The terms social media listening and social media research are often used interchangeably, but in reality they are two different methodologies, each serving their own purpose. This is perhaps the best and most simple explanation:
Social listening focuses on the here and now while social research gives insight into the past and can be used to get a glimpse into the future.
Social media listening is more of the “here and now” monitoring – brands use it for general reputation monitoring and measuring customer satisfaction, while others use it to gauge ongoing marketing campaigns or a new product launch.
Social media research, on the other hand, goes deeper. It can be used to look back in time to gain insights that you didn’t have before. It can also be used to help determine the future – perhaps when deciding to roll out a new product or tap into a new market, or even when social listening identifies a potential emerging trend.