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Social Media Monitoring BubbleAre 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Karl Havard

Published 12 July, 2010 by Karl Havard

Karl Havard is a trainer and contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter and connect via LinkedIn.

21 more posts from this author

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Nigel Sarbutts

Nigel Sarbutts, Managing Director at BrandAlert

There's a continuum from spam at one end to being alert and offering timely interventions to consumers with an expressed need at the other. Be active at the latter end and you are differentiating yourself by adopting 'active customer service'. That's where the interesting discussions on social media are taking place.

about 6 years ago

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Danny Whatmough, Associate social media and digital director at Ketchum

It doesn't need to be either/or. It's important to be aware of and alert to the comments and mentions that matter. This isn't impossible to do.

Also, I think the 'mention overload' you predict is certainly going to affect big businesses and corporations. But this may not apply in the same way to the thousands of small or medium sized businesses.

about 6 years ago

Giles Palmer

Giles Palmer, CEO at Brandwatch

This is a bit Daily Mail Karl.

As a customer, would you prefer to sit on the end of an automated voice recognition system for 45 minutes trying to get what you want from BT or would you rather tweet about it and have someone (either from BT or another of their customers) help you immediately. Have you seen the change in customer satisfaction that Dell and Sky have managed as a result of engaging with people on the web? Do you know how much people love Zappos because of their amazing customer attention? Do you think that there is a bigger problem of people not wanting to be heard rather than the yearning to be listened to? 

i guess there is a happy balance to strike, but your piece is a fair way off target i'm afraid

about 6 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

I think there's a big difference between a brand LISTENING and LEARNING from these conversations, and using them to snoop on people in a way that makes them feel like they're being watched...

about 6 years ago

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Yvonne Johnston

There is one advantage here. Certain organisations are almost impossible to contact in an efficient manner by telephone (BT one such). But moan a bit about the organisation on Twitter and you get a very fast response. People using social media sites are made aware of the fact that what they post can be seen by anyone. If they do not like that they can change the defaults to give themselves more privacy.

about 6 years ago

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Patricia

I think there is a healthy way to approach "monitoring". 

Firstly, ensure you're listening for the right reasons.  You do genuinely need to know the landscape and where the conversations are happening.  And what they are.

Secondly, stop thinking of monitoring as your constant opportunity find and infiltrate conversations.  Think of your discovery as an opportunity to be genuine and genuinely helpful.  Or just to listen.  Do you always have to talk? 

Monitoring is time-consuming and one could in theory spend too much time on it, but it depends on your business.  Are you Toyota?  Tesco? 

about 6 years ago

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Stephen O'Leary

Hi Karl, Interesting post, and I think you're right, there will be a lot of differing opinions, I'm looking forward to reading them. Here's my two cents. There's plenty I agree with: "More and more people are adopting various elements of the social web as part of their daily lives". Without question, the increasing numbers on Twitter, Facebook Foursquare and other social media platforms can't be argued with. "Organisations can learn, improve and enhance their customers' overall experience and in turn improve their overall reputation". This is key - and has been a cornerstone of market research and consumer feedback going back decades, long before the emergence of social media. "The task of "listening" and monitoring is also proportionally increasing" - Again, I agree entirely. And this is where social media monitoring companies have a role to play. However, I disagree with you conclusions: 1. Brands who use monitoring software have the opportunity to increase consumer trust rather than diminish it. Take the example of someone who has had bad service. If they talk about this on Twitter with their friends, and the company in question is monitoring the conversation, the company can do something about it, and hopefully improve the situation. If consumers realise that brands are listening to them, it may encourage them to use social media as a feedback fourm, and if brands use this feedback to improve their product or service offering, the consumer ultimately wins. 2. The time, efforts and resources required to monitor social media are significant, but so too are the potential gains. People will always express their opinions, but those who wish to do so in private won't post them to Twitter / Facebook or on Message Boards and Forums. Social media, by its very nature, is public. People like to be listened to. 3. I don't think monitoring social media is based on interest and concern, rather than paranoia. Companies are certainly being more transparent, and more human - but monitoring social media can improve the feedback process, rather than hinder it. As someone who is involved in monitoring social media on behalf of my clients, I see tremendous opportunities for companies and organisations to listen to what their customers are saying. If used correctly, this information can benefit all concerned. Ultimately, everyone should win.

