Welcome to the State of Social Listening 2023
During April and May 2023, we surveyed more than 200 social listening professionals from around the world, including from the US, the UK, Europe, India, Asia and Latin America. We wanted to understand how the practice of social listening has changed since our last survey because, whilst it has been just a little over 12 months since the last report was released, the industry has seen some significant changes: the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk, the rise of generative AI and increasing financial pressures resulting from the current economic climate. As such, we wanted to understand the impact these factors have had on how social listening professionals work with social data. We also wanted to learn more about how the practice itself has matured. Last year we saw that there was inconsistency in the way professionals were approaching social data analysis and interpretation and so, this year we asked some more probing questions to ascertain the varying maturity levels of practitioners.
Throughout the report, we share the latest social listening statistics and insights gathered from the survey responses. We’ve highlighted the key facts and figures from the survey throughout this page, but for the complete analysis make sure you download the full report. We hope this will give you a clearer understanding of the state of social listening globally and how you and your organisation fit within the global practice.
Key Statistics from the State of Social Listening
Throughout this page you’ll find more information and context about this year’s State of Social Listening, and you can download the full report at the end. But, if you’re just looking for some top-line figures, here are five key statistics from study:
- The five most important social data sources for practitioners in 2023 are Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn.
- 51% of respondents state they select the appropriate data sources depending on the question or problem they’re answering or solving for.
- The majority of respondents use social data for marketing-focused use cases: 36% mainly work on projects around detecting trends and 25% are focused on brand monitoring and tracking.
- Almost 25% of respondents plan to invest in dedicated agency support.
- Just 35% of respondents believe their leadership fully understand and support what they do compared to 44.5% in 2022.
How Much Experience Do Social Listening Professionals Have?
The social listening experience of the respondents to the 2023 survey is once again varied, with the highest proportion having worked in the industry for three or four years. This year, 61% of respondents have worked in social listening for five years or more, which is lower than in 2022 when 65% stated they had at least five years’ experience. This suggests that there continues to be new talent entering the sector as the practice continues to develop. Like last year, though, 24% of respondents have worked in the industry for ten years or more. Statistics from this year’s report also show that just under half (43%) of respondents hold Senior Manager, Director or C-Suite job titles.
While people still question how old the social listening industry is, we need to remember that the analysis of data gathered from the internet – not just from social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter – has been used to better understand consumer behaviour for decades now. This is how we at the SI Lab define social data: any type of internet data that reflects human interaction online. And despite the fact that this year’s survey revealed the most important data sources for social listening practitioners to be the mainstream social media platforms, the use of forums (including Reddit) and review sites still remain in the top ten. This suggests that whilst the majority of respondents are using social data for marketing-related use cases, there is still interest in understanding the broader context of the conversations happening online.
Investing into Social Listening Tools and Technologies
Once again in 2023, social listening technology proves to be an important part of the social listening practitioner’s toolkit and investment into social media listening tools has continued to increase, with 39% of respondents spending more than $100K compared to 33% in 2022. This year we wanted to answer the question ‘how much do businesses spend on social media listening’, particularly at this top end. That’s why we decided to provide more options beyond $100K, to get a clearer breakdown. And figures show that 15% of the social intelligence professionals surveyed spend $100-199K on social listening technology – the third most common response. When we look at enterprise companies in isolation (those with 1000+ employees), the proportion increases – 16% spend $100-199K. In fact, enterprise respondents are the only group to spend more than $500k on technology, with 18% spending between $500K and $5M.
Like last year, the majority of social intelligence professionals (71%) hold licenses for three or fewer social listening tools. Just 16% use one tool, again indicating that there are very few technologies that are able to cover all the users’ needs completely. On the other end of the scale, only three respondents (1.7%) use more than ten social listening tools. This reflects one of the limitations highlighted later in the survey – the lack of integration between different technologies. It is clear, therefore, that the more social listening tools an organisation uses, the more complicated it becomes to analyse data across them all.
With regards to limitations of social media listening tools, many of this year’s respondents again mentioned the quality of data and the variety of the data sources covered, despite once again being listed as the two most important features for practitioners when choosing a social listening tool. It is worth noting, however, that many reference the lack of LinkedIn and TikTok data speficially, which is due to API restrictions from the social media platforms themselves. Whilst some respondents acknowledged this, it still shows that many aren’t fully aware that these data restrictions are beyond the technology providers’ control. Other technology limitations include models and analysis capabilities, cost limitations, audience analysis capabilities and geographic and language capabilities beyond English. Getting meaningful insight from the tools was also referenced several times, raising the question of where the role of the technology ends and that of the professional begins.
