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David Lee King: Introduction to social listening tools

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Image: Introduction to social listening tools

Have you ever listened in on someone else's conversation, and learned something that was useful to you?

Image: David Lee KingDavid Lee King

David Lee King is the Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends.

He speaks internationally about emerging trends, website management, digital experience, and social media, and has been published in many library-related journals. David is a Library Journal Mover and Shaker.

His newest book is Face2Face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections.

David blogs at

Read David's other articles…

Today's social web provides those types of opportunities. Social listening can help improve your library's services to your customers.

What is social listening?

Social listening is simply a way to follow what people say about you online. Businesses use it to monitor discussions about their business, their products, and their brands.

Libraries can do the same thing! As a library, you might want to hear what library customers say about your library. If someone shared a great experience at the library, or while interacting with a library employee, you would want to hear about it. You'd also want to find out about bad experiences at the library, so you could work on improvements.

Set up searches for the name of your library, the word "library" and your city, or narrow to a regional area. You can also set up searches for a library service. In social media channels that use hashtags, you can search using hashtags relating to your library. For example, at my library I might search for the hashtag #topekalibrary.

What tools to use?

The easiest way to "listen" to your online customers is to use a social listening or alerts service.

Image: Who is talking about you?

Here's a list of the better known (and free) social listening tools, and what they offer:

  • Google Alerts – Simply do a search using Google Alerts, and then click the Create Alert button. This lets you set up a saved search. You’ll be alerted when new content appears with that search string, and can receive alerts through email or an RSS feed.

  • Twitter Saved Search – Go here, then click Advanced Search. That gives you options to narrow your Twitter search to a local area. Then save the search. It shows up in your saved searches list, and you can check it regularly for new content.

  • Talkwalker alerts – Talkwalker alerts is similar to Google Alerts. It searches the web for content using keywords that you created, and then sends you alerts when it finds a new mention of that keyword. Talkwalker Alerts sometimes finds content that Google Alerts doesn’t find.

  • Social Mention – Here's how Social Mention describes itself (from their About page): "Social Mention is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web's social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc."

  • BoardReader – One more. BoardReader searches publicly-accessible online discussion groups. You can't really set up saved searches that will send you alerts, but it is a very useful tool for listening to conversations in online boards.

More information on social listening

  1. Free Social Media Listening Tools to Grow Your Business
  2. The Pros and Cons of Social Listening Tools
  3. How Are Businesses Using Social Listening Tools?