Are you actively listening?

Active Listening is one of the three core principles we have identified that organisations need in order to build Social Brands. We intentionally chose this descriptor because Active Listening is the intent to ‘listening for meaning’ which we felt better expressed the purpose of this activity as opposed to the generic ‘monitoring’ label that is often used. (See the Wikipedia entry for further definition.)  

For us Active Listening is a term that incorporates seven discrete activities, typically layered one on top of the other, plus the advice, consultancy and strategy that ensures it’s being applied appropriately within an organisation.

1. Monitor – Ongoing monitoring of conversations via keyword searching is the most basic of these activities. This could be done by using one, or a combination of, paid for or free tools. Some of the free tools available provide platform or channel specific like Twitter Search and Google Blog Search, whilst others have a broader search net like Addictomatic and Socialmention. It is also possible to build a fairly comprehensive ‘monitoring system’ as explained by Chris Brogan’s excellent ‘Grow Bigger Ears‘ blog post.

2. Measure – Next you should be looking to identify some appropriate metrics, with these in place you are then into the activity of measuring. Hopefully those metrics will have some targets and will be linked to some business objectives – see point 3 of our ‘7 Steps Social Media Analytics Strategy‘. This activity 

3. Track – Closely linked to measuring is tracking, where trends can be discovered over time. For example this could be tracking the sentiment around a brand, the number of comments on a blog post or the number of retweets. What we’re interested in here is tracking the velocity and acceleration of any changes as this will start to turn the data into information which we can respond to. Nathan Gilliatt provides further detail around tracking velocity and acceleration in his blog post ‘Derivatives in media measurement‘.

4. Alert - In order to respond to a real-time online crisis, or opportunities for that matter, it is important to consider setting up your alerts. These alerts can be based on a volume threshold for some of the metrics that you’re tracking or be based on the mention of a specific phrase that you may be monitoring such as ‘Brand sucks’ or ‘Brand FAIL’.

5. Insights – Over time you are going to be building up a huge volume of data, all of which could provide a wealth of insights. Depending on how you’re collecting and holding this data will depend on how insightful and how easy it will be to mine. Currently we find that appending information manually to the data collected provides the best results. These insights could be applied right across the organisation from product development to customer service, from HR to marketing.

6. Disseminate – Obvious although not happening comprehensively enough from my experience, the output from all of the five active listening activities above need to get to the right person within the organisation at the right time.

7. Act - And lastly, to ensure that the listening has been Active Listening we need to ensure that the business responds to what has been heard either through immediate action or by informing future strategy.

So, this is our approach, what do you think and how are you doing things differently?


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