“You have a hearing problem.”

At least, this is what my spouse will tell me frequently.  However, I would argue that this statement is false, and that my condition is more of a listening problem.  The Merriam-Webster definition of the two words shows a clear difference:

To Hear:  To perceive or apprehend by the ear

To Listen:  To hear something with thoughtful attention : give consideration

I hear the sounds and know when someone is speaking to me, but sometimes I do not give the sounds the conscious consideration it requires to listen and interpret what they are trying to say.  This, as you can imagine, has got me into trouble on more occasions than I would like to admit. Now, how many businesses are doing the same thing and are causing unnecessary strain on their relationships with their customers?  Many have invested in social-antennas and are tuned in to hear the social conversations, but this is not listening!  In fact, why do we call these technologies ‘social listening’ platforms.  They are ‘social hearing’ platforms and require human interpretation to listen and give thoughtful attention to what is being said.

Now, even when I listen carefully, I can still get into trouble if I don’t acknowledge what has been said in some way.  Even just the occasional ‘uh huh’ will go a long way, but I have found that it is even more effective if I respond contextually to the conversation and present my point of view on the topics being discussed. All of the conversations and data collected by ‘social hearing’ platforms (Adobe Social included) will be for not, if the company does not listen and then respond and engage with their communities effectively.

Two Approaches to Listen and Engage Effectively

There are essentially two approaches to engage with your social communities:  Proactive Messaging, and Reactive Messaging.  Although neither is consistently more effective than the other in terms engagement and action, when both are leveraged as part of an organization’s social engagement strategy, they contribute to an optimal mix of relevant and original content.

A proactive approach to community engagement entails creating content and editorial calendars that are published to social communities on specific days and times.  These are well thought out, well financed, vetted by focus groups, and typically part of larger multi-channel marketing campaigns. These campaigns will often have large investments of time and resources, and therefore it is critical that we understand the return that they are providing, measured in both engagement and conversion.

A reactive approach to engagement would involve the act of mining community feedback for what is relevant to them at the moment, and creating or adjusting content quickly to capitalize on the ever-changing sentiment and interest of social communities. These campaigns typically have little investments of time and resources, but still have the potential to be very impactful.  The ideation for these campaigns comes as a result of keeping a steady pulse of the social chatter and mining common themes that emerge.

How does this apply to You?

The majority of the companies that I have worked with are predominantly engaging with their social communities via ‘proactive messaging’.  I recently worked with a large national tourism agency.  They were running a campaign that corresponded to the premier of a major Hollywood blockbuster that was filmed on location in their national parks (we’ll use Indiana Jones and Moab, Utah as an example).  As part of a larger multi-channel campaign and using the hashtag #indianajonesmoab, they hoped to realize the benefits from the increase in international attention as the movie premiere drew near . Adobe Social can provide this agency the ability to measure the effectiveness of their campaign as it relates to reach, sentiment, and even site click-throughs and engagement.  Monitoring earned (organic) posts, on social channels would be a good way to keep a pulse on real-time reactions to the campaign, and help gauge overall reach. In order to do this, they should be monitoring terms related to the campaign.

For example, within Adobe Social they could monitor:

  • indiana jones + moab
  • indiana jones + utah
  • indianajones + moab
  • indianajones + utah
  • #indianajonesmoab
  • etc.

This will listen to both owned and earned media and help quantify potential reach, and overall sentiment of what is being said. Key metrics for Proactive Messaging campaigns would be mention volume, reach, sentiment, community growth, and impact on deeper on-site engagement metrics.  As this was the first campaign being measured in Adobe Social there was not a lot of data to allow for success benchmarking, but they can use this as a standard benchmark for future campaigns.

A proactive approach to Social engagement should not be used exclusively as it can limit learnings and real-time optimizations that can occur as a result of Reactive Messaging. Therefore, this tourism agency should also be monitoring industry terms that have a location qualifier attached to the industry term, for example,

  • moab + vacation
  • moab + biking
  • moab + hiking
  • etc.

When monitoring at this level, they will be able to identify emerging themes that can be leveraged for future campaigns or quick, relevant messages to their social communities.

For example, when looking at mentions for different activity categories in Moab within Adobe Social, social mentions containing ‘Biking’ related themes account for nearly 30-40% of volume.   Did they know already know this?  Is this a new trend?  How are they  incorporating this and other learnings into their content mix?

Using this data to help reactively engage day to day, lets your audiences know that you are listening to them, and ensures that your posts/social content are relevant and current.

How are you engaging your social communities?  Are you using insights to drive your strategies?