Listening is harder than talking, both for people and for businesses. Stephen Covey, author of the top-selling 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said that most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand; we’re usually just waiting until the talker finishes so we can have our turn to speak. That’s not really listening.
Businesses usually do more talking than listening, too. Finely crafted messages appear on Facebook, in ads, and across other marketing content, but there hasn’t been much real listening going on. Without it, there’s no way of truly understanding your customers, making it difficult to give them what they want.
Thanks to social media, the idea of “listening” is finally being heard. Social media platforms offer a wealth of information as to what people are saying about a brand. Companies can also learn what their customers are searching for, where their customers are, and how their competitors are faring. This information can be used to create more personalized marketing content that targets specific audiences.
Just like the traditional form of listening, however, social media listening takes patience, and a willingness to hear what people have to say.
Taking it one step further, social listening becomes social intelligence when business leaders use what they’ve heard to drive business actions. For instance, to plan future innovations in flight technology, GE used Twitter conversations to understand passenger expectations. Visa, too, leveraged social media insights to extend its reach to a new target market of small businesses. And after listening to Facebook and Twitter, General Mills decided to drop artificial flavors and colors from its cereals.
Listening may not always yield business-altering insights, but if companies use these opportunities wisely, they can be assured of one thing at least: Customers will appreciate the chance to be heard, which is a win no matter what.
Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.