State of Social Listening 2022

Earlier this year, we surveyed 200 social listening professionals across the world to better understand how brands, organizations, and agencies are using social data to support business decision-making. Download the full report to learn about the current state of social listening.

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The State of Social Listening 2022

At the start of 2022, we decided to take a look at the state of social listening. A lot has happened since our last survey three years ago, and we wanted to understand how the use of social listening has changed. We know more organisations are using social data but we wanted to get some hard facts and figures on how they’re using it and the impact it’s having on their business. So, during March and April 2022, we surveyed more than 350 social listening professionals globally including from the US, UK and countries across Europe, Asia, the MENA region and Latin America.

Throughout this report, we’ll be sharing some key social media listening statistics that we’ve extracted from these responses, to give you an overview of the state of social listening in 2022, and help you understand where, as an organisation, you fit within the current landscape. For the latest insights into the state of social listening, check out the 2023 report.

Key Statistics

If you’re just looking for some quick figures, here are five of the most important takeaways from the report. We’ll share some more information and context further down the page, but you can download the full report al the bottom of the page for a complete analysis.

• Over 80% of respondents use more than one social listening tool, and one third spend more than $100k on their social listening stack.

• Despite spending a lot on social listening technology, more than half of respondents always or very often have to manually analyse social data outside of the tool.

• Data access and quality are the biggest challenges social listening practitioners face.

• Social listening practitioners are looking beyond social media for insights. Almost 75% say review sites and forums are important, and around 70% say Reddit is important.

• 36% of respondents stated their organisation has a centralised social listening function, an increase of 14% compared to the 2019 survey.

Social Listening Experience

Many people think of social listening as a new discipline and an innovative way for brands to learn more about their customers. But how old is the social listening industry actually?

If you equate social data with social media specifically, then remember that Facebook – one of the most popular data sources for social listening practitioners – is already 18 years old! However, when you consider the full variety of social data sources – blogs, forums, review sites – then the practice of social listening is older. This type of data has been used to understand consumer behaviour for much longer. And, when you consider the social listening technology that people are using, some of the major generalist social listening tools, such as Brandwatch and Talkwalker, have been around for almost 15 years. This shows there has been an interest in, and a need for, social data analysis for well over a decade.

As part of the State of Social Listening survey, we asked respondents about their social media listening experience. We wanted to learn how long people have been working with social data, to get a better understanding of the maturity of the industry. Interestingly, 24% of respondents – the largest group – stated they have more than ten years of experience with social listening, and 65% say they have more than five years of experience. These statistics show that the social listening industry is more established than many people think.

Investing into Social Listening Tools and Technologies

As social listening is adopted by more and more companies, investment into social media listening tools, technologies and skills to support it also increases. But exactly how much do businesses spend on social media listening? Let’s take a look at some of the figures.

During the State of Social Listening survey, we asked respondents how many tools they use, and how much they currently spend on social data tools. A whopping 33.5% of respondents – the biggest group – told us they spend more than $100K on their social listening technology stack. The percentage of respondents spending this amount of money has increased 10% since the last survey in 2019. And when we look at respondents from enterprise companies specifically (those with 1000+ employees), 57% are spending this amount.  

The majority of respondents (55%) also told us they use two or three different tools. Less than 20% only use one tool for all their social intelligence requirements. This suggests that there are very few technologies that can meet the needs of users completely. As a result, we are seeing a shift away from purely generalist tools, towards more niche and specialist ones.

Despite this investment into social media listening tools, respondents highlight their limitations around the number of data sources covered, and the quality and relevancy of the data they can access – two of the most important features for social listening practitioners. When it comes to future investment though, we see that, even though social listening tools don’t always live up to users’ expectations, 37% are planning to invest in new social data analysis technologies in the next year, with less than half intending to change providers. Interestingly, 26.5% of respondents are considering developing their own in-house social listening technology, an increase of more than 20% since 2019. This suggests that a growing number of organsiations doing social intelligence are struggling to find the right tools to meet their needs.

In addition to spending on social listening technology, organisations are also investing in people and processes. It’s one thing to have the technology to help you access the data, but it requires skilled professionals to be able to accurately extract insights from it. This is reflected in the fact that 57% of respondents are planning to invest in staff training and development as well as bringing in more in-house staff. Whilst a lower percentage plan to invest in in-house staff than in 2019, this could indicate that the investment has already been made.

