Five Conversations You Should Care About


Do you monitor social media for mentions of your brand? Is that all you're looking for? If so, you're just getting started. You'll get more out of your listening activities if you cast a wider net.

If you've heard me talk about listening in social media, you know that I apply an expansive definition to the metaphor. It starts with basic monitoring to detect items that need a response, but the really interesting part is when you start to think of listening for its intelligence-gathering value. Given all of this public sharing of fact and opinion, what can you discover that will help your business?

  1. Customers talking to you
    Call it Social CRM, customer service, or just meeting the customer where she is—if your customers are trying to reach you through social media, you want to be there. As for metrics and analysis, consider rolling the data from these contacts into a broader voice of the customer activity for a comprehensive view of what customers are telling you directly.

  2. People talking about you
    Everyone in social media preaches this point. If people (not just customers) are talking about you and making it easy for you by using your brand names, you should be paying attention.

  3. People talking about your competitors
    This one's easy to figure out, too. You might find immediate opportunities or longer-term insights, but you will find something useful in what people have to say about the competition.

  4. People talking about your customers, suppliers and partners
    No business exists in a vacuum—who's critical to your success? If your customers are businesses, what can you learn by listening to their customers? What issues in your supply chain may affect you?

  5. People talking about your market without mentioning names
    Tom O'Brien likes to point out that most conversations don't mention brands. Lots of conversations about your market are probably happening without mentioning brand names. If you're looking for insights—and not just complaints that need a response—you'll want to follow these conversations, even if that makes the queries harder to set up.
Let's keep thinking expansively about listening. As much as we want to rush into the fun stuff—promotions, campaigns, communities...—there's untapped potential here, too.

Update: Here's a twist: how about a category for what your employees are saying? Not necessarily as a Big Brother, monitoring the employees thing, but as a management of company communications thing?


Absolutely, Nathan and that is why the following is a useful addition to sentiment analysis: opinion holder profile - as you mention present, former, potential, competitor customers and the other stakeholders you mention. Also opinion type: Is it a suggestion, complaint, wish (people talking to you)?

Thanks for the Shout-Out Nathan - sometimes I feel like I am shouting "just listen to people" into a brand monitoring storm.

Guess it depends on what you want to get out of SM monitoring & analysis. If you want deep human understanding - you have to listen beyond the brands.

MotiveQuest LLC

Right with you, Jonathan. When I first wrote about the expansive view of listening, I listed Who as one of the important questions.

I almost linked to Katie's post with Peter Kowalski's list of 26 types of conversations. That level of detail may be overkill, but the broad categories could be useful.

Tom, I'm doing a lot of "and" thinking lately—this is just one example. What I want to get out of monitoring and analysis is everything possible. We've simplified things to make them accessible, and now I'm digging into the complexity to see what's there. I'm starting to read Bing Liu—if you don't hear from me for a while, send a search party. :-)

Hi Nathan,

I love your #5 and the reference you plugged in.

Very consistent with what we observe.

Nathan - Great post! You really hit on some key things to listen for. It is all too often that organizations look to participate but don't know what they are participating in. They need to listen for the conversations or key points of need.

It's the whole gotta walk before you can run game.

Thanks for linking to us as well!

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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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