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  Article updated: June 20, 2024

Practice social listening and engagement with streams

Hootsuite streams are social feeds that help you engage with your audience by allowing you to easily participate in social conversations. Streams also give you the ability to practice social listening—monitoring and reacting to social activities related to your business and industry, such as mentions, hashtags, and keywords.

Streams are highly customizable, and what you can do within each type of stream varies. This guide will help you decide how to organize your streams and how to set up the best streams for your business objectives. Go to More, and then select Streams to get started.

Organize your streams

Before adding streams, consider how you’d like to group them for effective daily monitoring. Streams are grouped into boards on the left side of the page. You can add up to 20 boards, each with up to 10 streams, allowing you organize content in a way that makes the most sense for you. Here are a few common ways to organize boards and streams:

  • By social network - When you’re getting started, you might want to try just a few boards, one for each social media platform. Create a board for all Twitter activity, another for Facebook, and so on.
  • By priority - We recommend prioritizing your listening by the most relevant engagement opportunities and the highest engagement levels. Organize your streams from left to right by priority order.
  • By business objective - You can organize your boards by objective, such as your own posts, mentions of your brand or company name, competitive listening, and industry keywords. See the next section for more about business objectives.
  • Your own mix - You could create boards for specific campaigns, types of engagement, special searches, industry research... the possibilities are endless.

Tips for creating boards and streams:

  • Start by looking at your own organization. You’re most familiar with your own brand, so creating streams for your company and product names, keywords, hashtags, and mentions is easy—and you’ll get immediate feedback about your brand and your social presence.
  • Make a list of the questions you want to answer. This can easily guide stream creation and organization.
  • Just start listening. You can remove, re-create, and reorganize your streams infinitely, so don’t be afraid to jump in and experiment. Add a few boards and streams, evaluate the results, and tweak your tactics. Your streams will evolve as you become more informed about your audience and your industry.

Learn how:

Training: Hootsuite offers group training to Business and Enterprise plan customers. Sign up for Live Product Training and learn how to build success with Hootsuite.

Create feeds based on your business objectives

Think about your business goals and priorities when deciding what types of streams to set up. Do you want to keep up with trends in your industry or stay ahead of the competition? Do you want to join social conversations relevant to your business? It’s likely that you want to do all of these things. The following sections offer listening and engagement strategies based on these business objectives.

Monitor competitors and your industry

Social listening can help you discover what your competitors are doing and what people are saying about them. Not only will this help you keep track of what the competition is up to, but it can give you a deeper understanding of your market and your customers (and potential customers) and allow you to join in on conversations.

Tip: For an in-depth guide to monitoring your competition, see How to Do a Competitive Analysis on Social Media.

What to monitor:

  • Your competitors’ brand names and usernames or handles
  • Product names
  • Slogans
  • Names of industry influencers
  • Industry buzzwords
  • Hashtags related to your industry
  • Industry-related Twitter lists
  • Complex search queries and filters for advanced searching

Types of streams to add:

  • Twitter Search stream - Use powerful search filters to create advanced queries. Add a Twitter Search stream.
  • Instagram Hashtag stream - Hashtag streams allow you to search for known competitor and industry hashtags. Add a Hashtag stream.
  • Twitter lists - Twitter lists let you group Twitter users together to focus on conversations you’re monitoring. Add a Twitter Lists stream.

Engage with people who are talking about your business

Learn what people are saying about your business and establish relationships with potential customers. Certain stream types can help you find opportunities to reach out, make connections, show your audience that you value their opinions, and share helpful information. Engaging in this way will help establish your brand in customers’ minds when they’re ready to make a commitment.

What to monitor:

  • Your brand name, usernames or handles, product names, and branded hashtags.
  • Your slogans and campaign names.
  • Temporary hashtags used at conferences or for industry trends or events.
  • Positive and negative phrases combined with your brand name (ex: Nest Hotels “love it”).
  • Comments.
  • Complex search queries and filters for advanced searching.
  • Hashtags, keywords, or phrases (ex: “planning a vacation”) within a specific geographic location .

Types of streams to add:

How to engage:

  • Mention - Mentioning a user is a simple and effective way to make a positive connection. Use mentions to thank, applaud, or express agreement with existing or potential customers.
  • Repost - Reposting a user’s content (share a Facebook post, reshare an Instagram post, or repost with Twitter) is a great way to showcase user-generated content, make positive connections, and enrich your own content.
  • Comment - Engaging with potential customers or helping existing customers without trying to sell them anything is a good way to build trust. Simple, positive comments can help nurture relationships and build trust in your brand.

Watch Developing a Listening Plan to learn more about using keywords to extend your brand's reach.

Learn about social terms

What’s the difference between a keyword and a hashtag? What’s a query? And which streams support which type of social element?

If you’re confused about social terms, you’re not alone. We understand the confusion, especially when some social media terms overlap. Here’s a handy guide to some common social listening lingo.

Social term definitions and examples
Term Definition Example Where to use it
Keyword A precise word or phrase used to identify specific content. Keywords are intended to be read by search engines. They may take weeks for search engines to find, but they can last forever after they’ve been indexed by Google. “Oceanfront hotel”

Twitter Search streams. With these streams, you can use powerful filters to create advanced queries or do a geosearch to monitor activity around a specific location. See Create an X feed.

Hashtag One or more words combined together and preceded by the # symbol, used to identify content, trends, and campaigns. Hashtags are intended to be read by humans and can be more expressive or convey emotion. Unlike keywords, hashtags are immediately available on social media. #BeachVacation Search streams and Instagram Hashtag streams. Hashtag streams allow you to search for known hashtags. See Create a Hashtag search stream.
Username or handle A word or set of words used to identify a person or organization, usually preceded by the @ symbol. Usernames (sometimes called handles) are used on Twitter and Instagram to locate users and their content. (Facebook identifies usernames without requiring a symbol.) @nesthotels Twitter Search and Mentions streams
Mention The act of using of a username or handle to directly reference or “tag” a user or organization, usually preceded by the @ symbol. For the purpose of social listening, monitoring mentions is just like monitoring usernames. @BillMurray Twitter Search and Mentions streams
Search query Any combination of keywords, mentions, hashtags, and usernames, as well as other search formats, such as words or phrases used with quotation marks, colons, and question marks.

“owls rock”

(strawberry OR banana) milkshake


Twitter Search streams and YouTube Search streams. See Twitter search queries and filters. (Expand the table called “Filter examples for Twitter search queries.”)

When you’re adding a Search stream and you see “Enter a search query,” you have the flexibility to include a wide variety of query methods.


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