What Social Business Has to Do With the Art of Listening Well

My mother used to tell me that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, and over the years I’ve tried (sometimes unsuccessfully) to take this sage advice to heart. When it comes to social business, organizations who are taking this counsel seriously are finding that actively listening to customers, employees and other key stakeholders put them at a competitive advantage.

One of the key findings in our 2012 FedEx/Ketchum Social Business Study is that organizations that are leveraging social tools to listen proactively to their stakeholders are then able to respond, adapt and innovate in real time. This means that they are able to deliver desired products and services on pace with a continually evolving marketplace.

So what does effective listening look like in the social world?  According to the study, 88% of companies surveyed are monitoring online feedback and conversations. There are certainly a number of tools organizations can use to gather data around things like mentions, “likes” and number of followers, but companies that have developed listening as a strategic capability go deeper.

They Seek to Understand First

Great listeners know that they need to first hear and understand what is being communicated. Organizations that are great listeners gain deep insights about who their stakeholders are, what their needs are, how they buy, who they influence, and how they want to communicate. As one communications leader for a B2B organization we spoke with said, “We don’t even begin to engage with our target customer until we understand their business needs.”  Procter and Gamble, one of the participants in the study, has developed an online global tool to listen to and track conversations about their brands. As a result, they have altered products and marketing strategies to address needs and opportunities that arose from these conversations. For more details, watch Tania Elrod, Associate Director of Digital and eCommerce at Procter and Gamble, discuss in the video below.

 

They Meet People Where They Are

Companies that listen effectively are engaging stakeholders via the methods and tools they prefer, and communication preferences continue to evolve as users go increasingly mobile and want complex information communicated at a glance. To this point, our study shows that 59% of companies are reaching out to internal and external stakeholders through mobile platforms, and nearly 8 in 10 companies are incorporating more visual elements, like infographics, into their social communications.

They Take Action

At the end of the day, listening is only as good as the actions one takes to respond to and address what’s been heard. Companies who listen well also must develop the capabilities to quickly address needs and issues that emerge, which is no easy task in itself. One of the many great stories we heard in this study that illustrates this point beautifully is from Southwest Airlines, who garnered the lifetime loyalty from one customer by responding to a Tweet from him while he was still in the air! Listen to Brandy King, Senior Manager of Communications at Southwest Airlines discuss in more detail below.

How well has your organization mastered the art (and science) of listening? For more insights about this topic, as well as other key findings, visit our Multi-Media Release here.

Michelle is a SVP and Director at Ketchum Change’s New York office. As such, she works with some of the world’s leading organizations to connect people to their businesses through breakthrough employee and brand engagement, communication, and change strategies that are data-driven and truly have an impact on the achievement of business goals.

In her free time she loves to practice yoga, play the ukulele and attempt to grow edible things in her garden.