about 6 years ago

Olivia  Landolt

Olivia Landolt , Marketing and Community Manager at 6Consulting

If social media listening and engagement were driving away customers or increasing their negativity towards a brand then companies would steer away from it. This however isn’t the case, more and more companies are using it for customer service and the feedback received so far is overwhelmingly positive -  it works, both for companies and for the customers who are no longer on hold for hours until their problem is resolved on the phone.

It’s also worth noting that it’s inaccurate to compare a private conversation in a pub to that of posting on twitter or a blog. Conversations or mentions picked up by social media monitoring tools are in the public domain, users of this medium understand this, and for those who prefer for their social media use to remain private they use privacy settings in order to do so.

Olivia Landolt

@6Consulting - UK authorised Radian6 reseller 

about 6 years ago

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Christian

I'll have to agree with Stephen (O'Leary) on his view and analysis. While the initial point you make in relation to the increase that will occur in monitoring activities is without doubt accurate, I do not feel that people will see any negative association with brands doing so. I also agree with Olivia above, there is a seriously inaccurate comparison between 'pub conversations' and what's potentially monitor-able on the net. If I tweet, blog or Facebook (privacy setting accepted) then I have no expectation of privacy. In a 'private' conversation I certainly do, at least as far as recordable, traceable content. Quite simply the average person neither cares nor knows about monitoring technology, activity or detail. They are not the people posting online about Facebook privacy "issues" or how Google holds your information. The average person goes about their daily life unconcerned by these things. Monitoring will fall under the same category to them.

about 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

I thought this would stir up some mixed opinion. Is probably safe to say those reading this are socially savvy in web terms, hence there is an acceptance that monitoring tools are able to pick up what we say. However, when we move into the majority (non digital) people use social media for mainstream activity I still believe we will see a bit of a backlash. Like most things, a balance needs to be struck, which applies to the amount of monitoring; the way organisations engage should they think it is the right thing to do. Time will tell and non of us can predict how it will pan out, but I do know of several instances where brands have tarnished themselves by diving in to conversations uninvited because technology enabled them to do so.

about 6 years ago

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Paul Fabretti

Think there is a not point being missed here (I agree with Giles and the public domain argument too BTW) which is addressed in point one. Yes, when the social web becomes "the web", one might realistically expect that brands and consumers happily cohabit. At the moment, this is clearly NOT the case for the vast majority of brands whose branded outposts are little more than hosting areas. As such, it is prudent and pretty much just common sense that idiot don't know what people are saying, that you find out. The comment about being intrusive is equally, perhaps even more valid about other forms of research. Ever been stopped in a street and asked for your opinion? Sick of pop-up survey requests? Thought so. Today's modern consumer knows full well that much of their conversations are public interest, that's why they share them. It is what the listening brand DOES with that content that is the contentious issue. The more content that gets created, the more difficult it becomes to track what is happening. Taking that offline...do you employ more street survey people? No, you stick with the same representative sample - which will only ever be that - a representative sample. If the technology is there, use it...but the underlying objective should be to add value, in which case, anyone's use of these tools becomes entirely legitimate.

about 6 years ago

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Paul Fabretti

Can I also correct line 11 should read "if you" rather than "idiot" as my wonderful iPhone has blurted out! Line 1 should also read "big"... Genius devices...

about 6 years ago

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Leon

Hi, Your blog has spat a load of HTML out in my post above, please remove! Probably when I copied it from Word. Thanks Leon

about 6 years ago

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Leon

You are kidding right?

