Advanced Social Media Listening

Alan BelniakSocial Media12 Comments

On Thursday, June 4, 2010, I co-led with Mike Troiano a Mass TLC panel titled ‘Advanced Social Media Listening’ at the 2010 Social Media Summit.  The session was generally an open discussion – Mike and I had no slides, and essentially just steered a conversation.  Below is a bit about Mike (if you don’t know him), and then a summary of some of the notes I took, as well as links to some other references you might find interesting.  Sharon Machlis also blogged about this here, too.

Mike Troiano and Alan Belniak

Mike (@miketrap) is the President at Holland-Mark Digital, an online strategy and digital marketing consultancy in Boston, Massachusetts.  Mike’s been involved with many successful advertising and digital organizations (too many to name here); suffice it to say, the man knows what he’s talking about.  Want to know more?  Follow him on Twitter and ask.

Take-aways from Advanced Social media Listening Session

  • One audience member noted that, after some research (listening?!), they understand that 40% of the conversations relevant to them occur in 10 networks.  This is a fantastic outcome of a listening exercise.  It gives the team members clear direction: go spend the majority of your social time in these 10 networks, and the minority of your time looking for others.

  • Mike Troiano mentioned that in some of his experiences with listening, about two-thirds of the conversations are around the problems that can be solved with a product/good/service.  Put another way: if you’re listening, this is fodder for replies.

  • A  question was asked if either of us offer a ‘listening 101’ course.  Mike has a post here about it, and I’ve posted some slides on Slideshare about it – you can find them here.  Mike also has two other great posts: one about creating a content hub, and the other about linking up your digital properties.

  • When asked about listening, I used an analogy about playing the game Taboo.  Instead of searching on your product name or some other ‘up the middle’ play, search for the five words that might be used to describe your product without using the product name itself – the words that would be on the Taboo card in the game.  Even further, use the next set of words that people might use (the words that you’d have to use when giving the clue in the Taboo game).

  • David Weinberger presented the keynote, and he spoke about being at the crossroads of social media.  My take on that was indeed we are, and it will take a while to get over that hump.  My example was Facebook.  If you ask your grandmother what a newspaper is, she’ll surely know and can speak about one.  Can she do the same for Facebook?  Or a wiki?  Once those terms become “grandmother ubiquitous”, I think we’re still in some period of adoption.

  • I also think that as this becomes more ubiquitous, people will use social networks as a primary source of information.  I wrote about social search here, and truly believe it to be the case.  I think the preposition of “on” will change to “in” – people won’t be spending gobs more time on Facebook, they’ll be spending more time in Facebook.

  • One attendee make a great point about how people in their organization are struggling to realize that people need to make an ongoing commitment to make a social media effort successful.  This is such a great point.  I liken this to playing a sport.  For those of us who are not naturally gifted at golf, it’s a hard game to pick up.  You don’t go into it playing one round and expecting to have a 2 handicap.  Not at all – you work at it.  And people do.  They play often, make adjustments, play more, and so on.  Trying a new engagement channel shouldn’t be any different.

  • Mike made a great analogy: “If the ‘creation’ of content is hamburger, then the ‘curation’ of content is the hamburger helper.”  With so much content on the web now and in the future, having a trusted sources that separates wheat from chaff will be immensely helpful.

It makes a great meal


  • Someone asked the classic ROI question.  I don’t bristle at this, but it’s one that’s asked a lot.  Mike’s response was focused around questioning what one’s purpose is of getting involved with social media: ideally, you do it to gain or create social equity.  I followed up with a rhetorical question: what’s the ROI of a round of golf with a customer prospect?  Surely it might pay off… and it might not.  But do you calculate the ROI of it?  Probably not (how could you, actually?).  So, you either should be calculating the ROI of all your activities, or not hold social media to some arbitrary different standard.  Amber Naslund states it superbly here.

  • I think social media can be used as a constant drip of news to people who find you or your product interesting.  If you offer value for six months, and then one day your prospect says, “I need to buy a widget.” – do you think they are going to Google-search widget sellers?  Or are they going to first look to the widget sellers who have slowly been valuable to them all along, by providing content and not just sales pitches?  Be there before the sale. (In writing this, I thought it was an original thought…  but when I checked my facts before posting, it turns out that Chris said it first… and better.)

  • One attendee has said that he like social media because it can replace some of the more expensive market research tools he used in the past, like focus groups.  Sites like Survey Monkey and others let you create inexpensive (or free, if you use Google Docs and a template!) surveys to administer to a group.

  • A senior executive from Crimson hexagon noted that involvement in social media is not a “one size fits all” approach.  Some companies or products simply might not be ready for this or well-suited for this. Or they may not have the right people to lead the efforts.  So, forcing the issue could do more harm than good.

Here are some URLs I tossed out at the end of the session.



If you’re looking for a curated list of social media listening tools, take a look here.  If you are looking for social media references in general, you can look here.

Did you attend the event?  If so, please share any insights you have that I missed.  Also, share a link to a resource or reference from which other readers here can benefit.

image credit: Doug Haslam ; http://doughaslam2.posterous.com/miketrap-and-abelniak-at-masstlc


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