Moving Beyond the Chief Listening Officer

Oct 22, 2014

Article ImageSocial media monitoring really took off about five years ago with many companies hiring chief listening officers to bring the social media discussions into the boardroom. The job description was simple: monitor all forms of social media to see what the buzz was about the company and pass on any complaints, product ideas, or tips to various departments within the organization. However, as we get ready to turn the corner to 2015, some believe a CLO is too passive to be effective.

Steve Goldner of Social Steve Consulting, does not think of the CLO as a practical role in today's landscape. He urges companies to hire a chief engagement officer, who can incorporate all target audience touch points and optimize user experiences.

This may sounds like a game of semantics, but there are very real expectations driving the change. "The most fundamental change of a listening manager in the past few years is a recognition that people talk at brands and about brands, and that there is valuable information to collect in both," Goldner says. "People talk at brands when they address the brand via email and on the brand's social channels. People talk about brands when they merely mention the brand on the individual's own Twitter feed, own Facebook page, own Pinterest board, etc. They are not looking for an engagement necessarily, but the fact that they mentioned the brand often does warrant the brand to engage."

In the opinion of many, the CLO job has become too much about tallying positive or negative sentiments and not about using analytics to better serve the company. A savvy brand goes beyond listening to the noise and uses social data to predict purchase intent and shape comprehensive marketing campaigns.

Social media monitoring has become a key element of social marketing, Goldner notes, explaining most brands/companies start by using a social media monitoring tool/platform for simple listening of social media with daily or weekly keywords to assess the "buzz" of their brand and/or vertical industry. "The next degree of social media monitoring value comes from analyzing social media conversations, trends, and derives metrics to guide brand content and engagement," he says. "Deeper social marketing intelligence is achieved in social monitoring by tracking influencers, campaigns, industry issues, brand messaging, and corporate reputation." 

"Ultimately, people are trying to gather more and more competitive intelligence in the market on how best to gain an advantage from a marketing perspective," says John Donnelly, SVP of global sales and marketing at Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics company. "Companies that have a chief listening officer in place, before they spend money on specific campaigns, they need to learn how best to listen." One good example is Crimson Hexagon client Starbucks.

Donnelly says Tumblr's data feed has become increasingly more important. "A lot of customers are looking at what the brand sentiment around visual imagery is out there in social media-photos of people wearing logos, product, etc.," he says. "Tumblr gives Starbucks a look at what their employees are saying, what their customers are thinking, and even what their investors are saying. The one thing we are trying to do is give them a much deeper analysis."

Justin Garrity, managing director of Postano a provider of engagement solutions, agrees one of the best ways that brands can mine historic social data is to get visual-to look at past photos posted to social to see how customers are photographing products. "It tells a lot about how they think of the relationship they have with your brand," he says. "For example, I worked with two different leading shoe brands. For one brand, their fans would photograph their shoes out of the box without wearing them as if they were art objects, items of beauty. For the other, fans would typically photograph the shoes on their feet while enjoying outdoor activities like hiking or boating. No one is coaching these customers to do this. They are learning this from each other."

In Garrity's opinion, a company that can see how fans share their relationship with its products within photographs, will enable it to understand what the customers value. In these examples, it was clear that the first shoe brand's designs were very important to its customers, whereas the other shoe brand's customers placed importance on what the shoes enabled them to do.

"I bring up photographs because it is data that isn't easy to quantify. No report is ever going to be generated that says, ‘Your fans tend to take photos of your shoes on their feet 80 percent of the time,'" Garrity says. "Analysis just isn't that sophisticated or nuanced. The human eye/brain is so much better at spotting these patterns. In addition to photographs, it is important for marketing teams to pair posts from social media next to the reports they are looking at. A trend is interesting, but a trend with representational social posts from fans supplementing that data reveals the emotion behind the data."

Another way brands can go beyond listening is to track the average session duration, what pages users are navigating to if they don't like the initial landing page, and if they're coming back to the website.

According to Goldner, the greatest value of social media monitoring yields insights of brand/corporate stakeholders, industry intelligence, competition, and customer behaviors and intentions. "The outcomes of social media monitoring deliver very strong value for marketing research but few (if any) companies have the knowledge, expertise, and sophistication to capture true insights to drive marketing strategy," he says. "The key insights that social monitoring can yield as a marketing research deliverable are customer, brand, and category insights."

For that reason, Goldner feels the CLP job is antiquated. "It is more important what you learn, what you do, and how you engage after listening," he says. "That is why I recommend the chief role be defined as the chief engagement officer who has responsibility for all listening at all touch point as well as all marketing, engagement, and customer support."

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)