Report: Public Skeptical of Social Listening

Since the dawn of social media, communicators have had a laser-like focus on listening. According to Altimeter Group, 42% of companies have social media listening as one of its top priorities in 2013.

Now, a new survey reveals conflicting consumer awareness and attitudes about social media listening, and raises questions about the issue of privacy and social networks. The NetBase study, which polled 1,062 U.S. adult consumers ages 18-55+, found that while 51% of consumers want to talk about companies without being listened to, 58% want companies to respond to their complaints shared on social media.

“Social media listening is no different than those telephone recording saying, ‘This call may be monitored for training purposes,’” says Brad McCormick, principal at 10 Louder Strategies. “Brands should always be transparent—when given the opportunity—about their listening activities and why they are doing it.”


McCormick says it’s a two-way street. If consumers don’t want brands listening to what they say in a digital but legally public forum, then they should not comment in the first place. “Social media has become the public square,” McCormick says. ”The consumer is ultimately empowered by social media listening.”

It’s certainly not a black-and-white issue, McCormick says. “There is a real benefit for consumers when brand’s actually listen—and become responsive—to their concerns.


The report is good reflection of how consumers’ attitudes towards privacy are evolving, says Ephraim Cohen, executive VP of technology and digital content at MWW. “Some consumers are getting used to being public online, but others may still harbor those old feelings of yesteryear where they thought they had privacy.”

Communicators absolutely should take this research to heart, Cohen says, as it indicates how brands can get caught on the wrong side of the privacy debate taking place in social channels—even when they are doing all the right moves.

A solution? Brands must be transparent about how and why they are listening, and should help consumers understand how to have truly private conversations if that’s what they want, Cohen says. “The aim is to build trust in the brand and may have the added benefit of getting some consumers more comfortable with the realization that public social discussions are, well, public,” he adds.


Specifically, Cohen recommends using language that gently reminds consumers that when they talk about brands on social networks, they are talking in a public forum, as if they were speaking on a stage.

Second, when explaining why they are listening, brands should focus on the positive benefits to the user. “Explain that brands listen to these discussions on ‘public’ forums and networks because they are interested in what you, the consumer, have to say and want to provide a better product/service/experience based on your feedback,” Cohen says.

So what do you think? Is a disclaimer on Facebook and Twitter brand pages stating “Conversations are monitored for marketing purposes” really needed? PRN


[Learn more about Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest at PR News ’ Big Three Conference on April 18 in New York City,]


Brad McCormick,; Ephraim Cohen,

Public Conflicted on Social Listening

A third of consumers have no idea companies are listening to them on social networks, while nearly half (43%) think listening online intrudes on privacy, says a new study by NetBase. However, consumers don’t mind listening if it improves customer service.

• 32% of consumers of all ages and 38% of Millennials (18-24-year-olds) have no idea companies are listening to what they say in social media.

• 43% of consumers think listening online intrudes on privacy, even though this is “social” media. Boomers put up the biggest fight (36% said they don’t want brands listening to what they say about brands online), while only 17% of Millennials said the same).

• At least 20% of each age group (and 25% of 18-24-year-olds) don’t yet know how they feel about brands listening.

• Nevertheless, 48% say companies should listen to improve products and nearly 58% want companies to respond to complaints.

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