Thursday, November 8, 2012

Social Media: You Might Be Listening. Are You Hearing?

I went to dinner with a bunch of my Mom's friends Saturday night .  They were here in Kennebunk for a "Quilters Weekend" and I really enjoy my visit with them each year.  We went to a couple of craft fairs and then had dinner at Lucas on 9.

These ladies are amazing.  Each of them has a project they are working on, often to help others. One of them makes fantastic hats for women who lose hair to cancer, another makes wonderful blankets to send home with newborns to needy families.  They make quilts to donate to charity raffles.  Each of them has different gifts but they have a common giant heart.

They are also retired.  Their ears aren't what they once were.  Here's a snip of conversation I caught from the table Saturday night.

Person A: The waitress is very busy.
Person B: Yes she's very pretty
Person C: It is! Very pretty in here with all the lights.

This made me think of the listening we do with Social Media.  There are multiple tools that help us listen- Radian6, Crimson Hexagon, eCairn and more.

But it really takes a human to validate accuracy and ensure that we hear the messages.

I've often heard "can't all this be automated?"  The answer is yes - and no.  We can automate the process of identifying conversations.  We can automate the categorizing of those conversations. 

But hearing and participating in or responding to conversations requires human intervention, judgement, and action.

The most interesting of the tools to me is one that I have not yet used but recently saw a demonstration set up by Kathleen Fetters, a Chief Listening Officer I have partnered with on several projects.

Crimson Hexagon allows  human intervention to teach the algorithmic intelligence how to understand and interpret your customers and your business. But the human will always be needed for interpretation at some level.

Think about categorizing certain words.  The word "sick" means "in poor health" to the quilting ladies.  Friday night I had dinner with my kids. To them, "sick" means "awesome!" 

Relationships fuel business.  Two-way communication fuels relationships.  Do you really want to completely automate something so critical to your business?  Use automation to improve your listening - absolutely.  But remember that communication is about relationships.  And relationships are between people.

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