Someone having a chat with a friend in a pub is not the same as writing a blog post or a Tweet about a topic. There is a major difference here.  A blog post or a Tweet you want people to see it, that's the whole point isn't it? A private chat in a pub is completely different. If I am a customer and I am really unhappy with a brand and a write this online, I would be delighted if the company contacted me to apologies and see what they could do to rectify it. No, that isn't just because I am socially savvy as you put it. Besides isn't someone using Twitter or posting blog posts relatively socially savvy?

The thing you don't seem to acknowledge here is the whole way things work has shifted, and it'spermanent, and irreversible. Social is at the stage where it is totally engrained in all other communication channels. Therefore it needs to be listened too, and acted on at times.

Of course not every conversation should be jumped on, or even listened to. But listening , analysing and engaging is vital in the new digital world.

www.sentimentmetrics.com

about 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

"You cannot manage what you do not measure" - Jim Sterne

about 6 years ago

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Patricia Germelman

I agree with the comments stating that it is an unfair to compare Twitter conversations with those that take place in a pub.  To any folk who believe Twitter is a place for private conversation, I would say, "I have a great piece of land I'll sell you cheap, cheap, cheap in the swamplands of someplace far, far away." (Some) people love to rant, others simply want to express dissatisfaction with a product and let others know about it. If a company responds in kind and fixes a problem, that is a good thing! Power to the people. I do understand that some people will think of it as an invasion of privacy. At least until they get their problem du jour fixed more rapidly than they would if they reported it by phone. Human nature is a wonderful thing.

about 6 years ago

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Mike Fraietta

As someone who monitors social media professionally (that's how I found this post), I find that folks like the fact that they are being heard ESPECIALLY if they have very few followers or a short reach.  Monitoring tools give everyone's voice a bit more power as the companies or brands should respond no matter their reach or influence the tweeter has.  It's a major help in the power shift to the people.  The more people expect to be heard and reacted to, the more the companies will have to bend over backwards.

I definitely agree with Olivia, Leon and Patricia that the pub conversation example does not really correlate to what's happening online.

Great discussion, I'm looking forward to see how the conversation continues.

Mike Fraietta  I  Social Media Manager  I  Jive Software  I  @MikeFraietta 

about 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

Hello everyone! A couple of things I'd like to clarify. I appreciate a pub conversation is different to a tweet or blog post because of it's longevity, visibility etc. The context in which I used it was aligned to scale I.e. Millions of pub conversations amongst friends but in earshot of others. Would you monitor them? If not why try and monitor the same amount of conversations online? People say stuff and we should let them. The second point is I'm talking about the future, not the now. Yes we are all aware monitoring goes on, but going forward not everyone will be. Some may like it, some may not. As for managing what you measure, that is the essence of the post. Is technology driving us to measure things which may not be that relevant? (context, sentiment, authority etc) or should we open up and enable people who genuinely care to provide meaningful feedback we can act upon as opposed to flippant tweet. Le

about 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

(using iPhone and previous was cut off) I'd like to revisit this at the end of the year to see what happens. None of us have crystal balls that work, but I think it will be like silk paisley scarves.....some people will be wearing them. ;-)

about 6 years ago

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Andrew Davies

It totally depends on what the company uses it for. Companies that engage poorly, crassly, and without delivering value through that interaction will generate poor customer perception. Brands that engage well and solve the customer need or uncertainty will gain more customers!

I'm glad Google didn't say "sod it" when they realised the increasing volume of web pages they had to crawl to deliver valuable search results...

about 6 years ago

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Mohammed Zainal, Digital Marketing Exec - web & user experience designer at VIVA Bahrain

Monitoring is one thing and engaging in with your voice is something else.

When i brag about a service on twitter i get a faster response than email, and i kind of liking it, because it works...

Same thing happens when i monitor our "brand" on the web, remember that positive feedback about your organization/services is less likely to occur while negative feedbacks are always the first to appear...

yes its a niche, a small circle but you cant ignore the term "circle of influence " specially when they all share the same interests... a tribe with a leader.

