Social listening is evolving towards strategic value

Kate Kaye writes in AdAge today about how social listening and publishing platform Sprinklr helped the Republicans regain control of congress.

“We are working with about half-a-dozen [Senate] campaigns to deliver daily and weekly updates along with social analytics,” said Lori Brownlee, social media director for the RNC. Rather than simply using Twitter and Facebook as a “broadcast tool,” she continued, “We centered our plan around using social as a strategic listening and data collection tool.”

Hear that? It’s not just about reacting anymore! It’s about listening, learning and being strategic!

That’s good thinking, but even more is possible.

The US Geological Survey says they discover earthquakes faster by listening to Twitter than they do from their own geological monitoring technology. I like to use that as an example of how the social web is one of the fastest ways to learn about new developments.

The follow-on thinking though is that if (a) you know what you’re looking for and (b) it’s as clear as the earth shaking under peoples’ feet (or conversation about Ebola in the RNC’s case), then listening to historical keywords in peoples’ content is a good way to do it. But if you’re looking for unknown unknowns and you want to see the future emerge, then I believe in focusing on figuring out who to listen to in advance.

That’s what we do at Little Bird, for some of the biggest companies in the world: delivering insights sometimes in real-time, sometimes an hour or a day ahead of time and sometimes 3 to 6 months before key trends go mainstream, our customers tell us.

But I’m really glad to hear about mainstream organizations engaging with social like this: for strategic listening. I would contend that the next, complimentary stage of doing so is to discover the subject matter experts that the rest of the community trusts before they talk about a particular issue, and set up systems to monitor what they say in the future. It’s also good to hear that these organizations are listening to more than just what people are saying about them, but what people are saying about matters of general interest.

Forward we go, learning how to use these networks to learn and communicate and work more effectively, together.