The Quantum Mousetrap

Mark Eduljee's blog about Social Media Insights Intelligence and his FlightSim Movies

Listening: social media’s 4th dimension

There is this wonderful story in the world of physics used to describe dimensions. It goes like this: An Ant is walking along a very long, looped, thick, cylindrical wire.

Wait! What the heck has this got to do with Social Media!!?

Patience grasshopper! And shuddap and listen for a change!

Let’s call the ant… Adam. Adam Ant. It has a nice ring to it yes?

Anyway, Adam is happy. He is wired to his universe. In his 3 dimensional universe he can interact with others, follow them, exchange information, and help out. With a vibrant and active community Adam does not lack the opportunity to engage in conversation, exchange information, interact with others, help out, meet others, or participate in activities.

Are you seeing a parallel? Does this world sound familiar to something you are in, right now? …Community on line (get it?), with roles, followers, activity, interaction, help, and conversations, all within a self-defined, self-perpetuating system? Sounds like the current Social Media universe?

Viewed from Adam’s vantage point and broadly speaking, Social Media’s 3 current dimensions are:

  1. Social Media Marketing (buzz, followers, sentiment, demand generation, and awareness)
  2. Social Media Communication (do I need to say more)
  3. Social Media Engagement (interaction, relationships driving perception)

These 3 (MCE) have been well studied, documented, with many a wise word written and oodles and oodles of content created about these activities to understand and help us use become more aware of these 3 dimensions. There are many careers that have been built on their platforms and its foundation. This is good. It should be encouraged. It advances the collective body of knowledge to drive SM participation reach, excellence, collaboration and contributions.

Back to the Adam Ant… As a member of the online community he’s not focused on, nor is he even in a position to be able to broadly Listen to the community. Sure, he can talk 1:1, or 1:100 if he shouts really loudly, or 1:1million if his megaphone and following is big enough, but he can’t listen to, or easily make sense of, the vast number of conversations in the online space. His measures of success and passions are limited and well understood too. His focus is participation and engagement.

But like the Dark Energy and Matter that scientists say pervades and influences how the real universe behaves, Adam feels the effect of a 4th social media dimension, but because of the level of activity around him, it’s very difficult for him to see it. Unlike his activity-driven universe which he can reach out and touch, this 4th dimension is much harder to understand, harder to measure, and much harder to “do” well, consistently, and predictably.

What is that 4th Social Media dimension?  … Social media listening

To put this 4th social media universe dimension into perspective, imagine now that Adam’s community is contained in a great big glass Ant Farm, one that contains a larger number of communities, all living their lives quite blissfully unaware of the world beyond the glass wall.

Certainly Adam is impacted by those outside who observe his community, and as a result, make environmental or other changes. After all, the community’s health is at stake. He participates, but the Listening dimension interprets his participation as “feedback”, and if it is doing its job, it has the option to take that feedback and make changes to the ecosystem as needed to keep Adam engaged and happy.

Exploring, understanding, and getting “really good” at 4th dimensional Social Media Listening is the next frontier.

What is Social Media Listening: It’s defined in terms of having the …

  • Commitment (executive sponsorship, the will or the awareness to invest in social media Listening and data science)
  • Capacity (Funding. Moolah. Dough. Some grease to keep the Listening effort functioning over time)
  • Capability (Providing the right tools and people to enable Listening)
  • Competencies (Alignment of roles, responsibilities and accountability. Organizational excellence)

…to create a framework that pulls in the voice of the community on one end, has people, process and tools to generates actionable insights while assigning them to competent individual subject matter experts in the middle, who then make changes to the customer experience on the other side.

Why is it in your interest to have a SM listening strategy?

Why is listening to 2 billion online conversations a year a good thing? And why is it important EVERYONE make an effort to get good at it?

  • Why not? If you are a business or person intent on gaining traction and awareness, what better (and more efficient) way to know what actions you need to take next than to first listen to what your customers want!
  • If you don’t, you are getting ½ the story: Most businesses and enterprises focus on Social Media Marketing (creating, gathering, or generating Followers and fans, Newsletter subscriptions, site visitors, click-rates, Communicating messages etc). That’s all great, and necessary. But SM Marketing is not SM Listening. Surveys, focus groups and other data collection methods traditionally used in marketing science disciplines are aimed at guiding decisions based on customer sampling, and they have their place and time. It’s a narrow, focused, time-bound method of getting a pulse. I’m not against surveys and focus groups. (Part of my previous job was to own the Survey strategy and governance for our line of business, so I get it) But that’s not broad Social Media Listening. Marketing’s purpose is to build and raise awareness. Listening is about gaining insights from EXISTING conversations.
  • SM listening provides unmatched, real-time early warning signals: If you want near-real time feedback, there’s no better way that I know of to hear what your customers are saying about you. BTW, putting up a survey on your site, or in a presentation is not SM Listening. Surveys are a fantastic tool in under certain conditions, but have been overused and abused. Surveys have inherent design problems that few understand…overcoming bias, sampling, stats and other math. I’ve seen many scorecards which have used averaged averages and other weird (convenient) math. It takes special skills, from trained professionals, to produce high confidence results, AND, to competently interpret the numbers without bias. You’ve probably got Monkey results if you’ve ever used surveyMonkey to run your surveys. Show me a result you “want” and I’ll design a survey that gives you that result. Survey results are easy to manipulate, and politicians and special interests use surveys to get the results they want to suit their agenda all the time.
  • Listening gives you what you “need” to hear… the good, the bad and the ugly. Marketing analysis gives you what you want to hear (focused, keyword driven data). To listen to SM conversations is to cast a broad net with very few keywords to cut the bias out of your Listening. The result is that you become a consumer of conversations, as opposed to, in Marketing, a conversation influencer.
  • Listening inspires innovation: There is no person or team on Earth who can compete with the collective power of all the brains, and ideas, and passions of all social media participants. They will invent new ways to use and abuse your products than you ever thought possible, and think of more new “if only it did…” features than you ever will. Which team wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of those Listening insights?
  • Listening completes the ROI story: Much has been written about Social Media metrics like reach, followers, sentiment, awareness, visitors, sales, conversion, net promoter scores, subscribers etc) But most, if not all of these measure SM Marketing success and effect. SM Listening takes your ROI story to the next dimension. Imagine your scorecard that also includes the following:
    • Product and Service quality improvements (Customers will see a difference)
    • New feature/service innovation (Competitors will struggle to keep up)
    • Business, process, cost efficiencies (doing more of what’s needed, and less of what isn’t. CEO’s Love this)
    • Influencer identification (long term deeper customer engagement and retention)
    • Key themes for SEO and content generation (making it easier to find, solve and engage)

In the spirit of listening, I’m going to now shut up and Listen – to you. I’m sure that you can think of a number of reasons and advantages to having a social media listening strategy. Comments welcome.

Over time I intend to write about social media Listening challenges, how to overcome them, and go deeper into the skill requirements and processes needed to set up and run a great social media listening system. I hope you will stay tuned. (See subscription links in the right column)

Reach out to me on LinkedIn if you wish. If you do, mention the Quantum Mousetrap. Mention Listening in the 4th dimension.

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