If there is a process, a proper planning &  a proper "monitoring segmintation" whether its manual or apps automated like radian6 or brandwatch, it shouldn't be a big problem :-)

about 6 years ago

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Natasha Macdonald

This is an interesting article and debate and something we have been thinking about. Our conclusion is to listen and use the findings to tweak our comms and our service as appropriate, not to dive in there and respond directly to a customer having a debate. I know it's not really a private debate if on a social media site but let them talk - in most instances it corrects itself anyway, and if not it's probably more serious you are probably aware already of what you may or may not have done and can take less public approach! It may be working ok for big brands with big budgets but for small companies we have to be a little more clever in what we do - use the opportunity but not spend all day reacting. Also I think our members would hate to think of us snooping on them and would backfire if they thought we were!

about 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks Natasha. I think your last sentence is a key one. It does seem, even today a balance has to be struck on how much you listen to, and how to best interact (if it is felt that interaction is the right course of action). It will be a bold move (some may currently think naive) for any organisation only to engage with invited feedback from people that are willing and passionate enough to provide it. But such feedback will be meaningful, as opposed to maybe flippant comments aired on Twitter which will be picked up by monitoring tools. It's a self filtration process and if the feedback channels are readily accessible and advertised it makes it easier to manage too. No overt snooping...but I'm sure even the bravest organisations will still apply monitoring technology.

about 6 years ago

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Maria Ogneva

Hi Karl,

Social media monitoring professional here. Here's my take on it:

There are 3 different processes at play here: listening / monitoring, analysis and engagement / acting. Listening and monitoring have always been around in one way or another, it's just now we have an opportunity to listen on an unprecedented scale. Analysis is going to be necessary to address the issue of scale you refer to. As volume increases, you need to be able to process and analyze social media mentions en masse, and need a solution to do that (this is where unstructured text analytics like ours come in handy). In the end, you need to take action. If that action is driven by the desire to make the product and experience better for your customers, I see nothing wrong with it. A social customer myself, I often provide my unprompted advice (sometimes a rant, and sometimes a compliment), and I do hope that brands are listening and making it part of their product. This is where analysis comes in handy, helping you identify top drivers of the brand conversation (ex: product is hard to use, too expensive, blah blah). Enagement is also a type of action you take, but unlike learning and building upon the knowledge, you are actually responding back to the person that said that trigger word you are monitoring. Now THIS is where things can get creepy. Just like in person, you shouldn't join every conversation, the same applies online.

Are you listening so you can help? Then you are given a little more leeway because the user is probably expecting or at least hoping that someone is helping. Are you listening so you can SPAM with your message? Don't do it. You wouldn't do it in person, so don't do it now.

Cheers!

- Maria Ogneva, Attensity

@themaria

about 6 years ago

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Naveen Thomas

Hi Karl, Interesting post, and judging by the response thus far, it has become engaging :) The thing here that I would like to bring up is PERMISSION. Many here have mentioned that the pub convo as opposed to rants that go on in social networks differ. And like Karl mentions, most of us here are also very digitally inclined. But that's just it. WE know and understand that social networks are public domains where conversations, people, not-so-sensitive information (you can be the judge of what is and what's not) are constantly floating around. However, my own research on non-digital individuals have highlighted that, regardless of social network or even privacy settings, these people firmly believe that their entire conversations are to some sense, limited to private domains. I believe that we should not invest too much on monitoring tools that exceed socially created boundaries, and should, in more detail move to guide audiences from offline to online and vice versa - employing the same marketing strategies and actually do create forum based services in various channels. Let the consumer come and tell you their woes. Isn't that what the idea of social is? less should be? p/s i actually have friends in high places that treat twitter like their personal irc space. intrusions into these kind of spaces, regardless of the reason could very well incur wrath instead of appreciation. Thoughts?

about 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

Naveen, thank you! It's good to hear your research seems to be aligned with some of mine (and others). I had thought (but only for a very small period of time) I may have gone slightly mad, but your comment has brought some balance back to the thread. As I've mentioned before, none of us can predict the future, but this area will be very interesting to watch over the coming months.

