Chief Listening Officers: Fad, or the Future?

Many brands already carry out social media monitoring. But are they truly engaged in social media listening?

Many brands already carry out social media monitoring. But are they truly engaged in social media listening?


Social media listening is more than counting positive or negative sentiment or responding to customer complaints. Customers provide an immense amount of feedback via social media, forums and blogs – and their comments are often more honest (and certainly more up-to-date!) than those from a focus group.
GlobalWebIndex research states that more than 40% of internet users spend over an hour every single day on social media networks. The research company also found that athird of users on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google+ visit more than once a day – with that figure rising to 56% for Facebook. Social media is not going away. Companies which let the conversation go on without them, and fail to analyse this buyer behavior, will be put out of business - while ‘listening organizations’ steam ahead.



Board - meet the ‘Chief Listening Officer’


Leading ‘listening organizations’ have something in common - they employ a ‘Chief Listening Officer’. ‘Chief Listening Officers’ bring the social media discussion into the board room, ensuring every business unit understands the importance of social media engagement and their role in making it a success. Advertising Age reports that Dell and Kodak created listening positions about three years ago to track what was being said about their brands and their industry, and there’s been a big media buzz on the progress of these professionals ever since.


The Chief Listening Officers achieving success at the moment have excellent data modeling skills, yet are creative enough to uncover patterns in data. They understand ROI and set goals for their analysis - they know what they’re looking for, even in a mountain of Big Data. According to many marketing commentators, these skills are incredibly valuable and highly sought after.


It’s time to listen to what consumers have to say…


Here are our five tips to help your business become a ‘listening organization’.


1. Set goals


Know what you’re looking for! As the old joke in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy goes; the answer is 42, but no one knows what the question is. Once you know what you’re trying to do - be it to measure sentiment or monitor the effectiveness of marketing campaigns - these insights can inform your communications strategy, product development and expansion into new areas.


2. Identify wider trends and insights


Businesses should not focus solely on their own followers or fans, or simply monitor their own brand terms. Observing what trends are getting people talking in your industry, and what your target demographic is saying about competitors, is key. Here’s a list of starter questions.


3. Listen - then keep on listening


Many companies rightly begin social media engagement by listening to consumers and using the findings to create a social media strategy. However, it is vital to keep on listening, constantly adjusting your approach as the market changes.


4. Remember limitations


Of course, marketers should be aware that, despite its popularity, not everyone uses social media. You must gather information from other sources to build a complete picture of the demographics you are targeting. Marketers often forget, for example, that not everyone is on Twitter - they are occasionally guilty of convincing each other of a new strategy without a single customer entering the discussion!

Multiple languages are also a challenge. If your business operates in several countries, your team probably won’t have the language skills necessary to understand the nuances of customer sentiment.


5. Listening organizations are the future


Any business that does not conduct some level of social media listening is at a severe business disadvantage. Traditional marketers, who use a one-way stream of communication, are being left behind. Consumers now look all around them for ideas and influence – not just to adverts and salespeople.


Next steps


By using social media listening to connect the dots between brand mentions, sentiment and future trends across your industry and target markets, it is possible to ensure your business stays ahead of the curve and ahead of competitors.


  • ‘Chief listening officers’ aren’t commonplace at the moment, but they will be much more so in the future. Social media managers are in a good position for promotion if they can brush up their data modelling skills; never before have marketers had access to so much unfiltered real-time information straight from their customers’ mouths.
  • It can be incredibly difficult to cut through the overwhelming noise online, so leading listening organizations invest in the right software and the right people to sift through the results and deliver actionable insights.


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