The Need for a New Listening Movement: From monitoring to learning by briansolis

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Social media is praised by experts for its promise to open up dialogue between customers and businesses. Perhaps most notably, social media is celebrated for giving a voice to the consumer and eyes and ears to companies for which to see and listen. The reality is that customers always had a voice. Social media amplifies and organizes that voice and packages it as a tremendous gift for businesses ready to earn relevance in a new genre of consumerism. Nothing matters however, if businesses are not ready to learn, engage, or take action based on what they hear.

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									The Need for a New Listening Movement: From
monitoring to learning
By Brian Solis, industry-leading blogger at BrianSolis.com and principal of research firm
Altimeter Group, Author of the highly acclaimed books on social business The End of Business
as Usual and Engage!




The market for listening services is rapidly maturing with vendors such as Radian6, Spiral16,
Crimson Hexagon, Research.ly, Lithium, Sysomos, and many others improving how businesses
monitor consumer conversations and experiences. The wide array of options and capabilities are
nothing less than baffling, requiring expert analysis prior to committing any significant investment of
finances or organizational resources now and over time. For those seeking top line advice on the
differences between many of the top listening vendors, please read this helpful post at
SocialMedia.biz.

I’m not going to take this time to preach about the importance of listening nor am I going to focus on
which platform will best meet your needs. I would like to explore a very real issue around the
enterprise-wide adoption of monitoring systems, or perhaps better said, the lack thereof, and also
what businesses should think about as social media becomes increasingly consequential to the
organization.

Social media is praised by experts for its promise to open up dialogue between customers and
businesses. Perhaps most notably, social media is celebrated for giving a voice to the consumer and
eyes and ears to companies for which to see and listen. The reality is that customers always had a
voice. Social media amplifies and organizes that voice and packages it as a tremendous gift for




(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
businesses ready to earn relevance in a new genre of consumerism. Nothing matters however, if
businesses are not ready to learn, engage, or take action based on what they hear.

According to a recent study by Capgemini, 57% of businesses currently monitor online
conversations about the brand, products or services. But 20% do not listen at all and another 23% of
respondents weren’t sure whether or not the company is listening to online conversations.




Yes, businesses are learning to listen. But what does that actually mean? To what extent are
businesses capturing insights, solving problems, learning from recurring themes, and engaging
customers and prospects? According to the Capgemini report, the conversions of conversation to
action are impressive, but nowhere near their potential.




(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
The majority of businesses polled, 41%, only respond to customers when a direct question is asked.
This behavior must shift to full engagement to realize the opportunity that lies before them.
Engagement is the currency of relationship building. Those that listen and engage across a greater
set of conversations, 36%, are well on their way to building a social businesses. However, there are
20% today that listen and never respond. This is a number that I actually would like to see diminish
over the years.

Monitoring vs. Listening

Everything indeed starts with listening. But, notice that the word “listen” is absent in the Capgemini
graphs above. Instead, the industry is standardizing around “monitoring” as it more accurately
reflects the behavior of businesses today in social media. Monitoring is the process of tracking
keywords and reporting on the various attributes surrounding the activity of each. For example,
tracking mentions of the brand, products, key personnel and also competitors are analyzed and
reported out to key stakeholders to portray the state of conversations and sentiment, capture the
share of voice, and set the foundation for benchmarking and metrics. Monitoring also encompasses
potential crises and serves as an early warning system for businesses. Listening however, builds a
layer on top of monitoring that examines conversations for enterprise-wide learning and cross-
functional engagement. The difference between monitoring and listening is initiative, the ability to
take what’s observed and take action internally or externally to solve, improve, or validate
experiences.

The enabler for listening is monitoring, but a case must be made for action as defined by responding,
connecting, and adapting. This case must emphasize how corresponding actions improve customer
experiences, relationships, and in turn, influence their capacity to act and guide their peers. To listen
takes a culture focused on customer-centricity and a philosophy that is intended to steer customer
experiences.

