Why Businesses are Failing at ‘Social Listening’
Listening is the only way we get first-hand accounts of the experiences of other people. And the growth of social media has encouraged conversations to be more transparent, with the size of available content constantly augmenting. With so much conversation out in the open, listening should be easier. However, as it turns out, it isn’t as easy as you might think.
According to the Global Communications Manager at the pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk, Liz Skrbkova, “Nothing is stagnant in the world of social media, with goalposts that keep changing.” The dynamic growth of social media, plus the unpredictability often associated with human behaviour (even in the online arena), makes listening all the more challenging – and all the more necessary.
The Promises of Social Listening
The type of listening that businesses need to become more familiar with is called ‘social listening.’ Specifically, it is the process of monitoring different social media platforms to gather information about the interests of potential markets, as well as gaining feedback from existing markets on your or your competitors’ performance. This information could prove invaluable in strategising how to influence customers on the digital landscape and bolster business.
If done effectively, social listening can help you validate whether the content and campaigns you put out are indeed working. It can help businesses address the small language variances across international communities, as well as guide businesses towards improving the existing state of their products and services. This is the case in pharma – some companies monitor the performance of newly launched drugs through online customers in the practice called ‘pharmacovigilance.’ Most notably, social listening allows businesses to drive online conversations.
We’ve all heard what social listening is and how much business potential it holds. However, the promise of social media success is still a little too beyond the reach of some businesses. Why is this so when the conversations of people are out in the open and the tools to access and connect with customers are freely available in the digital world?
The Serious Case of Social Listening
Charlotte Roth, Corporate Communications Manager at the biopharmaceutical company, Actelion, recently gave a talk during a social media and pharma conference in London. She touched on two very important points: first is the need to create awareness about the relationship between social media and pharma as a business; and, second is how this necessitates training of employees across the organisation so that they develop a communicative behaviour.
Social media has become a critical component of communication strategies. Like any other strategy, it requires the support of policies, effective planning and implementation, and often the creation of dedicated named positions.
Sadly, this is where many companies fail. By creating a social media department or lumping it together with the IT department, some firms believe the problem is already resolved. In reality, this only encases social listening within a silo.
The Two Sides of Social Listening
Customers are dynamic and ever-changing. The only way a communication strategy can work successfully for customers is when the employees on the other end are dynamic enough to meet their needs. What good is a communication strategy when the people running it lack the empathy to locate unmet needs and the initiative to build on them?
Social listening needs social listeners!
Daniel Newman, who is the Founder and President of the digital marketing consultancy group, Broadsuite, Inc., refers to employees as a company’s first “advocates” – its primary community of influencers. As advocates, employees have the power to propel or break your brand. They can have the willingness to either share your content or keep it within the ‘work dimension’ of their social media personas. When Newman consults with a client, he asks whether or not employees understand the organisation’s social media goals and how such goals are of value to the business. Many companies, unfortunately, barely lay down the cultural foundations of a ‘social’ organisation.
Employees can be empowered to share the company message, educate customers, and essentially do more for the business. However, business leaders shouldn’t expect their brand to lead conversations when, in the first place, the employees they have tasked to ‘listen’ are not equipped with the right skills and mindset.
Social listening is both a tool and a skill. It’s a powerful tool, but first the right people need to be in place to wield it the way it’s meant to be wielded. Like every other skill, social listening can be learned. For businesses, it must be learnt by every single person in the organisation through training, otherwise companies will fail to meet the true needs of their existing customers or to pique the interest of potential customers.