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With the advent of social sharing, the world has become a very public place, putting professional organizations under the microscope more than ever before. The Internet never forgets, and it’s crucial to not only monitor what is being said about your company, but also to be vigilant about the message you convey to the public. 

What Is Social Listening?

Also known as social media monitoring as it mostly pertains to social media sites, social listening is the practice of being aware of what is being said about your company, both good and bad, through various social media channels and online forums. 

Time and again, TSIA data shows that when a customer has a problem, they first seek a solution through a Google search. They then will discuss their issues with other users before contacting a dedicated support team, and in these interactions, perceptions of your company are being forged. It’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of what people think about your company, your products, and your services, and if needed, make adjustments in how customer issues are handled. 

Why You Need to Monitor Online Chatter

I frequently see reports from big analyst firms, such as Gartner and Forrester, that indicate they actively monitor how long it takes for your company to respond to customers who make reports about your product via social channels. If you don’t respond, you get written up as “ignorant to social media.”

This monitoring even goes beyond what customers are saying and can include what your own employees have to say in relation to your company. For example, if one of your system admins complains about your equipment publicly, it can go as far as impacting your stock price. You’d be surprised how many research and investment analysts are following tweets about your company, because they’re seeing those as the unvarnished truth about your organization. Social listening helps you stay ahead of the curve and craft your own message before someone else does. 

The Difference Between Social Listening and Social Support

Social listening is exactly that: listening and learning what is being said about your business, products, and services. Social support is the next step you take as a result of listening, and could be anything from answering a simple question posed via social media to reeling in a customer who’s gone off the rails on Twitter and directing them toward a solution that will appease them. 

monitoring social media conversations  

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Here are some of the ways the 257 respondents to our 2015 Social Support Survey are listening to their customers via social media.

While providing social support is important for customer satisfaction, social listening is, for the most part, a “look but don’t touch” endeavor. Listen to what is being said about your company and assess the situation from a distance, rather than fighting individual fires as they crop up on social media. 

While it’s a good idea to send a prompt and appropriate response to show people your company cares and is paying attention, all interactions should be handled delicately and with purpose. Very often I see companies react negatively when they see someone bad-mouthing them on social media. Uninvited interaction from your business may not have the impact you’re hoping for if it’s not handled in just the right way.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

If you have a support tech that goes rogue on a phone call, it could damage that relationship, but ultimately tends to stay one-on-one. If the same thing happens over email, it could even be forwarded, potentially damaging more relationships, but the impact will still be relatively small. However, if a support tech says something inappropriate via social media, millions of people can see it, and if we’ve learned anything from the hundreds of social scandals out there in the world, once something is out of the box, it’s really hard to put it back in.

When it comes to social media, your organization should work closely with your marketing and PR department to understand the tone, writing style, and messaging to use when communicating publicly, because you are speaking on behalf of your company. Many PR departments work on a certain style and certain words and phrases to use and not use, because when all is said and done, you have a brand to think of.

How to Go About Social Listening and Support Correctly

There’s a lot to know about the dos and don’ts of social listening and support, but a good place to start is to listen to my on-demand webinar, “The State of Social Support: 2015,” where I go into detail about the above concepts and more.

Another recommended resource is the book How Companies Succeed in Social Business, by Shawn Santos, who helped initiate social support here at TSIA. This book contains both success stories and advice from many TSIA member companies, including Adobe, Cisco, and Infor, just to name a few. I’ve even contributed a chapter on the state of enterprise social technical support, which can give you an idea of how to implement social support within your company.

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John Ragsdale

About Author John Ragsdale

John Ragsdale is a distinguished researcher and the vice president of technology ecosystems for TSIA. His area of expertise is in creating strategies for improving the service operations and overall customer experience by leveraging innovative technology. John works closely with TSIA’s partner ecosystem, identifying leading and emerging technology vendors whose products help solve the key business challenges faced by TSIA members. He is also author of the book, Lessons Unlearned, which chronicles his 25-year career inside the customer service industry.

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