Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Listening: make the effort!

Like many other evolutionary adaptations, we’ve all evolved to look like good listeners-- in life, to give off the cue we’re available for emotional support, and in marketing, to show executives and/or the public, we’re aware of what’s being said about us and/or our brands. Problem is, in marketing, as in life, many of us are not good listeners.

Many are reliant on technology to do all the work; to spoonfeed insight into the perfect, executive-friendly dashboard.

As a result, what I see today is rampant platform-hopping. Listening in 2011 has largely been marked by the quest for the ultimate platform. Clients switch listening providers for prettier user-interfaces, better-slicing-and-dicing, ease of direct engagement, access to the Twitter API... the list goes on, and many of the reasons for switching are warranted.

The error is simply in expecting the technology to do all the work.

This error has also led many to make the pessimistic statement: "Listening platforms are commoditized."

Is this the case? Is there really no qualitative differentiation? Partial fungibility? Can a listening platform really be a commodity in the absence of standards?

I would argue, not yet.

Further, have they jumped the shark? Is the pessimism warranted? No.

I see platforms vary widely on the surface, and then in more meaningful ways like data coverage, data quality, and mining methodology. But despite these differences, they all do a pretty good job in serving up insight; several have an impressive edge.

The problem is that the insight delivered will not be useful for your organization until you expend some effort, personally. In my Innotech talk last week with Kate Rush Sheehy, I argued there are three main things that matter when trying to be a good listener. The first, the most important, is a precursor and a contingency:

Get involved in the data. Physically. This task is not below anyone. Change up your Boolean operands and see the impact. Read through your results. Know what “spam” really means in your landscape. You must immerse yourself in the data before you can warrant switching. It’s not fair to you or the technology.

Listening platforms are growing in every sense-- in number, in prowess, in prevalence, and in importance. There are amazing advances in NLP, sentiment analysis, geo-location, and data warehousing enabling faster, more precise analyses to occur. But no matter how good the technology, good listening will always be effortful.

Photo credit: flickr.com/CarbonNYC
This post also appears in the Dachis Group Collaboratory