Believing What You Read on the Internet

Believing What You Read on the Internet

Here at Listen, we’re constantly thinking about how to use the tools at our disposal to meet consumers where they are. In a perfect world, we would have a streamlined process to sit down with every consumer ever and to have them walk us through everything they do (whoever is building this, hit us up). But in this world, we can’t do that. And so, in our quest to find and utilize every channel to meet as many consumers as possible, social listening is a powerful skill.

Social listening serves as our guiding light in the expansive realm of online conversations. It’s the art of looking at online human interactions in order to make sense of trends, communities, and phenomena – all in the name of consumer obsession. Through this digital eavesdropping, we gain an intimate window into the hearts and minds of consumers. Its power lies in its ability to create a consumer lexicon and glossary that’s tapped into the wants, needs, and pain points that are shared and commiserate about online.

There are a lot of reasons to not believe in the Internet. It is a realm of extremes, where diverse voices don’t make significant moves to coexist. It’s a platform where both profound insights and baseless conspiracies find an audience, reflecting the breadth of human perspectives. The proliferation of bots further complicates this landscape, as automated accounts manipulate trends, further polarizing the environment.

Despite the internet’s fallibility, social listening remains a powerful tool given its ability to harness the vast landscape of online communication. While the internet is susceptible to misinformation and digital noise, social listening takes advantage of computer-mediated communication accommodation, a concept that highlights how people adjust their language and communication style when interacting online. As it turns out, our online communication tends to reflect our most true selves. This accommodation allows us to tap into valuable insights by monitoring and analyzing online conversations, adapting to and identifying the nuances of digital discourse. At Listen, we use social listening in due diligence, early-stage brand building, and it’s a go-to tool for quickly getting smart on a topic and the consumers involved. We sit social listening alongside in-situ research, interviews, shop-alongs, quantitative data analysis, and surveys as a powerful tool to build hypotheses and begin to map out complex user journeys and motivations.

Believing What You Read on the Internet

At Listen, we’re dedicated to cutting through the noise and herald social listening as a superpower for a few reasons, while also we acknowledge where the art falls short:

1. While an incredibly powerful tool, interviews can’t always be our first entry point into research. Consumers don’t always express their desires, needs, or grievances outright, or are not always willing to share information in an interview setting. Sometimes, more social settings allow for seeing behind the veils of anonymity we might put up. Social listening empowers us to utilize principles of Human-Computer Interaction and psychology to decode these unspoken cues and anonymous concerns in online interactions. It’s akin to being privy to whispered confidences in a bustling crowd—revealing insights that transcend what consumers might divulge through surveys or interviews. For sensitive areas and the experiences behind closed doors, social listening is sometimes one of the only ways to gather a lot of information and to begin to build user journeys. Because social listening is an art, though, it’s crucial to analyze the space being looked at to assess the validity of this.

2. The digital realm is ever changing, and so are we. Social listening ensures we remain in constant connection with consumers. We can track their evolving preferences, reactions to trends, and the emergence of popular culture as it unfolds, enabling us to adapt and innovate promptly. For early-stage brands, social listening is an invaluable tool for making sure they stay relevant and responsive to the evolving needs of their customers.

3. The internet isn’t just an information repository; it’s a thriving ecosystem of communities and it’s our friend when we’re in crisis. Social listening empowers us to actively join the communities that coalesce around our brands and products – the communities built around “is this normal” and “should I be worried”. It equips us to engage actively; understanding consumers needs, where we’re missing them, and to learn their language.

4. Data, in its raw form, can be sterile and distant. Social listening transforms mere data points into narratives, emotions, and aspirations. This humanization of data is instrumental in crafting authentic brand experiences that strike a chord with consumers. In research, diligence, and strategy, it puts forth hypotheses that we can explore with other forms of research and information.

But social listening, while a valuable tool, has its limits. It can provide insights into consumer sentiments and trends, but it’s not a magic wand for building a brand. Trusting everything one reads online can be risky, given the prevalence of misinformation and the absence of context in isolated social media posts. And there’s the fact that some aspects of the consumer experience, such as culinary taste, are hard to capture accurately through social listening alone. However, the approach — if done well — can serve as a means to identify hypotheses and areas for further research. By pinpointing trends and questions through social listening, brands can then delve deeper, using more comprehensive research methods to obtain the answers needed to make informed decisions and shape their brand effectively. It acts as an invaluable starting point in the journey toward better understanding and engaging with their audience.

Social listening can be a secret weapon in the mission of consumer obsession. It empowers us to forge connections with consumers, anticipate their needs, and create brands and products that genuinely resonate and speak the language of the consumer. So, now that you’re (hopefully) convinced of its power, go forth into your Figjams and Miros and get to listening! You’ll be amazed at what you find!

Believing What You Read on the Internet

Trends In Listening, as reported by:
Alexis Queen
Consumer Listening

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