When it comes to future investment, again the highest percentage (46%) of respondents plan to focus on new data analysis technology. Interestingly, 24% plan to invest in dedicated agency support, pushing it into the top five in 2023. If we look at where enterprise organisations specifically are planning to invest in the future, the top area is staff training and development. This suggests that whilst technology remains key for doing social listening, there seems to be an understanding that having the right people and skills to use it is also important. And 24.2% of enterprise companies plan not to increase spending at all compared to 17.8% of all respondents.
Overall, there has only been a slight change in how respondents are investing and using social listening technology. Their expectations of what these tools should do and the frustrations of their limitations are also not that dissimilar to those in 2022. What is particularly emphasised this year, however, is the lack of clarity around the role technology should play in extracting insights from social data.
The Most Used Tools By Social Intelligence Professionals
The social listening technology sector continues to expand with more vendors developing tools to tackle specific aspects and challenges of social intelligence. As a result a wide variety of technology providers was mentioned in this year’s survey. The specialisation of many of these technologies, and the targeting of niche applications could explain why many organisations purchase licenses to multiple social media listening tools. This perhaps reflects a maturing social intelligence industry with increasingly specific and complex use cases that is looking to technology to help.
The most mentioned tool that respondents regularly used in 2023 was Brandwatch (mentioned by 23% of respondents) followed by Sprinklr (18%), Talkwalker (16%) and Meltwater (11%). This is a slight change on the 2022 results, when Sprinklr was reported as the most used. However, when we look at statistics around which tool was mentioned most by respondents who only use one social listening tool, Sprinklr came out on top (25%) followed by Talkwalker (21.4%) then Brandwatch and Synthesio (17.9% each).
In general, the percentage of respondents who mentioned these technology providers is lower than last year, which perhaps reflects the much wider range of choice when it comes to social listening tools.
Which Social Media Platforms are Social Intelligence Professional Taking Data From?
Statistics from this year’s survey show that the variety of social data sources is one of the most important features that social listening professionals look for. When we asked respondents in 2023 which are the most important social data sources for their organisation’s social listening efforts the top five are Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and LinkedIn. This shows a return to a focus on mainstream social media platforms as a key source of insight, compared to last year where there was more variety.
It is unclear whether this shift is linked to the fact that the most common use cases for social data this year seem to be more marketing-focused. Data from social media platforms can help provide metrics for marketing related activities, such as campaign measurement, crisis management and brand monitoring. The shift could also be related to the fact that there is still a misunderstanding around the definition of social data, with many people still associating it specifically with social media platforms. This is supported by the fact that search data was listed as a less important social data source, but was considered the most important alternative data source.
The statistics change slightly when we look at different audience groups. For example, for enterprise organisations, Reddit is considered a more important social data source than LinkedIn. Breaking respondents into groups based on their discipline, social listening and research and insights professionals also include Reddit and forums in their top five. This suggests there is more work being done to understand the broader context of online conversations beyond simply tracking what’s happening on social media.
The Challenges Facing Social Listening Teams
When we asked social listening professionals in this year’s survey what their biggest social media listening challenges are, the top three related to data accuracy and quality, budget, and compliance. This is unsurprising given the frequent references to data quality when discussing the requirements and limitations of social listening technology. Budget is also unsurprising, given the current economic climate and that this was also a key challenge for social listening professionals in 2022. The fact that compliance makes it into the top three this year, however, is interesting given its much lower ranking last year.
When we break responses to this year’s survey down to look at those working in agencies versus those working in-house, we see the challenges are slightly different. For agencies, the main challenges are around budgets, and there are more concerns around integration with other data sources than compliance issues. For social intelligence professionals on in-house teams, however, data accuracy and quality is the biggest challenge, followed by compliance issues then budget.
Perhaps more concerningly, both groups list a lack of organisational wide vision for social listening within their top five challenges. This suggests that there is still some way to go before the practice of social intelligence is fully integrated into businesses as an important, strategic function.
Download the Full Report for More Social Listening Statistics
We’ve already shared some of the key insight from the State of Social Listening 2023, but you can download the full report to get deeper analysis of the data we’ve shared here and to discover further insight including:
- The different approaches to social data analysis that are emerging.
- How the maturity levels around the practice of social intelligence vary across the industry.
- Top use cases for social data and the most common social intelligence projects.
- How professionals are choosing the data sources for their social listening projects, and the metrics or frameworks they use to analyse this data.
- The ways that in-house social listening teams are working with external agencies.
- What the current level of leadership buy-in for social listening is across the industry.