The Future of (Social) Listening: If we knew..


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@katenieder from Dachis Group wrote a post titled “The Future of Listening: If we know what we know“.. I have to admit I was positively surprised by the fact that she is clearly stating her caveat with the current state and the potential of Social Media Monitoring and Analytics. This is quite a thing for a Social Business Consultancy I think, specifically one that’s advocating Committing to Social Media Monitoring.

One can read the disappointment when she writes:

The future of listening was the promise of evolving to unknown unknowns– things we didn’t even know could be out there. For example, the prospect of happening upon unexpected audiences (i.e. Dads?) talking about your product being used in unintended ways (i.e. eye cream for cellulite!).

Sometimes we try to identify “influence,” although there is no agreed upon algorithm to capture “influencers.” There is also no clear winner/best of breed technology with 100% accurate sentiment mining or topics analysis. I think it’s time for us to agree that isn’t the future of listening.

A little naive?

I have to admit also that the disappointment strikes me as slightly naive for several reasons. The most dominant reason to me is that it is so very obvious that the entire promise of Social Media Monitoring, as stated by Niederhoffer, stems from an opportunity seeking approach for technology, not a solution seeking approach for Customer problems. On top of that here seems to be a lack of understanding how Customers solve these problems today. More so even, to me it looks like many Social Media (snake-oil) guru’s even invent problems, because fear creates sense of urgency which creates a willingness to buy or invest.

Before I proceed I like to emphasize here that I think highly of Kate Niederhoffer and have no reason to doubt her good intentions, nor those from her employer, Dachis Group, for that matter.

The future of Listening is not Social Media Monitoring

Having said the above I do agree with Kate Niederhoffer when she says:

The future of listening– the near future– is making it work in an organization. Operationalizing listening as a standard business process. The future is a flow chart that integrates people (e.g. customer service, product), process (e.g. escalation, resolution), and technology (e.g. from listening to CRM) and disseminates results to a wider group of stakeholders.

But that should come as no surprise of regular readers of this blog. The good thing of course is that, with this post, and likely more to see in the near future, we are close to sliding the slope following the peak of inflated expectations. After that we can expect better times. In my humble opinion this cannot happen fast enough.

6 directions for Social Media Monitoring and Analytics

If you’re in the business of Social Media Monitoring, regardless if on the vendor side or in a business trying to make sense of the “social” chatter, there are a few things I would like you to consider, so that we can avoid the trough of disillusionment and go straight through to the plateau of productivity ..

  1. Stop trying to show what your technology can do. Focus on your (internal) Customer, listen (say what??), and seek solutions to solve their problems within your own core capabilities.
  2. Try not to waste too much energy on optimizing “sentiment” analytics. There are great and reliable solutions in place to capture the Voice of the Customer (you do a great job btw on getting attention for the Customer’s voice). Also here: go talk to the VOC guys and see if they have problems you are able to solve and maybe we are all surprised.
  3. Seek contact with people responsible for Customer (& community) management in your company and start sharing (say what??) knowledge and data to be analyzed together.. And maybe you can bring along the guys from point 2 too 😉
  4. Focus more on understanding the person (=Customer) who’s talking and the one(s) he’s talking with (=relationships) than on the talking itself.. After all, it’s the Customer’s relationships that should be center of a Social CRM Strategy..
  5. Seek not to understand who is the influencer, seek to understand who is influenced, to what extent, and then work your way up..
  6. Measure not in terms of conversation volume, sentiment and influence, measure in terms of Customer Engagement Value..

In short: get out there and listen, share, collaborate and solve some real Customer problems.. (if only we knew… 😉

What do you think of the future of Social Media Monitoring?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. “Seek not to understand who is the influencer, seek to understand who is influenced, to what extent, and then work your way up.”

    This is a great point. It’s too easy to get carried away with monitoring retweets and suchlike, as of they’re the ends, rather than the means. The end aim is to increase sales. If you can trace everything backwards and find out where these sales are coming from, you won’t waste so much time following up red herrings.

    Doing sCRM well, requires understanding your ecosystem and the place of important people within it, not just those who are most vocal.

  2. Wim, I think there is tremendous value (mostly untapped) in “listening” to people through their unstructured comments, tweets, posts, etc. Sentiment analysis will never be 100% but even at 70-80% accuracy, companies can gain useful insight.

    But I agree that this is not the future of listening any more than just putting out structured surveys is the end-all-be-all.

    Instead of any one magic solution, companies should use all their senses to truly listen and understand what their customers and the market is saying.

    In addition to conventional structured surveys (EFM) and the new-age sentiment analysis (SMM and Text mining solutions), companies can “hear” their customers through transaction data they already have, if only they’ll take time to use it. Changes in usage patterns, slow bill paying or other factors could signal a potential issue that needs attention before the next survey goes out.

    In addition to social content which is all the rage right now, companies can mine their internal unstructured comments, agent logs and emails from customer interactions.

    If you think about it, we humans use all 6 senses to listen to and understand others. Companies should do the same, and not get too infatuated with any one technology. In fact, I still think face-to-face meetings are the best way to get input from key customers!


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