The role of social listening in the COVID-19 conversation

COVID-19 conversation

By Brooke B. Sellas, {grow} Contributing Columnist

There’s no way around it: the COVID-19 conversation is trending.

I find myself engulfed in the coronavirus conversation on Twitter at least 17 times a day. Personally, I’m sick of talking about it. But professionally, I need to have my eye on the ball.

Social listening is a subject I’ve written about before. However, today we’re going to look at listening to leverage real-time updates to equip you with information. This “unseen enemy” means marketing in the moment. Social listening is helping us pivot quickly for ourselves and our clients.

Social Listening Quick Guide

To start, if you’re not up-to-date on social listening, here’s the quick version.

Social listening uses artificial intelligence (AI) as a way to monitor conversations happening on social media and other online forums. Through keyword “listeners”, the machines analyze these conversations and uncover valuable data. And they do it in real-time.

This data can help you stay informed in many areas, including:

  • Your share of voice
  • Identifying trends
  • Analyzing brand sentiment
  • Finding influencers

However, these areas are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more you can do, but we’re not here to chat social listening. Let’s move on to the topic at hand.

Featured Topic: The COVID-19 Conversation

First, this pandemic is an unexpected global crisis that has undoubtedly has impacted every aspect of your life. And during a crisis, access to comprehensive information is critical for decision making.

While it may seem glum to set up a COVID-19 conversation “listener”, it can provide marketers and business leaders with several important benefits.

  1. Receive optimized information, in real-time
  2. The ability to categorize data by themes to identify trends
  3. Filtering data for your specific industry or based on business needs

Second, using social listening around the coronavirus will assist your team in understanding what your customers — and would-be customers — are looking for in the moment. You can also use it to identify how your brand can contribute to the conversation in an authentic and organic way.

Lastly, developing an effective response strategy seems to be top of mind for everyone. Our number one goal should be connecting with our communities and guiding them during these uncertain times. Social listening can help you do that.

Ideas For Navigating The COVID-19 Conversation

Social listening allows for actionable intelligence at your fingertips. Below is a snapshot of the COVID-19 data coming through Sprout Social.

sprout social

[Image: Sprout Social]

For example, here are a few ways we’re using the COVID-19 conversation “listener” to assist with our social strategy.

  1. Gaining an overall perspective. Monitoring conversations happening in real-time across the internet and social media allows data to tell the story.
  2. Utilizing Word Cloud features to understand the most pressing subjects within the larger conversation.
  3. Getting brand-specific; how is the COVID-19 conversation is being talked about in the context of our brand, our industry, or within topics that matter to us?
  4. Paying attention to sentiment. Understanding how our community is feeling about certain subjects within the topic.

This is an emotional time for everyone. The worst thing you can do is keep pumping out tone-deaf content. Social listening helps us pinpoint areas that we know will be deemed valuable to our audience.

Other keywords that are interesting to us are “masks”, “tik tok”, and “animal crossing.” Similarly, you need to think of what words would help you understand the COVID-19 conversation for your own business or brand.

Then, you can slice and dice your data to adapt quickly and create relevant content.

How To Listen In

As you probably know, we use Sprout Social as our social listening tool. Here are a few data points from our report the week of March 16, 2020 – March 22, 2020.

COVID-19 conversation

Interesting data … look at the most engaged age group, 18-24!

COVID-19 conversation

However, there are many other tools — both free and paid — you can use.



Finally, I’d just like to say, don’t feel like you have to be looking at this from a data or analytics point of view. This is my way of dealing with the crisis. It may not jive with how you’re processing things, and that’s okay.

I like to “control” things and this is how I’m doing that with my own business and our clients. Data helps me take the emotion out of this scary topic and address it in a matter-of-fact way. But I wouldn’t dare tell you to do the same.

I will ask nicely, though. Pretty please consider how social listening can help you navigate the COVID-19 conversation.

Stay well, friends.


Brooke B. Sellas is the Founder  & CEO of B Squared Media, an award-winning done-for-you social media management, advertising, and customer care agency. She’s also Mark Schaefer’s Co-host on the top-rated Marketing Companion Podcast. Brooke’s marketing mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on Twitter!


All posts

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast!

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details

Share via