Social Listening Query Builder

New to Sprout Social? Learn about our social media listening suite here.

Sprout’s Social Listening tool is a great way to listen to conversations happening on social media. You can listen in to conversations about your brand, your competitors, campaigns and other current events important to you.

Listening can influence your social media strategy, help develop new ideas and give you the opportunity partake in conversations with your top influencers. You can create a Topic that contains a query to listen to conversations. You can also apply Themes to your Topics to group portions of the messages into saved segments.

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Topic Templates

The easiest way to build a Topic is by using Topic Templates. These pre-built templates provide tips and examples for five popular Listening use cases. These use cases include:


  • Brand Health
  • Industry Insights
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Campaign Analysis
  • Event Monitoring

Topics are driven by queries that you set up to listen to conversations happening on social that are relevant to the subject of your Topic. For instance, if you build a Brand Health Topic, you’d create a query to listen to conversations about your brand happening on social.

Note: You must have the Manage Topics Listening feature permission to create new topics and queries.

Creating a query

Let’s use a scenario to walk through the process of building a Listening Topic. 

Let’s say you work at Sprout Coffee Co. and you want to get a pulse on the conversations happening around your brand. You’re going to create a Brand Health Topic to analyze the health of your brand across social media networks.

To create your Brand Health Topic:

  1. Click Brand Health from the template selector.
  2. Enter your brand name as the Topic Title. 
  3. Enter Brand Health for your Topic description.
  4. Select all the networks available for your sources. You don’t know what you don’t know, so while you might not have an active social account on say, Tumblr, there might be conversations happening there related to your brand. Don’t limit yourself to a particular network unless it’s a part of your social strategy. 
  5. Enter Facebook Pages in the Select Facebook Pages box. Think about adding Facebook Pages for local news and media outlets, national news outlets and other public Facebook Pages that might make a mention of your brand or business. Make sure to add your own Facebook Page. There is a 250 Page limit.

Now, it’s time to build the query itself. While building a query can take some time, once you build one, you’ll get the hang of the logic.

Before you start thinking about the keywords and other terms you want to add to your query, it’s important to understand the type of data you’ll be listening to with the networks you selected. Let’s break down what each network provides:

  • Twitter - this network brings the most information to your queries. There aren’t limitations to listening to Twitter.
  • Facebook - you can’t listen to the entire network, you have to select certain pages to listen to instead. 
  • Instagram - you must include hashtags in your query in order to listen to Instagram.
  • YouTube - this network brings in descriptions of YouTube videos, not the comments.
  • LinkedIn - you can listen to mentions associated with a page you own. To learn more about querying LinkedIn, see this Help Center article.
  • Reddit - you can listen to this network in its entirety. This is an excellent listening source.
  • Tumblr - you can listen to this network in its entirety.
  • Web - this isn’t the entire web. This looks at a curated list of websites from Social Gist.


Ok, let’s build your query. To start building your query:

  1. Enter keywords you want to include in the Included keywords box. You can choose from:
  • Word or phrase 
  • Proximity Match -  this will return results where the terms you enter are within a specified number of words from each other
  • Hashtag
  • Cashtag - this a hashtag used for stocks
  • Mentions of User - this looks for mentions of a Twitter user.
  • From User - this looks for messages from a particular Twitter user.
  • To User - this looks for messages to a particular Twitter user.

Once you enter a keyword, up to 5 additional keyword suggestions appear. Click a suggested keyword to add it to your query.


Note:  Suggestions are only available for words or phrases of at least three characters in queries, not hashtags, cashtags, mentions of users, etc. Additionally, Sprout filters out any keyword suggestions that break OpenAI’s terms of service. As a result, you may see fewer than 5 suggested keywords.

2. Click Add keyword and add variations of your brand name. This ensures no matter how audiences are talking about you, your query will capture it. Remember, any keywords you enter will be looked for exactly as they are entered. For example, if you enter “coffeee” on accident, your query will pick up messages with “coffeee” even though you meant “coffee”. 

3. Click Add keyword and add hashtags that are specific to your brand or brand campaigns. If you add general hashtags, you’ll get too much noise in your listening results. 

Note: If you include a keyword that might pull in a lot of irrelevant messages, Sprout provides you with a warning to help narrow your query. You can either preview your query to see if you're getting relevant results, or create an inclusion group to avoid pulling in too much noise. 

Use And or Or to add another group to your query. And or Or give you the opportunity to refine what your listening results need to be. And narrows what you’re looking for, while Or expands what you’re listening for.

For example, if you want to see messages focused on your holiday drink campaign, you’d construct your query with AND operators like this: Sprout Coffee Co. AND #SCCHolidayDrink AND latte. This means you ONLY see messages that contain Sprout Coffee Co. exactly, #SCCHolidayDrink exactly and latte exactly.


If this is too narrowing, you might decide you want to see messages focused on your holiday drink campaign, but you want to see different variations of your company name. You’d construct your query with OR operators like this: Sprout Coffee Co. OR Sprout Coffee Co OR Sprout Coffee. This means you’ll see messages that contain Sprout Coffee Co. or Sprout Coffee Co (without the period) or Sprout Coffee. 

