In his important new book, Listen First! Turning Social Media Conversations into Business Advantage, Steve Rappaport takes marketers back to their research roots. It has become too easy, and habitual, to ask customers questions that are important to us rather than listen to learn what is important to them. Accessible social media conversations present an opportunity to mend our ways and Rappaport shows us how we can make the most of listening.
In our fluid, unpredictable world, companies need to continuously update their understanding of factors surrounding their brands so that they can adapt, adjust and respond in a timely way to improve chances of connection and success. Listening can contribute to customer identification, understanding the competitive landscape, product development and improvement, reputation management and more.
With the increasing sophistication, ease of use and declining cost of social media listening and monitoring tools, companies can strive to become listening organizations. The impediment in most companies is the disconnect among departments that prevent their listening to each other. Rappaport makes it clear that being a social company is not only co-requisite to having a successful social strategy, but a successful business strategy. Every department and person in the company does not need to participate equally in social communications, but all must understand they are, and need to act within, a web of relationships that includes customers, vendors, stakeholders and coworkers.
Companies need to develop strategies and tactics based on their values and culture. Rappaport suggested to me that, contrary to the “listen and engage” mantra, direct customer engagement on social media platforms is only one response option, may not be required for every negative posting and may not be appropriate at all for some companies.
As Knowledge Solutions Director at the Advertising Research Foundation, is responsible for creating resources, tools and services to help members build brands. Listen First! draws from his decades of listening research, new media studies and trend analysis . “To understand the Internet and what is called social media, one must understand the differences between linear media and Internet-enabled communications,” Rappaport told me. “Unlike broadcast and print media, the Internet was created by people for people who wanted to share, collaborate and interact with one another. That’s what TCP-IP is all about. Efforts to define digital communications in conventional analog terms and practices has misdirected industry thinking about marketing, advertising and media and forced it to become something it’s not.inherently about.”
Rappaport has written a book that’s a pleasure to read. He avoids the shallowness of many popular “business advice” books by providing solid support for his premises without redundancy. Much of what he says should cause brands and agencies to pause and reflect on their strategies lest they become out of touch and irrelevant.
If you’re looking for another social media “cookbook,” Listen First! is not for you. It’s something more — guidance on how to stock your strategic “pantry” so that you can cook up initiatives that are better researched and therefore be more likely to succeed.
Neil Glassman is principal marketing strategist at WhizBangPowWow, with a track record of success across linear, digital and social media. Join his conversation on Twitter or email Neil to talk about marketing or swap recipes.