Revisiting the Capgemini report, we can clearly see that 32% of businesses surveyed are on their
way to designing what many would refer to as a social business or a social enterprise. These
companies see listening as an integral part of marketing, selling, and servicing customers. As


(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
customers continue to come into focus, 32% see listening as a means for better understanding
customer sentiment and needs and another 25% view social media as an additional customer
service channels.




Asking the Unthinkable

In a time when progressive companies such as Dell and Gatorade are celebrated for their newly
erected social media command centers, it is their ability to truly listen and their openness to allow
conversations to reverberate throughout the entire organization that serves as a next-generation
model for customer-centricity. But how many businesses can build a command center where
technology opens doors to bona fide organizational transformation? Sure, many large organizations
house sophisticated business intelligence divisions and certainly big data is well on its way to
dramatically impacting how a business captures, analyzes, and translates data into actionable
insights, but in the mean time, social media lives outside of B.I. and thus is limited in its ability to
transcend silos.

To listen to conversations and build an infrastructure that can 1) Learn, 2) Engage, and 3) Adapt
across the organization, the construction of a listening framework becomes far more complex than
merely monitoring keywords and reporting out to key stakeholders. And for those of you who have
had to program dashboards in some of the most popular social media monitoring systems, you can
attest to the complexity of development. Factor in the complications of programming, the typical user
experience of most monitoring platforms, and the day-to-day needs and responsibilities of
stakeholders, and you’re faced with a series of hurdles that impede adoption. These challenges face
any organization looking to scale the act of monitoring, let alone the development of an infrastructure
for supporting engagement and adaptation.




(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
Programming dashboards around keywords, filters, exclusions, associated alerts is arduous.
Deploying these systems across the organization and expecting lines of business and other
business functions to adopt complex systems is an incredible ask. Many monitoring vendors offer
dedicated or part-time resources to support programming and also monitoring, which businesses are
keen to employ based on resource limitations and lack of expertise. But those services come at a
notable cost. And, the cost of adding seats and keywords to these systems is also not inexpensive.
More important, these costs are not commensurate with the perceived value of “social media
monitoring” among executives.

An opportunity exists for outsourced command centers to assist social businesses with monitoring,
listening, and engagement support while the overall value for social media and customer-centricity
matures. Whether this model exists within a vendor infrastructure or that of an agency that maintains
multiple vendor relationships, organizations need cost-effective, efficient, and proficient solutions at
the ready.

Existing vendor support models are expensive and limited in scope as tied to the product.

Current agency models are dedicated to the function they are typically designed to serve, for
example, marketing, advertising, service, etc.

A new model built on the technologies, systems, and processes powering some of the most renown
command centers in play today, can help expedite the customer-centric evolution of a business and
how it listens, learns, engages, and adapts over time. Additionally, this model can free-up resources
within the organization to build the necessary architecture to capitalize on social opportunities to
demonstrate business critical value and the overall promise of social media to executives and
stakeholders.

I’ve had an opportunity to work with some of these hybrid models where the best of each system is
employed against the needs of each business. Expertise is part of the value proposition and that
know-how is translated into actionable insights and opportunities for the companies they help. As
businesses mature, the listening framework migrates internally, preserving the investment and
setting the stage for scale and adoption.

Businesses testing outsourced command center models will report both challenges and successes.
But nothing about the evolution of business is designed to be easy. We’re dealing with culture and a
significant investment in legacy systems and supporting processes. The reality is that the future of
business is based on listening and the actions that manifest as a result. Businesses are forced to
invent frameworks as they go, but stepping back to address the bigger issues of what monitoring
and listening solves and accordingly, how that translates into tying business priorities and
opportunities is where businesses must initially focus. Building an infrastructure around those
answers is the opportunity for stakeholders, vendors and service providers to solve today.

Are you a vendor with ideas or experiences that can help businesses?

Are you a representing a brand that is solving this problem?

Are you a service provider that has built an outsourced command center?

Please share your insights in the comments section for the benefit of all.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+ | BrianSolisTV



(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
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(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is
globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published
authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and
influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and
culture. His current book, The End of Business as Usual helps companies rethink
business strategies to lead, not react to, the new consumer revolution. His previous
book Engage, is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to build and
measure success in the social web.




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