By Joshua Lachkovic

Social media as a customer engagement channel is not necessarily news, as @briansolis points out in his latest blog post, titled ‘Are Businesses Invading Consumer Privacy By Listening to Social Media Conversations?’.  The post points to a joint study by NetBase and J.D. Power and Associates released this week, which highlights that a double standard may exist in using social media for customer services.  The study suggests that there are major challenges ahead, with 42% of consumers expecting companies to respond to positive comments, while 64% only want brands to speak when spoken to.  Listening to customers and influencers through the plethora of social media tools available to us as communicators has become the norm.  With brands seeing the value of building stronger customer relationships, communities, and also the sentimental insight social conversations can offer.  However, customers may not welcome these good intentions from brands, as this infographic (“Is Social Listening Too Much Big Brother?” – see below) from the study indicates. Social media and listening is certainly not going anywhere, but this study does pose a catch 22 that many consumers believe this level of monitoring is intrusive, except when they need something.  Which poses the questions: “How are brands supposed to help customers if they’re not supposed to listen?”  To help answer this dilemma, NetBase and J.D. Power and Associates offer a couple of tips for communicators:

  1. Don’t just listen, understand – first
  2. Consider the context of updates and conversations
  3. Engage with the intention of delivering mutual value
  4. Demonstrate how listening doesn’t intrude but instead builds relationships


Ultimately, the benefits for brands and communicators of listening to social media channels mean that this isn’t going away.  To avoid alienating and angering customers, as communicators, we need to be sure that all conversations are honest and transparent. Except-When-They-Don't-Infographic