How Too Much Social Listening Can Make a Company Deaf


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I’m here to tell you that corporate social media listening – if not handled correctly – can be detrimental to your brand; an unusual claim considering the company that signs my paychecks. But it’s true.

Corporate and brand social media (insert your favorite term here – tracking, monitoring, listening, intelligence) has exploded over the past three years, driven mainly by the popularity of powerful social networks we don’t need to name anymore.  Social listening pretty much got its start in most companies when one business group, or in some cases, one individual decided it was time to move beyond Goggle News Reader and implement a more robust software tracking platform on behalf of the company.

So far so good.

As insights from ‘first generation’ corporate listening programs are shared across an organization, the number of new business teams that also want to initiate social listening programs usually increases exponentially. That’s another very good thing.

At this point, even though no one is talking about “enterprise planning” at this stage of the game, the early characteristics of an enterprise strategy begin to emerge. While multiple social listening programs across a company is not a bad thing, the lack of coordination across all teams to analyze data to glean meaningful business insights to inform management and link back to specific business objectives is when problems start to emerge.

I find it a bit ironic that companies often discuss how to communicate in a singular corporate voice, but not about how to apply that same principle to social listening. If a company is not careful, competing internal agendas, different listening topics and criteria from business group to group, and even different software platforms can funnel conflicting data and information into an organization.

The noise level can be overwhelming, if not deafening to a brand. Even worse, it could defeat your original goal of why you are listening to your customers in the first place.

Noise is no laughing matter

Most companies have not yet recognized the need for enterprise social listening strategic planning, or understand the implications it has on worldwide operations – from research to marketing to customer service to legal to human resources, and beyond. Maybe that is why a recent report by SmartBrief and Summus indicated that less than 15% of executives surveyed think their companies have an effective social media strategy.

So here are a few key action items to keep in mind when developing an enterprise social intelligence strategy;

  • conduct a thorough organizational needs analysis for each business unit that wants to tap into social listening;
  • develop a listening topic and issue criteria that meets the individual needs of each part of the business, but also contains agreed upon metrics that can be rolled up to provide corporate-wide insights;
  • identify essential questions tied to business or campaign objectives that can be answered from analyzing social conversations; and,
  • create the measurement metrics for each business unit before you activate your listening program.

Enterprise social listening strategy is hard work and it is just starting to reach the attention of the C-suite at many companies. Until it does, there are going to more bumpy roads and rides along the way before it is fully aligned with global business objectives.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments on this issue.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mike Spataro
Mike is a senior vice president with Visible Technologies, a leading provider of social media listening, measurement and online brand activation. Mike has designed and implemented first and second generation social media strategies and programs for some of Visible Tech's growing roster of global clients, including American Express, FedEx, TD Bank and Kraft Foods.


  1. Hi Mike,

    I love this article- we are also seeing a real problem of an “all or nothing” approach. It seems companies either don’t want to listen at all because they aren’t sure where to begin or everyone wants to listen and no one can agree on who should respond. I look forward to more best practices around social media engagement, especially for B2B companies.

    Jodi Koskella

  2. Thanks Jodi. I’m sure you are seeing many of the same trends we are at VT. It’s a natural progression of an emerging industry, but lots of upside to help brands as this business grows. Thanks for sharing.



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