Monday, May 6, 2013

The Case for Social Listening

Currently in my work, I find myself as the evangelist for the digital frontier. There has been some resistance to the effort, though most seems to be because it is unknown to many within the company. The playing field has changed. Even in organizations that do not deem it necessary to market themselves to the world, there is value to be gained by seeing what is being said about the organization and their industry.[1] This is called social listening and involves not only social media, but analytics. There are many benefits that come from social listening including:
  •         learning about your audience, better understanding their needs, wants, and desires
  •          knowing what is being said about your brand
  •          increasing customer satisfaction
  •          improving product performance
  •          knowing how and what competitors are doing
  •          knowing the tone of your audience
  •          mitigating risks
There are a number of tools to help organizations better listen to what is going on around them and make this listening more effective. Some tools, to name a few are: Lithium, Radian6, Sysomos, Viralheat, and Brandwatch to name a few.[2]

British Petroleum

There are a number of case studies that have been done. On the poor end of the scale is British Petroleum. Even though they had a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, Twitter account, and others, they failed to use these to help them handle the Deep Horizon oil spill crisis. They in fact made things worse by purchasing search engine ads without tracking sentiments first. They updated their different channels without any form of engagement, making it a public relations outlet rather than getting feedback and interacting with their customers. This infuriated people so much that a number of social accounts were created by dissenters and followers of those were over twenty times the followers of official channels. When negative comments were posted on their social sites as well as elsewhere on the World Wide Web, no effort was made to address them. [3]


Many of the cases that could be made about companies not doing any social listening or doing it poorly are not well documented. This likely is because very few are actually doing it in the first place. Better examples can be found in success stories, such as with Stride Gum. Pam Moore had gone to their site with the intent of joining their community they were building around the mystery pack of gum they put out. She found it difficult to find links to do so; however, and, in a video post, she informed her community of the kludgy site with the intent of allowing others to learn from the experience. Within 24 hours, Stride had sent her a personal note responding to the video informing her of changes they were in the process of making to improve the customer experience of the page.  They got her set up with the community as well as other social media outlets such as Twitter and brought her the engagement she was seeking. They even went a step further and sent a box of Stride Gum to her, making a very happy customer, and one that would tell the world about it. Without listening to what was being discussed about their brand, Stride would have never known about the video she posted and would have not gained the loyal tribe follower they now have. Over time, this will prove to be beneficial not only to the brand reputation, but also the bottom line as less money will need to be spent marketing the product as these types of loyal customers will do it for them. [4]  


Another social listening success story is from Tide. The Onion, a funny parody news site known for putting up some rather outlandish stories, put up on their site a fake article as if it were from Tide’s director of social media. Tide could have just ignored the article and not had any repercussions, but they decided to respond with a video making fun of them being made fun of. They did it quickly too, meaning they knew about it early on and had plans in place to be able to quickly and nimbly respond to all social media.[5] Check it out:


You don't have to do a lot, a little bit goes a long way, but the first step is to listen.  You don’t have to have social media accounts to find immense value in it, but you do need to be listening. There is data to be garnered and it’s free. Why pay for a focus group when you can get the same if not better results through just listening to the social media world? It is best to be listening, and have contingency plans in place before a crisis happens. Another case study is that of Manwich.[6] There are a lot of people who love Manwich and their Sloppy Joe product. A twitter search was done out of curiosity for what is being said about Manwich and a number of tweets were found as well as a lot of knowledge about consumer demographics, as well as sentiment. Manwich has a lot of activity on social sites that they aren’t even on. Just listening and seeing where your customers are gives you the ability to then look at how you can engage your customer. 

Social Listening really is the easy part, but will help you see the path ahead. The next step is to use it to engage the brand’s advocates and detractors in real time.[7] [8] When people talk, you can and should take action. A plan should be made first as to what type and frequency of interaction you as the brand are going to have with your customers and where this should take place. In the case of Manwich, from the amount of pictures uploaded, a Pinterest page may be the first place to start. Listening is key to figuring out where your customers are, what they want to hear, and when they want to hear it.

So if you haven’t started listening, now is the time to start. I recommend this article ( to help you start your own social listening program.

What benefits do you see in social listening? Do you have any success or fail stories of brands listening?

[1] Participation Is Not Optional. (2013, February 21). Retrieved May 1, 2013, from Digital Analytics 101:
[2] Rubens, P. (2013, January 4). Social Media Monitoring and Listening Tools: A Primer. Retrieved 05 01, 2013, from Enterprise Apps Today:
[3] Tan, E. (2010, September 23). Social Media Crisis Management: Three Case Studies. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from SlideShare:
[4] Moore, P. (2010, November 19). Social Listening Done Right: Stride Gum Case Study. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from SocialMedia Today:
[5] Tide Case Study: Social Listening Done Right. (2012, June 5). Retrieved May 1, 2013, from Digital Analytics 101:
[6] Goldfarb, H. (2012, May 29). Manwich: A Case Study on Social Media Listening. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from Waxing UnLyrical:
[7] Pay Attention! Social Listening Done Right. (2011, February 10). Retrieved May 1, 2013, from Social Media Week:
[8] Aneja, S., Bachle, R., & Mead, D. (2010, August 4). How Social Listening Can Optimize Experience Design. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from Navigation Arts:

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