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Why is Social Listening Important?

‘Consumer insights’, ‘customer understanding’, ‘the bigger picture’… a simple internet search will show all the things gained from listening. But what is perhaps even more vital for businesses right now is to understand just why social listening is so important from an operational standpoint. 

Here, we delve deeper into the reasons why social listening isn’t just important for today’s businesses, but is actually a strategic necessity. Especially when it comes to closing, or at the very least narrowing, the gap between what customers expect from the businesses they partner with, and what these businesses are actually delivering.

Exploring the Business and Customer Disconnect

According to research by software firm MuleSoft, a whopping 82% of today’s customers are reporting a disconnected customer experience, citing an organisation’s failure to recognise preferences as a significant driver of this business/customer gap. But can’t this disconnect be addressed by asking customers what they need? What they want?

Perhaps not. But why?

Firstly, we need to consider how useful a single source of feedback really is. By trying to address the business/customer disconnect through simply asking for feedback, businesses are relying heavily upon a single data source (and a rather inaccurate data source at that… we’ll get to that later), essentially resulting in information silos.

“Globally, consumers are feeling the effects of data silos that create disconnected experiences. To meet consumer expectations, organisations must integrate disparate data sources to better understand their customers” – MuleSoft CEO Simon Parmett

From this, we can conclude that utilising multiple data sources is a more effective method for figuring out what customers think than by using feedback forms and surveys exclusively. Enter social listening, which scours multiple channels for relevant data

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The Hidden Truth

But that’s not all. While it might seem strange, customers themselves are not always an accurate data source for learning more about customer expectations. And this is especially true in the digital space.

We must consider how much of typical communications are based on non-verbal signals. In face-to-face exchanges, businesses can attach words to physical actions to assign context to these words…

…in the digital arena, that’s just not possible. We can’t rely on body language or facial expressions to tell us what a customer’s words really mean when we’re communicating with them. What we can do is listen to what our customers think using social networks. 

And this introduces a problem. We can ask for customer feedback, but without an ability to observe body language, we really have no way of verifying the information. And there is a very real reason why this information cannot be fully trusted. There’s a difference between what people say when asked, and what people actually think. 

“The trouble with market research is that people don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say” – Advertising tycoon David Oglivy

According to research, just 4% of unhappy customers will let their feelings be known and complain directly to a business. However, 13% will share their feelings with close friends and family… or even internet strangers. In fact, the average unhappy customer shares their feelings with no less than 15 people.

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Imagine you’re in a restaurant, and you’ve ordered the pasta. It arrives luke warm, yet when asked ‘how’s your meal?’ you smile and say ‘lovely, thank you’ before turning to your dining companion and moaning. 

Social listening is about tapping into customer opinions, feelings, and perceptions when they’re not saying what they think a business wants to hear; they’re saying what they really mean. By collecting this data from organic sources, and analysing multiple data packets from various online channels, we delve deeper into the customer experience. 

The Evolution of Meaning

Finally, we can’t overlook the fact that customer expectations, needs, and perceptions can change at the drop of a hat and they don’t always evolve in the way we think. 

A great example can be seen with ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s. The company thought they had it figured out: demand would be high in nice weather, and low in poor conditions. But it wasn’t. In fact, they found that cold weather sales were remarkably high. Why? Well, they turned to social listening and discovered that extreme weather conditions motivated many to stay home, watch TV, and enjoy an ice cream. This resulted in one of their most famous creations: the sweet and salty Netflix & Chill’d

So to go back to our original question, why is social listening important? It’s important because it addresses some of the most pressing and significant issues driving today’s business/customer disconnect. It takes into account just how rapidly customer needs evolve, it provides a solution to the modern challenges of digital operations, and it helps us to remove the cloak and really understand what we need to do in order to attract, engage, and connect with the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

If you want to grow your business through social listening, talk to our team today!

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