This is also backed up by the fact that 36% are planning to invest in developing a centralised social listening function or centre of excellence – a sign of a more mature organisation when it comes to social listening. This is more than double the percentage of respondents considering this in 2019, suggesting the social intelligence maturity level of organisations is increasing.

Overall, the areas in which organisations are investing is a positive indicator that the value social data analysis brings to a business is starting to be recognised.

Most Used Social Intelligence Tools

The social listening technology industry has grown rapidly over the last decade, with the number of social media listening tools ever increasing. In recent years, the market has seen a shift away from new generalist social listening tools, towards more niche products that offer solutions to specific challenges like cultural insights, brand tone of voice or reputation management. This highlights a move from descriptive to predictive and prescriptive social intelligence.

As part of the State of Social Listening survey, we asked respondents which social data analysis tools they use on a regular basis. The top three mentioned were Sprinklr (47%), Brandwatch (39%) and Talkwalker (16%). Based on earlier statistics from the report around the number of tools respondents use, we know that the majority use more than one tool, and this was reflected in the answers to this question where multiple tools were listed.

Whilst Sprinklr was the most mentioned tool, it was also more often mentioned as being used in conjunction with other tools. This seems to reflect anecdotal evidence that whilst enterprise companies are looking for all-in-one solutions they often find the social listening element of such “social suites” are not powerful enough for their needs and purchase additional solutions to fill the gaps.

Which Social Media Platforms are Most Important to Social Listening Professionals?

As earlier statistics from the report show, one of the most important features that social listening professionals look for in a tool is the number of data sources covered. When we dig deeper into the sources being used by practitioners, we see that the mainstream social media platforms – Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – still rule as the most important data sources for organisations. However, it is unclear whether this is because they actually provide the most valuable insights or whether it is simply that this data is most easily accessed via social listening tools.

It is noticeable, however, that since the last survey in 2019 the importance of more niche social data sources has grown. For example, almost 70% of respondents referenced Reddit as an important data source, compared to less than 50% in 2019, and references to Quora have increased by around 10%. New sources – such as Tik Tok –  that had no real presence in 2019, are now ranking as some of the most important sources.

In addition, data sources that aren’t social media platforms have also grown in importance since the last survey. Forums and review sites, as well as search data (for example, from Google) are among the most important sources or data for practitioners, with around 70% referencing them.

This increasing diversity in the types of data sources that are being analysed suggests that the practice of social listening is moving away from purely brand monitoring on social media towards more strategic use cases that involve understanding consumer behaviour.

Challenges Facing Social Listening Teams

Whilst the use of social listening has grown and advanced, and organisations are investing more in people and technology, social media listening challenges still remain. When we look at the survey reponses, the challenges differ slightly between those working in brands, and those working at agencies. For example, data accuracy and quality appears to be more of an issue for agencies (31% vs 19% of brands), whereas lack of an organisational wide vision for social listening is more challenging for brands (29% vs 18% for agencies).

Where both groups really struggle though, is around budgets. Even though there appears to be more investment in social listening, teams are still struggling to get the financial support to do their jobs effectively. This is perhaps linked to the fact that social listening professionals still don’t feel they have complete buy-in across the organisation or from leadership. When asked whether colleagues outside of their team understood what they did, 71% of brands and 56% of agencies believe they only partially do.

When it comes to leadership buy-in, less than 50% believe their organisation’s leaders fully understand and support their work. However, this is a significant improvement on the 2019 survey results where almost 80% reported they struggled to get buy-in. And despite their struggles, reponsdents in 2022 are generally optimistic about reaching the next level of buy-in for their social listening programme.

More Social Listening Statistics in the Full Report

If you want to learn more about some of the insights shared here, and to see the result of the State of Social Listening survey in full, you can download the complete report. You can also access more insights not covered here, including:

  • The different use cases for social listening across agencies and brands
  • Whether companies are developing methodologies and processes for social listening
  • How the pandemic impacted social listening
  • Job roles of the professionals analysing data
  • The size of in-house and agency social listening teams
  • How brands and agencies are outsourcing their social listening projects
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