What’s the difference between social listening and crowdsourcing?

2 minute read
What’s the difference between social listening and crowdsourcing?

It’s easy to confuse social listening and crowdsourcing in your social media strategy, but there are key differences you should know.

These tactics overall can help inform not only what you do on social media but also what you might do as a brand in general.

Both are about listening to your customers, your broader audience and others.

Social listening

Social listening is not only about monitoring what is being said about a business, brand, person or topic on social media. It’s also about acting on it. This can involve engaging with commenters or even adjusting brand strategy.

Think of it like a three-step process:

  • Monitoring for relevant conversations.
  • Analyzing what you find to decide how to act on it.
  • Act on it.

When tracking, you’re looking at and for: 

  • Brand mentions
  • Relevant hashtags
  • Competitor mentions
  • Larger industry trends

And this should be done across social media platforms. There may be one or two platforms you find are more fruitful, but never underestimate a platform that you might not be as familiar with (such as Reddit). They all matter.

Done right, you can:

  • Engage more with customers
  • Manage (and potentially get ahead of) a crisis
  • Discover your customers’ (and potential customers’) pain points
  • Increase leads for sales
  • Track your competitors
  • Identify relevant influencers you could work with

Some tools that can help you best conduct social listening include such tools as Hootsuite, Awario, Mention and many more. 


Crowdsourcing is about tapping into your online community for new ideas, suggestions and more.

The crowd aspect of crowdsourcing (your online community) is not typically connected to your company or brand.

Compiling user-generated content, like asking for photos using a hashtag, is an example. You also could post a poll soliciting opinions.

Done right, you can:

  • Better understand your customers
  • Improve your service or product
  • Refine your customer service (especially on social media)
  • Evaluate your performance through the view of others

In other words, both tactics involve gathering insight. However, crowdsourcing is about putting something out onto social media to generate content of some kind, while social listening is about observing and tracking what is already being said and then acting on that.

Not sure where to start when it comes to social media? Here’s what every startup company should know.

Plus, check out these 11 best practices to grow your social media following.

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