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Are we on the verge of seeing a rebellion? As we know more and more people are adopting various elements of the social web as part of their daily lives.
The Twitterati is no longer just made up of social media geeks and gurus and celebrities; many other "normal" people are now joining the ranks, some of whom may not be considered social media "savvy".
They may not realise that their tweets and conversations, aimed at their friends and followers, a limited circle of people, are being picked up by all the social media monitoring tools. In simple terms they may not know that their conversations are being listened to. In fact, some people may even be appalled by this.
Imagine, if every conversation in a pub, coffee shop, meeting etc. could be monitored and then filtered to specific brand conversation and sentiment relevant to you, would you use this technology to improve your offering? Probably not. I think the outcome will result in three things, for the betterment of brand and consumer interaction.
From an organisational standpoint, it is important to understand what the perception of their brand and their offering is. Organisations can learn, improve and enhance their customers' overall experience and in turn improve their overall reputation. This has always been the case and people have always talked about their experiences and expressed their opinions (good and bad).
Now imagine, if every conversation in a pub, coffee shop, meeting etc. could be monitored and then filtered to specific brand conversation and sentiment relevant to you, would you use this technology to improve your offering? Would you employ people to circulate around such places to be directed to groups of people where such conversations were taking place so they could "join in"? What would be the impact on your brand? How many conversations would you listen too and engage in? Or does all this feel a little bit unethical and tacky?
But, isn't this what many organisations are doing with social media monitoring tools? The technology is readily available, so we use it. We listen to online conversations; evaluate the sentiment, reach and authority and make a decision to interact or not.
As the conversations increase in huge numbers, because more and more people are joining in, the task of "listening" and monitoring is also proportionally increasing. At what point do we say enough is enough? Or will we continue to try and listen to all the associated buzz?
Here's what I think, and I'm sure there will be many differing opinions:
- As the majority join the social web and it finally becomes "the web", people will become more negative towards organisations using monitoring technology in order to "gatecrash" conversations. Brand consumer trust will diminish.
- The time, effort and resources associated with managing online buzz will become too much. Organisations will realise (some already do) that people will always express their opinions and they should be allowed to do it in, what they consider to be private.
- Organisations will ease up, become less paranoid, maybe a bit more human. They will adopt levels of transparency, inviting and making it easy for people to provide feedback and opinion if they choose to give it. They will listen and respond to this.
To continue along a path whereby an organisation feels the need to monitor every brand related conversation on the web is a path that is impossible to stay on, and could probably drive you insane.
I'm sure many social web monitoring technology companies will disagree, however, from an ethical, human and philosophical standpoint this approach is not sustainable. I guess time will tell.