource for marketing leaders. The time is now to unlock greater value from social data.

It’s Time to Evolve Social Listening

As the 2023 State of Social Listening report demonstrated, social listening has firmly established its role in supporting marketing measurement. Monitoring branded social conversations in real-time and extracting performance metrics is invaluable. 

Models and analysis capabilities, and cost were the other top limitations mentioned by respondents about their social listening tools

However, over-reliance on social media data and vanity metrics means there is a missed opportunity to unleash even greater strategic value. With some incremental steps like prioritizing actionable business questions, incorporating new frameworks and data sources, and educating leadership, social listening has the potential to evolve.

The time is now for marketing leaders to tap into the full potential of social data. Taking a more strategic approach, social listening can offer indispensable qualitative insights that deeply inform planning and decision-making. Brands that embrace this evolution will gain a sustained competitive advantage.

The future of social listening is bright if marketed leaders are willing to address current limitations. It can transform from a tactical measurement tool into a trusted strategic advisor with thoughtful enhancements. The promise of social data is too great not to take this next step in its maturity.


What are the primary social media channels used for social listening?

The top platforms were Instagram (51%), Twitter (49%), Facebook (44%), TikTok (31%), and LinkedIn (25%). This shows an over-reliance on major social media sites versus other forums.

What are the primary objectives of social listening?

The top objectives are understanding attitudes and opinions (57%), brand health tracking (55%), and competitive intelligence (40%). This indicates a focus on marketing measurement.

What are the most common use cases and projects?

Trend detection (36%), brand monitoring (24%), campaign analysis (18%), and competitive benchmarking (18%) were most common. This further highlights the marketing measurement focus.

What are the biggest challenges limiting social listening impact?

Data accuracy/quality (44%), budget constraints (41%), and compliance issues (26%) are the top challenges. Lack of leadership understanding of value (35% alignment) is also a barrier.

How much are brands spending on social listening technology?

39% spend over $100K annually, with most spending $50K-$200K. 2% of enterprises spend $2.5-$5M showcasing heavy investment.

How are brands working with agencies for social listening support?

33% of brands spend $100K-$199K on agencies annually. Projects focus on ad-hoc analysis, dashboard creation, and deep consumer insights.

What do practitioners see as the top limitations of their technology tools?

Data access/coverage gaps, analysis capabilities, and integration issues are top tech limitations hindering insight discovery.

How are analytics approaches evolving?

51% take a question-driven approach to data sources. But 47% still use set KPIs versus applying analytical frameworks, showing dependence on metrics.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.