about 6 years ago

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Gareth Rees

Maria especially and some others have made vital points in this discussion. It's what you choose to do with the information that will determine how people react. If you're there to help, or offer something of value then chances are you're remain in favour. Once you start crossing the line and spamming in all senses of the word, you're in trouble. I guess it's the level of respect you intend to have for those you monitor.

about 6 years ago

Nigel Sarbutts

Nigel Sarbutts, Managing Director at BrandAlert

Naveen, you don't say what form your reasearch takes or what its conclusions are, could you elaborate please? I notice from your blog you promote the view: "Email Marketing is an important digital asset. It has the ability to track & target consumers as well as support inexpensive recurring marketing initiatives." True, but 'tracking and targeting' don't sound more like hunting than permission-led, activities but perhaps I'm missing the point. To be a little devil's advocatish here, permission is largely an alien concept in marketing communications and why should social media be exempt? There is the implicit permission that by consuming most forms of media I am giving permission to publishers and brand owners to put ads in front of me, but I doubt many people think of it in those terms. As I said in my first posting above, there is beneficial, welcome intervention at one end of the spectrum (a hybrid of customer service and marketing) and there is spamming at the other. Brands who spam do so at their own risk and the market is the perfect mechanism to iron this out - nobody likes or buys from a spammer right? The key to it is human involvement rather than automation (or heaven help us, a belief that sentiment can be analysed by software). The trouble is humans are quite expensive, particularly for brands where cost of acquisition is traditionally very low Imagining that special rules or market conditions apply to social media is as mistaken as your "friends in high places" thinking they are in some private space.

about 6 years ago

Michelle C

Michelle C, Community Manager at Synthesio

This is something our CTO keeps in mind continually, Karl. Some monitoring services might disagree with you, but we would only disagree up to a point. There are sources like OpenBook.com that can let you monitor Facebook profiles that haven't been privatized but we ask ourselves - is it ethical? (side note : ather information from public groups and pages, I just found it via a friend ;) )

How a brand chooses to interact with people using social media is entirely up to them and their digital strategists, but some companies truly are using social media monitoring to come up with better services. One French university that monitored conversations in forums, for example, found out that students were confused about the different programs and couldn't seem to find the answers to their questions. The school didn't intervene directly in the forums, but they did change their communication to make it easier to understand what students could expect. The second round of monitoring found all those questions and concerns missing from forums. Good for both parties, no?

Also, on a personal note, I like talking about Synthesio with people online (and offline) because I think it's important for people to know about the opportunities social media monitoring can provide, but also the risks.

about 6 years ago

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Matthew Cain

Another danger with failing to monitor is that you threaten the success of your own social media activities. Ok, so you might be able to track the sentiment / key issues of people responding to you on Twitter or leaving messages on your Facebook page. But what if a core stakeholder group is actually congregating on a forum instead? Or what if your Twitter profile isn't reaching those who are most engaging with your company. There's no point monitoring if you don't understand what to do with it. But surely any customer engagement (like a phone line) can encourage complaints? That doesn't mean that good companies hide their phone number.

about 6 years ago

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Luca

When i see a title of post that reads 'Social media monitoring: time to say 'sod it'?' I wonder what kind of company or brand will take note that it is ok to ignore or cease to monitor your consumers as a voice. Laughable! Yes as social web evolves that power between brands and consumers has flipped roles and now consumers have much more of a say within the traditional 'marketing mix'. Yes it is increasingly more difficult to monitor. Yes it is also difficult to track every single comment or post a consumer may or may not have said in relation to your brand. But social media = conversation. As technology evolves, so will marketing strategies and monitoring tools, and regardless of how many people talk about your brand how difficult it gets to monitor. If you cease to pay attention, there will be another rival brand that will be paying attention to them.

about 6 years ago

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Kevin Boulas

To address your summary points: 

