All together, now: "Companies should listen to social media." We all know the advice, but do you have the impression that listening is a purely defensive strategy? It's not. You just have to move beyond the common, but limited, interpretation of listening.
How often does your defense score?
In a recent survey of management, marketing and HR executives in the US, Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law found a strong defensive leaning in respondents' current use of social media. The top reasons they use social media?
- Read what customers may be saying about our company (52%)
- Monitor a competitor's use of social media (47%)
- See what current employees may be sharing (36%)
- Check the background of a prospective employee (25%)
- None/personal use only (16%)
Put your listening on offense
Think about my earlier list of conversations you should care about, and let's come up with some things you can do with the information you find. Defensive ideas are easy (and rampant). Let's focus on putting some points on the board. I'll start:
- Spot sales leads where prospects ask questions or contact you through public channels.
- Figure out a competitor's plans from their public statements and personnel changes.
- Figure out a customer's plans (and needs) from their public statements.
- Identify a competitor's weakness in online complaints; launch a product or program to exploit it.
- Identify a product or service opportunity in online discussions; fill the gap before competitors notice it.
Listening can be defensive—and if you're not monitoring for customer complaints and other problems, start. But don't stop with defense; think about how to apply it to advantage, too. Although it sounds passive, listening doesn't have to be either passive or defensive. Don't be satisfied until you find the path to profit for your business.