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The Importance of Listening

Blog post date icon  12th February 2013    Blog post comment icon    Comments

Circa Ad 55 the Greek Stoic Epictetus said "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." It has been used as a guide to being a good conversationalist ever since.  If social media facilitates online conversation, which it does, then this adage is as applicable to online conversation as it is to offline chatter. 

Of course with social media we need ears everywhere, or at least everywhere our customers are. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yammer, Google+, YouTube, and the list goes on. When we listen carefully we can then speak intelligently and add value to the conversation with one mouth; In otherwords, as an organisation we speak with one unified voice; delivering a clear and consistent message to stakeholders.

Below is a diagram taken from an excellent article by McKinsey. It lists 10 ways in which social technologies add value to organisational functions. 7 of the 10, highlighted in red, tie back directly to listening.




None of the 7 areas of value can be realised without listening closely to the conversation. Maybe this isn’t exactly a revelation. However, if it's obvious why is there still an on-going emphasis on the speaking side of social media, and a lack of emphasis on active, systematic listening?

In some cases it's a lack of understanding by management of the real value of social media. In other cases it's a lack of skills and processes to put in place social media that enable business value.

Below are some quick explanations of each area of value highlighted above. As business people we need to ask: how can my organisation derive this value from social media?

Co-create Products: Most organisations have now realised the importance of having customer-orientated products and services. Therefore it should come as no surprise that there is an abundance of useful information online that can feed straight into development. Tools like make it easy to do.

Leverage Social for Forecast and Monitor: Social media is being used as a forecasting tool in both practical and obscure applications, from an amazingly accurate Triple J Warmest 100 to making profits on Wall Street by measuring social media sentiment. What can your business forecast using social media?

Derive Customer Insights: This ties in well with co-creation of products, but extends further to include all realms of customer involvement including service and support, evangelism, market position and customer demographics. Even if you have existing market research strategies, social media provide a free means of testing and improving your customer information.

Use Social Technologies for Marketing Communication/Interaction: This is what most brands are already doing… talking! Social technologies are now widely accepted as being an effective means of communicating brand messages to stakeholders. The next step is perfecting the use of content to really hit your audience sweet spot!

Generate and Foster Sales Leads: Do you know what your sales funnel looks like? Do you know how social media fits in the sales process? There are multiple steps between the customer becoming aware of your brand and the purchase point. Social technologies can feed into and enhance each of those steps. Furthermore, they can provide insights into where we fall short.

Provide Customer Care: If you have a problem, would you prefer to chase after the supplier for a solution or for the supplier to come to you? Many of your customers now use social technologies as part of their everyday lives. Providing customer care through those tools will help the customer feel as though they didn’t really go out of their way at all! Furthermore, a solution for one customer may publicly solve a problem for another, and who doesn’t love economies of scale?

Get in touch with us to learn more about how to listen using listening posts, analytics and customer interaction.

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  • About

Fergal Coleman

Fergal Coleman has over 15 years experience in the digital communications space with a focus on digital strategies and social media . He has worked with clients in the public and private sector and is passionate about helping clients develop their digital capabilities in order to deliver better customer experiences.
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Fergal Coleman



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