  1. I don't believe people will become "more negative towards organisations using monitoring technology in order to "gatecrash" conversations;" it isn't the monitoring that is effective or offensive - it is what you do with the information you gather.  If your assumption is that the information will be used to spam consumers, you are absolutely right.  But I wouldn't recommend a company monitor social media as a spamming technique; that to me misses the point entirely.
  2. The amount of information most certainly will grow, and the state of the state in monitoring tools is that they don't filter information effectively enough to handle 100% of such large volumes of information in a meaningful and comprehensive way.  But the acknowledgement of this point doesn't lead me to the conclusion that, if I can't filter with 100% accuracy then I should stop listening; it leads me to the conclusions that I have to refine monitoring strategies in the near term to get the best information I can with the resources I have; and that monitoring tools will have to evolve beyond simplistic data collection and rudimentary "sentiment analysis" and toward more robust analytic capabilities.  Using your coffee shop analogy, no matter how many people were in that coffee shop, if I heard my company being talked about, I would be a foolish businessman not to listen.  The smartest CEOs I know are constantly taking the pulse of the market.
  3. I'm not sure that it's the organizations that are being paranoid here - perhaps some are monitoring for strictly defensive reasons, but the smart ones aren't.  I think smart companies are providing multiple channels for direct customer feedback.  They also understand the "observer effect" and the value of unsolicited opinions in informing their efforts.  Coca Cola did any number of focus groups, after all, when they changed their original formula years ago; students of marketing will understand how well that worked for them.
My two cents. Kevin

about 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

I've just re-read my post to make sure it portrays exactly what I think. I'm pleased to say it does. To answer many comments (and thank you for providing them) I am saying where do we draw the line on the amount of monitoring of associated brand conversations. Because technology allows us to monitor everything, it doesn't mean we should; and in the same breath, I'm not saying we shouldn't monitor anything at all. I will lay 75p, no make that £1, that in the months to come larger organisations will find it very difficult and frustrating (and some are already) to monitor the amount of conversations across the web. Then, with the adoption of social channels by many more "normal" people (which does exclude us, as by the nature of this conversation we are categorised as Creators and Critics in Forrester terms) organisations will need to be very careful (more so than today) on deciding if and how they should engage with people they have found "talking about them" through monitoring technology. Then, finally, the organisations who are at ease with themselves, confident about their offering; genuinely willing to help those who need it; respect the freedom of speech of their own customers; wish to be truly transparent, will open up and promote real channels for feedback purposes. This will encourage those who genuinely care, to make their feelings known (good and bad) and enable the associated organisation to act accordingly. They will be focussed on interacting with those who seek it and not chasing flippant tweets. Do a good job of this and advocacy will reign in the majority....your social media monitoring will demonstrate this, but you'll always have moaners too, no matter what you do.

about 6 years ago

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Sam Ford

I'm very happy to see this conversation being had. While I disagree with some of Karl's conclusions, I agree very much with some of his sentiment. One of the biggest problems, as several commenters have raised here, is that most brands think of listening as an activity you do to identify opportunities to their mouths. Of course, in interpersonal communication, we know that just waiting for an excuse to insert what you want to say in a conversation earns you a negative reputation after awhile...Brands need to be thinking about all the things they can do with listening that have nothing to do with talking.

Second, there's a big difference between hearing and listening. Karl, you make an interesting point here about the volume of information that is coming that may, at some point, make cataloguing every mention of your brand an impossible task for a consumer brand. We've focused our monitoring tools to do two things: to gather as many mentions as we can out there and to create some qualitative aggregation of the qualitative data we've gathered. Notice that means we are doing all we can to make our hearing more effective but still not so much when it comes to actually listening. Brands may have to get out of the mindset that they can, or would want to, catalogue every mention of them. But that doesn't mean that listening shouldn't be the centerpiece of their strategy in social spaces.

