I’ve had a number of conversations lately with clients, peers and friends about what we mean by “listening,” “monitoring” and “measurement” of social media. Some people dislike the term “listening” because it seems passive and somehow not rigorous, while others dislike “monitoring” because it reads as Orwellian. “We don’t ‘monitor’ our customers, we listen to them,” they say.
And then there’s measurement. What, if anything, is the relationship between social media listening and measurement?
Most of the companies that Altimeter Group speaks and works with are global 1000 businesses which, for the most part, have formalized or advanced social media programs in place. As Jeremiah Owyang stated in his most recent research report on social media proliferation, these companies have an average of 178 social media accounts. They’re no longer dabbling; this is a significant resource investment that must first be rationalized, then justified.
I often find that whenever we start talking about listening, somehow the conversation inevitably turns to measurement: how do we know that what we’re doing is being effective? This question, in my view, is a symptom of where we are in the social media adoption lifecycle. We’re seeing social media programs mature, moving from the earlier “toe in the water” stage to, in the most advanced cases, an integrated component of business strategy. Some contend that listening is somehow passé, a remnant of an earlier, more naive time in social media, and that we have to get “serious” about social media by starting to measure it.
I disagree with the first statement and agree with the second. Here’s why.
When you factor out the froth and hype of social media, the fact remains that it has dramatically empowered the customer, because she now has a voice and a megaphone. This is a historic shift. So companies who want to survive this shift must realize that they are now in a much different relationship with their customers and communities.
To better understand the relationship between listening and measurement, we need to look at the ways listening is being used within organizations. Altimeter has popularized the “Learn-Dialog-Support-Advocate-Innovate” model, which defines the major objectives of social media (more detail on this in Charlene Li’s Open Leadership). But with regard to listening specifically, I would propose a slightly different view.
- Insight and Learning. Insight gleaned from social media
- Engagement. Engaging with customers, community, detractors, advocates
- Customer Support. Serving customers via social platforms
- Decision Support. Input for making business decisions
- Performance Management. Determining the success of programs and individuals
When viewed in this context, listening and measurement become deeply interrelated; listening becomes a critical data source for the business. In fact, if you took the framework above and substituted “web analytics” or “CRM” or any other enterprise touchpoint for “listening,” you’d quickly find–perhaps with the exception of “engagement”–that it can be used in much the same way.
Today listening is business-critical for the social enterprise.
All of this demonstrates that we still struggle to fit social media into the realities of the business, but that we also struggle to fit business into the realities of social media. The challenge is to accept–and work with–the dynamic tension between these two imperatives.