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04 Aug


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Why Online Listening?

August 4, 2011 | By | One Comment

Every member of the team at Social Strategy1 has heard this favorite quote from our fearless leader, Dennis: “We have two ears and one mouth, so you should use them proportionally.” While Dennis may like to think this quote is his own brainchild, it actually dates back to the Greek philosopher Epictetus. From the ancient agora to the modern office, we’ve always valued good listeners.

Today, so much of our news, information and conversation happen on the Internet – which means we have to be good listeners online as well as offline. Want to know how to sharpen your online listening skills? Welcome to our three-part blog series covering the basics of online listening, coupled with the most frequently asked questions.

Why listen?

The first and most important question to answer is, “why listen?” To answer this, let’s start with a vocabulary lesson: the definition of Listening according to is, “to pay attention; heed.” Listening is not a passive process. In order to effectively listen, you must focus on what you’re trying to accomplish. We listen to obtain information, to understand, for enjoyment, to learn and to effect change. In online media, we listen for concerns, opinions, wants, needs, tell-tale signs of trouble, or praise, reviews and testimonials. We also listen to online conversation as it can prove to be a predictive tool for consumer and investor behavior.

Who to listen to?

First, you must listen to everyone who voices an opinion about your brand, product or service, because studies confirm that peer recommendations influence buying decisions more than any other form of advertising: 90% of buyers trust peer reviews and 70% trust online reviews. Second, you must listen to your competitors to know their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in order to effectively build your own business. You should listen to your clients and stakeholders to understand their needs and whether they are satisfied. Finally, listen to your industry conversation as a whole to stay on top of the latest trends and developments.

When to listen?

If you hear someone talking about you, do you tune out halfway through the conversation or keep listening to hear everything that person has to say?

If you’d keep listening offline, why would you do any differently online? People are talking about you and your brand, but if you listen infrequently, during work hours only or only during a major event, you’ll miss vital parts of the conversation.  In crisis communications, for example, many companies pay heed to online conversation during a crisis – but online listening before the crisis might have provided the information necessary to prevent it.  Online conversation is ongoing, and online listening should be, too.

Where to listen?

Many people believe that by simply monitoring social media that they are effectively listening; however, with a social-only approach, you don’t see the complete online presence of your brand, product or service. Conversations and brand references take place in all different online media channels including forums, blogs, social media, mainstream media, comment sections, message boards and consumer review sites. In essence, you must listen to everything from Forbes to Facebook in order to get an accurate depiction of your online presence and sentiment.

What will you gain from online listening?

Through effective online listening, you can create an all-encompassing picture of your web presence, brand favorability and online reputation. By listening to online conversation, a company can identify areas of opportunity and begin to develop a strategy for implementing change.

Tune in next week at the same strategy time and on the same strategy channel for part two when we will explore what to do with the intelligence you have gained from online listening. Keep it positive people.

Jennifer Muñoz is Director of Operations & Strategy Analyst with Social Strategy1. She contributes blog posts weekly and can be found on Twitter @getaJenny.

Want additional strategy insights? Follow us on Twitter at @sstrategy1.


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