I see your point, Karl, that many people may be having public conversations that they don't realize are public, and they may be turned off by marketers "lurking" in their conversation. The biggest problem in this regard is that marketers a.) want to turn monitoring to talking too quickly; b.) want to talk about themselves when they do reach out; and c.) often show no signs of having listened to the person they heard when they contact them. People may get over that shock of having a brand contact them if it is a really relevant point, is solving an issue of theirs, and is about what the person had been talking about rather than what the brand wants to say. 

And, of course, there are privacy controls on Twitter, on blogging software, etc., to keep a site or conversation private. Part of this is about educating the general public about how to use these tools, pushing the social network sites to make privacy options as clear as possible, etc. It's not to quit listening to our customer. I wouldn't pay a guy to lurk around a bar and jump in when people mention us, but if they publish something about us, it might behoove us to pay a bit of attention and, as several people pointed out, if they have a pain point we might be able to solve, to jump in and contact them appropriately.

Mark Andrejevic has done some writing on online surveillance, which I think has a much different purpose--and certainly a different tenor--than listening. He points out that Web 2.0 technologies are about automating people's every move, often in ways that they haven't agreed to and aren't aware of. I think that these are the areas that will generate customer revolt, where people's online behaviors are being turned into commodities, perhaps without them knowing it. I happen to think that, while some may be shocked, most people get that people can look you up on a social network site or may be monitoring keywords in your tweets if you don't have them locked. But privacy is completely obscured in many cases when it comes to browsing behaviors, search behaviors, etc. I think most of the big players do a lot to protect people's privacy, but "Web 2.0" companies need to strive much harder to make it as transparent and user-friendly as possible to understand what they're doing...

But I think companies need to do much more listening (again, noting the distinction from hearing) online, not less. Some of that might happen in our own "homes" online, and we need to make those homes as inviting as possible, but I feel that, if we just take that stickiness approach expect people to come to us, we miss a lot of opportunities to build relationships with audiences and to become part of relevant conversations in ways that respect those we reach out to. The problem is that a lot of bad behavior and heavy-handed marketing can sour people on what is an unbelievable opportunity for corporate communicators.

about 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

Sam, Thank you very much indeed for your comment. I'm really pleased how this thread has developed and I think it has triggered many thoughts in many heads and provided many different perspectives...which has to be a good thing. Even though the title of the post and some of its content was a very big wooden spoon, I'm pleased because the thread has developed into a discussion about human communications and interaction. In fact, many of the face to face "best practices" apply on the web too. Listening (and not hearing or waiting for that nugget to jump on) is absolutely essential. The method of listening is probably where there is disagreement. I think, as I've made clear, for me I'd prefer to listen, and take notice of people who are directing conversation towards me (whether as an individual or in an audience) wishing to seek me out i.e. Twitter mentions, blog comments, fan page comments etc and not devote a lot of time and effort to scouring the web for every conversation where people are talking about me. Some tome, but not a lot.

about 6 years ago

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Sam Ford

Glad you struck up a conversation, and it's clear you hit a nerve, Karl. I think the key is that people realize that there's a balance between being hospitable in your own home and forging meaningful relationships or being of use elsewhere. To your point, it's absolutely essential that, once a company has a presence built "out there," that they are as responsive as appropriate to anyone who comes to them. And, beyond that, it's key to think about the people who aren't coming to you but who might be happy with you, frustrated with you, interested in your content, or have a problem you might be able to help them with. My take is that people are never upset when you show up with something they want, nor if you take what you've heard and do better business as a result. I've done a lot of researching in to fans of soap operas, for instance, who constantly criticize "their stories" in online forums. They don't necessarily look for "the powers that be" to join their conversations--and, despite it being a public place--at times might see that as a disruption of the social space they've constructed. However, they also have this notion that it would do TPTB some good to peruse that space, or--when the show starts "getting it right," they query if someone who works with the show might have seen some of the issues discussed on their board. And the majority of people in those forums are not social media "gurus" but a transgenerational collection women who come together because of their daily viewing of a show.

