Used primarily within the context of social media, "listening" is the study of naturally occurring conversations, behaviors, and signals that may or may not be guided, which brings the voice of people's lives into the brand.
This means that when a business "listens" they are studying people's authentic, unfiltered thoughts, feelings and emotions that take place through interactions with brands or companies in an open, noncoercive manner (as opposed to market research).
In other words, it is observing what people do, such as online shopping or using brands as directed by other people, in ways that focus naturally occurring conversations on agreed-upon topics that take their own direction.
Listening solutions fit into five groups: search, media monitoring, text analytics, private communities, and full-service listening platform vendors.
NetLingo Classification: Online Marketing