|I remember when we first started out. The buzz words then were "current awareness" and "reputation intelligence." Much to my chagrin, this was also a time when monitoring companies were more frequently likened to "corporate spies."|
But a lot has changed since then and the term "monitoring" has really taken on a life and definition of its own. And along with it, a practice took shape and form which insisted that proactively protecting ones online reputation meant discovering timely discussion and conversation about companies, brands and their people. When monitoring translates to responding to audiences, improving consumer satisfaction and building human relationships even when the transaction between "customer" isn't implied, the life monitoring and listening takes on is one that quickly becomes an integral enabler to business success.
A few posts and comments later, and I realized that there needs to be a distinction between the two. Up until this point, I looked at "monitoring" purely as the proactive exercise of staying on top of incidents that can make or break a brand and or reputation. A mechanical function which might be compared to the way an actor can play a lead or assisting role. While you could make the case that a supporting role can sometimes make all the difference in a film, to me, the online adaptation of monitoring seemed to fit more of a supporting role in relation to the outcome. And "Listening" was always the "smarter" reiteration. I say this because when I first heard Nathan Gilliat use the term, I thought it was a great way to abate the "big brother" pundits. With one word, you approach the mechanical function of monitoring with the understanding that you are actually genuinely interested in paying attention to what people are saying about your company and looking to make the situation right when things go wrong. And I'm sure these terms mean much more to others. In my case, listening took a little more time to resonate with me, and I'm sure my parents might have their own views on how sorely missed it was in my early childhood
What Makes Them Different
So if you followed my thoughts this far, then I'm going to begin parsing my understanding of what makes the two distinctly different when it comes to social media monitoring strategies. I'll use the example of sourcing social media to uncover incidents and insights of interest. If we can agree on the use of monitoring as a mechanical function, and listening as the progression to assuming a more active role in making matters right when problems are discovered, then we need to assess our understanding of our current approach. Namely, this is something I touched on here and here, but I'll elaborate for the purpose of driving this point home. While useful, monitoring can take an auto-pilot mode unless we are understanding that exhaustive sweeps of the Web means including all source types. The mistake many make is excluding walled-gardens, comments, changes on Websites, and incidents without the handy permalinks to directly anchor you to the discussion. The danger here is twofold. First, you are going to miss stuff. Secondly, and most importantly, its the kind of strategy that most likely has been dictated by the false notion that if you can't find it, then more than likely others won't. This has always been proven wrong, and can be especially problematic when past transgressions are mysteriously discovered by harsh critics and are used as ammunition in current and heated debate.
The difference with listening is that you are now prepared to assume the role of do-gooder. This implies making yourself accessible and knowing where the conversations are happening. This also means having the depth of sourcing down pat, and being prepared to manage the workload of a tough audience on any given day. Most important of all, listening implies that you're in it for the long haul, and that your not only going through the mechanical function just to make sure your Google resume has been spot shined and polished.
Listening implies you aren't selective and that its never about impressions, but rather are committed to what the true meaning of the word implies.
Did I miss anything? Lets hear what you have to say on the topic.
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