Remember, there’s no perfect query for listening. It’s about you as a practitioner to get as much meaningful information you can from what people are saying about you on social. 

Let’s preview this Topic

Clicking Preview ONLY shows Twitter results. If Twitter isn’t a big part of your social strategy, you might not see a lot of results here. Once you click Start Listening, the rest of the networks you selected get pulled in.

You might notice some items in the preview are not relevant to you. If a certain hashtag is returning a ton of results that don’t apply to you, remove that hashtag from your query. 

It’s also important to exclude yourself from your Listening results, so your results aren’t skewed. You want to hear what others are saying about you, not what you’re saying about yourself, so add your own Twitter profile to the Exclude keyword box using the From User operator.

You can also use the Exclude keyword box to remove messages that don’t pertain to you. If messages that don’t belong show up, use Exclude keywords to remove them. For example, while we’re focused on our #SCCHolidayDrink, messages in the preview are bringing up messages for Seattle Coffee Corp. Enter Seattle Coffee Corp. in the Exclude keyword box to remove these results from your query.

Continue to review the preview and use Exclude keywords to remove messages that add noise to your query. 

Alert configurations

Set up Listening Spike Alerts to receive notifications when there is a spike in activity in your Topic. You can select the metrics you want to monitor, the alert sensitivity and the users to notify.


Managing noise

Sometimes your topic may contain messages that are spam or aren’t relevant. You can select keyword groups in the Exclude Noise section to filter out these messages using common noise categories.


Click Learn more about noise management to see a list of excluded keywords and phrases by category.


Applying Optional Features

You can also add optional features to your Listening query, but there’s a few tips to keep in mind.

Additionally, Sprout also acts as a spam filter to help remove any adult content that might appear in your queries. Sprout scans Twitter including users, URLs, hashtags and the content of Tweets to remove any messages that contain adult content. Because Sprout is scanning text, there are occasions where an image might still come through. If you notice this happening, contact Sprout Support.

Turning on Hide Shares removes Retweets from your query. Retweets can skew your conversation analysis for Brand Health, so you can keep it off in this case. Removing Retweets limits our ability to get updated engagement counts for tweets.

Location-based filters are very strong. If you apply a location-based filter, this excludes every message that doesn’t have a location tied to it on Twitter. Use this filter wisely.

Message language filter is a great filter to use if you’re looking for extremely specific words in a particular language. It’s best to reserve this filter until you need to use it.

Creating groups

You can create groups in your query to better organize it or to get very specific in your querying.

For instance, you could create multiple groups to put all your keywords in one group, hashtags in one group and Mentions of User in another.


Or you could use groups to look for a message that contains ANY of these keywords but also ONLY if those messages contain latte. This can make your results less noisy.

Starting to listen

Once you’re satisfied with your query and your preview looks good, click Start Listening. The Topic goes back for the past 30 days to gather data. 

Archiving and deleting Topics

You can archive and delete your Topics. If you archive a Topic, you can still access this Topic and go back to it as much as you want, but no new data will populate. Once you archive a Topic, you archive it for good and it can’t become active.

If you delete a Topic, you delete it for good and it can’t be restored.

Duplicating Topics

If you're happy with your query, but want to make a slight tweak to go deeper on Brand Analysis, make a significant or experimental change to the Topic, restart an archived Topic or have a large list of terms or pages you want to reuse, you can duplicate your Topic using the Overflow menu.


After you click Duplicate from the Overflow menu, the Topic Builder appears with the same query, description and advanced features as the Topic you duplicated. From there, you can make your tweaks, like adding inclusions to pull more recent historical data.

You can duplicate archived and active Topics, but you can't duplicate migrated Topics. Historical data from the Topic you duplicated won't replicate in the copy.

Listening FAQs

I just created my Topic, why don’t I see any data?

The 30 days of automatic historical data take roughly 3-5 minutes to show up.

What happens when I use all of my Topics?

You won't be able to create anymore. You’ll need to archive or delete an existing one to free up a spot.

What happens when I remove/add filters, remove/add keywords from my Topic? 

Your existing Topic data will be reprocessed to remove messages that no longer match your query. Data collection for newly added keywords or filters will begin from the date of modification.

How did Sprout decide on these five Topics for the templates?

We chose the five most common ways our customers are using Listening today.

Can I add or edit the Topic Type after I create a query?

Yes, you can edit the Topic type at any time from within the Topic Builder. This includes adding them retroactively to existing Topics.

How much Listening data can I export from my Topic as a .CSV file?

You can download up to 10,000 messages per export currently.  

How do I add inclusions to a term?

Use groups to add inclusions. First, create a list of primary Topic keywords, and then add an AND group to define your inclusions, even if you only have one keyword.

Why do I have to click Access Topic to see my archived Topics?

If you haven’t viewed your archived Topic in the past 60 days, it becomes dormant. Click Access Topic to retrieve your archived Topic. This process takes roughly two to three hours. 

Can I retrieve my dormant Topic more quickly?

No. This process takes about two to three hours to complete.

How do I ensure my archived Topics don’t become dormant?

View your archived Topics every 60 days to reset the dormant timer.

Do the metrics for my Topic change after it becomes dormant?

No. The Topics enter and exit dormancy with no change to their metrics.

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