The biggest issue of all, I think, is that marketers spend all their time thinking about what we'd like to say to these audiences and not enough time using listening as an opportunity to...well...listen. Instead, we can wait for a time to insert ourselves. Or tally up what they say and turn it into "data." But to actually learn the culture of a community, to listen to what people are saying and what they care about...that's either too much work or too hard to turn into measurable data.

about 6 years ago

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Moorius

WIth the volume of conversations in social media channels online rising daily (Alterian SM2 collects more than 35 million new results every day) the relative value of historical trending analysis will not decrease and in fact may increase in value to Brands. However, being truly "aware" of each and every mention will become a bigger challenge that needs to be managed by a system of prioritisation and categorsing content into streams that that can be processed before a decision can then be taken as to whether some form of response or reaction is going to be required. Dealing with increasing volumes of communication is not unlike the way we have adjusted to managing telephone, web and email traffic having utilised sophisticated technolgy to do that. We prioritise and manage conversations via any channel and choose the right medium for response and now we must integrate social media into that mix. I think that people will become more savvy about the fact that they dont need to contact an organisation directly in order to have their views listened and responded to and this will drive up the requirement sfor monitoring and engagement after all why should I spend time to reach you when I am the consumer and you can come to me. Nobody is suggesting that Brands should start to crow bar themselves into a pubic conversation online where you're not welcome anymore than you would in a interput people on the street just because you overheard your name. However a polite introduction along with an offer of assistance that is both relevant, timely and valuable will hardly go unwelcomed. Remember the conversation is already happening in a public place. In any case we learn more from listening than from speaking so the ability to glean actionable insights will continue to be key. Listening, learning and understanding consumers conversations is important before engaging in any way either via social media channels or by any other means.

about 6 years ago

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Bangalow Accommodation

On a human and social level, Twitter is about having a voice and reaching out and FB is about connecting. For company branding, SM allows the human side of the company to connect with its customers. A win-win. My company is new to SM and we're loving it. Used correctly, SM is a very powerful way of instantly finding out your customers likes and dislikes. I mean, why are we all on this forum commenting today? We kick the ball around like this to gather opinions that we then process for ourselves and eventually this leads to insights. This is true on a personal and also on a company level. I think consumers know how to "switch off" from companies that spam their wares across SM, the same way that you would switch off from a friend that constantly babbles about nothing much in particular. So I don't think that customers will get sick of SM or that the effectiveness of SM will "wear out". We are all getting finely tuned in the art of how to stream in the interesting information, and tune out from the hype. As SM evolves we will all get better at this. I don't think that Twitter or FB is like eaves dropping into a pub conversation at all, quite the opposite, you only talk about topics on SM that you want a response or comment from.

about 6 years ago

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Andrew Bonar

I hope Naveen does come back with some feedback on Nigel Sarbutts comments. I would like to say that I strong disagree with the sentiment that "tracking and targetting" do not seem to be permission led activities. I would argue that they are and should very much be part of a good permission led campaign. Specifically in the terms of email marketing the subject of Naveens blog, they are essential to good practice in my opinion. Targetting your message by breaking down your database and providing customised and personalised communications based on user activities and interactions is in fact the very height of good practice. Furthermore tracking user behaviour can provide valuable insight and data to further personalise the user experience. Tracking of emails and the ability to monitor user activity is one of the things that make email marketing so attractive. That said I do share Nigel's concerns about Naveen, the term "bulk email marketing" always sends shivers down my spine. Rest assured I am 100% a proponent of confirmed opt-in and definately someone that is 100% believer in permission driven marketing activity. Karl congratulations on writing a piece that inspired such widespread and varied opinion. The debates that have ensued are as prone to provoke thought as the piece itself. I am not sure that I agree with all of your points but well made and definately food for thought. @andrewbonar | http://emailexpert.org

almost 6 years ago

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Social Media Consultant - Ant Hodges

Whilst I appreciate where you are coming from on this, I don't agree.

I put my view on my blog and have had some comments including from 6consulting - UK authorised Radian6 provider.

Take a look here http://anthodges.co.uk/is-social-media-monitoring-worth-it

almost 6 years ago

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