Social Media Listening Is a Business Imperative, Not an Intriguing Anomaly


ImageSee if this sounds familiar:

“Last year, we did a survey and three-quarters of our customers said …………… security was an issue,” said Chris McCann, senior vice president of 1-800-Flowers, which does 10 percent of its business on line. ”Today less than one-third see it as an issue.”

Or this one:

“The report also indicated that people are worried that ………………. could result in a loss of privacy much more than they are worried about falling victim to fraudulent business schemes on the Net.”

Can you guess the missing words? These two quotes are from this piece from The New York Times and this piece from CNET looking at concerns about online banking – from 1997. This is what comes to mind anytime I see debates about social media privacy – concerns about Facebook giving marketers access to private information, issues with targeted advertising based on your internet browser history, etc.. Whenever I see them, what I think is, these concerns won’t last.

Those old enough to remember will recall the outcry about internet banking, the doomsday predictions of privacy hacking and security fears associated with logging into your personal accounts online. These days, the majority of banking is done on the web – you hardly ever see those curling, in-bank lines of people, herded in like club goers on their way to a teller window. Online banking has changed the way we do business, and as people become more tech native, the number of people conducting transactions online continues to increase and evolve. Process improvements, reductions in reported incidents – as people see more of their friends going online without issue, security and privacy concerns ease. They’ll always exist on some level, but over time these issues will fade – particularly in the case of targeted marketing based on previous online behaviour. Those concerns won’t only dilute, but sentiment will turn completely. Consumers will to grow to expect it.

Consider this – Facebook turned ten recently. That means for teenagers on the cusp of adulthood social media has been present for pretty much as long as they can recall. It’s as much a part of their lives as the internet is a part of yours, it’s baked into the DNA of who they are and how they interact. Posting status updates and sharing photos is a way of life for them, a societal norm. Targeted ads on their side-bar are nothing new. More than that, a growing number of consumers expect that if they mention a brand profile on social media, that that business will respond to them within an hour of posting. Not only are they aware brands are listening, but increasingly, they want them to be, and they’re able to use that to their advantage.

Yes, I hear you say, but teenagers are the ones going to Snapchat for privacy, they’re growing more aware of the digital footprint they’re leaving and looking for ways to hide their activity. This is true, but the target of their social media blackout is not Zuck and his pals – it’s their parents. They’re not so concerned about brands accessing their data, what they don’t like is Mum and Dad and Aunty and (the worst) Grandma signing up and viewing the evidence of their weekend activities. It’s not ‘Big Brother’ that has them taping up the windows and locking the doors, it’s ‘Big Grandmother’ they’re wary of. This is the main driver behind the noted teen slowdown on Facebook and the increase in popularity of newer platforms – like Snapchat. Once the elders move in on their turf, the teens move on – this will happen again when the parents start signing up to the next most popular network – be it Reddit or Tumblr or wherever else – the teens will get uncomfortable, then migrate again. Their concerns about privacy are much more immediate than how big business might be utilising their intimate data for their own insidious means.

Targeted marketing will become an expectation. As social media expands, consumers are seeking to be marketed to, not at. If they’re going to see ads anyway, they want to see brands relevant to them, not a random big business campaign or generic billboard-style pitch. They expect brands to be listening, monitoring, seeing them for who they are and what they like. In future, they’ll expect brands to find them, as opposed to them seeking info. Social listening won’t just be an option for brands, it’s going to become a necessity. Social networks amplify each individual’s voice, making each person in the crowd a somebody, somebody to be heard. The businesses poised for success are those that are hearing them, responding, building relationships with their target audience. Social monitoring is not just an intriguing anomaly in the rise of social networks, it’s a genuine business imperative. You owe it to your customers to be listening in.

Social Media Today – The world’s best thinkers on social media