Making Listening Data Work for the Entire Organization

by Chuck Hemann on Feb 06, 2012

Listening to the DataRaise your hand if you are listening to conversations online about your brand, competitors or industry? Over the course of the last several years the number of people who would raise their hand after getting such a question has gone up considerably. Whether it’s using free alerts setup through Google, or a paid solution like Radian6, chances are good most of you are doing some listening.

Back in 2009, Ken Burbary and I were discussing how listening data moved throughout the organization. Our hypothesis, and one that I think is still valid today, was that companies were underutilizing listening data. The visual we created, called the social analytics lifecycle, argued that listening data had applications in strategic planning, product development, customer care, sales and many other parts of the organization. Some were more strategic applications and others involved using the listening data for tactical implementation.

What we were talking about back then is still valid, but adoption within companies has been much slower than we anticipated. Why? The easy answer is that scaling ANYTHING at a large company is very difficult. The other part of that answer is that most companies don’t have a strategic approach to listening. What does that look like?

  • Goal setting – What are you actually trying to achieve by listening to consumer conversations? You’ll likely get varying answers depending on the part of the organization you ask, and that’s OK. But far too often we’re launching blindly without an idea of what we’re trying to achieve.
  • Internal resources – Listening isn’t something that just magically happens. Resources internally need to be identified. In an ideal world, listening is an extension of your market research activities so the function lives within that group. If it’s not market research initially, that’s OK. All that you really need to get the ball rolling is someone who understands the goals, tools and can successfully turn data into insights to champion the value across the organization.
  • Picking a tool – There are literally hundreds of tools on the market, and picking one tends to be an arduous process. However, if you’re goal is to eventually scale listening beyond PR and marketing that limits the number of tools you can effectively use. One final public service announcement on picking a tool – DON’T BE THE COMPANY THAT PICKS A TOOL WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING YOUR GOAL OR HAVING RESOURCES IDENTIFIED
  • Developing a response matrix – You’ve all seen those flow charts for positive, negative and neutral comments, right? Before you start using listening data for engagement, you’ll need to develop one. If you need an example, check out this one from the Air Force.
  • How other business units come on board – Most listening programs start in PR or marketing, but eventually others will want to be invited to the party. At the outset, decide how those other business units will come ‘online.’
  • Develop your reporting approach – This includes not only how often you’ll be reporting, but also what will go in the reports themselves. Best practice reports attempt to identify who is talking, what are they saying, when are they saying it, where they are talking and, to some degree, why they are talking. Think about it as the five W’s of social media listening.

Those are some really simple steps to begin the scaling process, but ultimately it’s a cultural shift within companies. You have to want to listen to what your customers are saying. Or, if you’re in human resources for example, listening to current and prospective employers.

I’ll be discussing this topic in more depth at next week’s Social Fresh conference in Tampa, Florida. If you’re planning to be there, please come up and say hello.

Image source: businessman pushing planning

Post Author

I am currently Director of Analytics for WCG. Over the last seven years, I have provided strategic counsel to clients on a variety of topics including digital analytics, measurement, online reputation, social media, investor relations and crisis communications. Prior to joining...

  • Is there a follow button on your blog ?. Couldn’t see one, as i’d like to be notified when you post again

  • Well, this makes sense! In fact, you’d think it’s so simple that no one would really need to be told this stuff. But unfortunately…that’s just not the case. SO many organizations are Ready-FIRE-Aim-ing their way into listening. Thanks for breaking it down and keep the content coming. 

  • Thanks Chuck.  Good information.  Thanks also for your great session at Social Fresh East this week.  It was a pleasure to meet you and hear your insights.  Much appreciated.

  • Thanks Chuck. Good article. Where to start and how to scale are always concerns for companies wanting to listen. Strategy precedes clarity and clarity leads to productivity.