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Does your company listen to social media?

When I speak, I usually look for a show of hands and I typically find that just one in four companies has a social media listening program. And I am not putting any constraints on that question. If you have someone who dutifully checks a Google Alert e-mail every day and shares what is important within the organization, that counts. But still, most companies don’t have any organized way of checking the pulse of social media.

Converseon - NYC
Image by hyku via Flickr

I have been wondering what gets in the way, and I started thinking about that again today when spoke at the BMA-NJ breakfast meeting full of seemingly motivated marketers willing to brave a bracing December day in New Jersey to listen to me rant at 8 am. (That will wake you up faster than an espresso.)

I led them through the case for social media listening and talked about the free ways and the paid ways to do it, highlighting several leading listening vendors. [Full disclosure: I serve as Chief Strategist at Converseon, one of those social media listening leaders.] I talked about the difficulties in using purely technology to listen in social media and why those limitations exist, as well as ideas for how they might be overcome in the future. (You can slog through the full slide deck here.)

This was an advanced crowd, so around one-third of hands went up when I asked who has a social listening program. The question remains, “Why so low?” A few reasons jump out:

  • It’s new. Even though the technology has been around for years, adoption still takes a while, especially in more risk-averse firms.
  • It’s complicated. If I can talk about the subject for 90 minutes, you know that there is a lot to know before you choose your listening vendor. For some, that is a paralyzing factor.
  • It doesn’t always work. I gave plenty of examples in the deck that show how hard it is for some brands to listen–you think if you look for “sprint” that you find only cell phone conversations? Some people might be waiting for the technology to be improved or perfected.

But when I talk to existing users of listening tools, while not all of them are happy with the tools they use, they would never go back to no tools at all. They would never go back to manually listening or (worse) not listening at all.

So clearly something is going on here. The folks using the tools are loathe to give them up, yet the majority of the market is still not using them. That will change. Today, customers are still pleasantly surprised when they complain about a brand in social media and that brand contacts them to help. Those expectations will continually go up, so that when customers begin to expect companies to reach out, they will be forced to listen.

Do you agree? What’s your theory on the listening market?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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