Social listening: Stalking that can bring you big wins

If stalking brings to mind bad tabloid stories of stargazing cuckoos, take another look at how you can stalk your way to making more money for your product or company and win over consumers with social listening. With the world moving at the speed of light because of the Internet and the increased use of social media, a marketer no longer has the luxury of waiting for responses from traditional marketing mediums. Even new social marketing tactics like Facebook, Twitter or Vine aren’t bringing enough real-time results, so why not turn an ear and do more listening to uncover opportunities to win customers over.

social listening

Social listening is the art of studying and examining social media posts to obtain real-time customer feedback, which can be turned into marketing and customer service opportunities. Recently, Omni Hotels shared their story of how their quick response to a tweet from an unhappy customer turned into a viral opportunity to promote their brand (Humphrey, 2013).

Omni Hotels also shares in this recent article their strategy and principles for effective social listening (Humphrey, 2013). Here’s a short summary of these principles:

  1. The opinions of one represents the opinions of many others
  2. Social listening offers free real-time focus groups
  3. Understand what drives social media audiences (Omni Hotels learned that value trumps price!)
  4. Social listening is a shared responsibility, it’s not just a marketing or communications thing

With any marketing medium, be sure to examine how this tactic can help or hurt your current marketing strategy. Although social listening offers a different way of using social media to boost a company’s marketing efforts, recent surveys from NetBase and J.D. Powers and Associates also show that 43% of consumers feel that social listening is an intrusion of their privacy (Wilson, 2013). But with any new marketing opportunity, companies should be thoughtful in approach and determine how social listening influences relationships with consumers (Wilson, 2013). It is wise for companies to listen, engage, and use common sense when opportunities are identified through social listening.


Social listening offers marketers the insights to jump on real-time opportunities to win customers over but judicious integration with current marketing and customer service strategies is essential to the success of this emerging marketing tactic. If done well, social listening combined with other tactics can yield positive customer perceptions and can lead to word-of-mouth and viral marketing (Humphrey, 2013, Fowler, 2012).


Fowler, G. A. (2012, June 18). Are you talking to me? Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Humphrey, L. (2013, January 24). Omni Hotels: The power of social listening. Huffungton Post. Retrieve from

Wilson, M. (2013, February 19). The pitfalls of listening to followers on social media. Ragan Communications. Retrieved from

-By Kristy Junio (Section C)

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19 Responses to Social listening: Stalking that can bring you big wins

  1. kristen.mercure says:

    Hi Kristy,

    Ah, social listening – my favorite and least favorite topic! It’s my favorite because of some of the reasons you mention: mass opinions about your product or brand, real-time access, free… but it’s also my least favorite because of the challenges around gathering that information into actionable insights quickly, particularly for a widely-known, but smaller budget brand, or a company with a large portfolio of brands. Weeding through the masses to find the selection of gold nuggets that create an insight is time consuming internally…or costly if you go externally. As an industry, we’re approaching a time where there are more careers around social data analysis as the need for social mining increases, day to day. I just wish I had one of them on my team already 😉

    Kristen Mercure
    CMGT 541a

    • kcn13 says:

      Hi Kristen,

      You make a great point about the wealth of information that can be collected from social listening and the need to increase resources to do this work. Many organizations are even struggling with how to store all the data collected. I have joined a few discussions forums in which there was rampant discussion as to whether this overwhelming amount of data is important enough to store in the first place.

      Along with the increasing desire to be better social listeners comes a host of tools that claim to have the magic answer to help marketers listen. I haven’t used any of them yet, but have done some research on a few tools that I am considering, including Radian 6, which is a solution. If you have any ideas on external solutions, let me know.

      Thanks for the response!


      • kristen.mercure says:

        Hi Kristy,

        We use Radian 6 for specific brands, but it’s a firehouse that requires a body to manage it daily. Social Pulse is a platform just for Facebook, but, thus far, seems to be working well. BrandWatch is a newer listening service I’ve heard about at the Ragan Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications conference this year. Not surprisingly, I’ve heard many of my colleagues at different company’s use multiple tools to aggregate insights – mainly using native platforms (Twitter Search, Facebook wall monitoring, Pinterest location, etc).

        I’ll let you know if any gems pop up!


  2. Sarah Harris says:

    This is so creepy cool! I love how the Omni were on it to solve the problems for someone (and a few hundred others). Not only did they leave the guest with the positive taste in their mouth but also probably knocked their socks off!

    It’s so true that the opinion of 1 may represent the opinion of many and usually by the time someone takes the time to post about it, it’s either a really good or really bad opinion, really. So having the opportunity to counter it right away with a swift solution is priceless as the Omni found out.

    Social listening does tend to give people a better perspective of what their clients really want – not just what their market analysis says the client really wants.

    Now how do we do this? I’m curious. Can you share how, for example, one does this say with this blog. Is there a tool in the dashboard that you can type in words like “bad” or whatever and it’ll find it or do you just have to be paying attention?

    Great post!
    Sarah Harris

    • kcn13 says:

      Sarah, I am not expert on this blog tool but I did take a look at the admin panel and just by looking at the number of comments on each post, I could see which ones were more popular. That is very basic analytic but I think it’s the start of gathering feedback. If I had to analyze this blog, I would probably then look at all the posts that have the highest views and comments and see if there are common themes, from that I would likely gleam that these are “more popular”.

      I looked at a demo of Radian6 and it automates all these listening capabilities and allows for someone to look at all SM platforms from one dashboard view. The tool creates word clouds, shows number of likes & retweets, comments, etc. It seems pretty cool…but it starts at $5K/month for the lowest version. I don’t think I will be gettting approval anytime soon but it was interesting to see what is available.

      You can watch the demo at:


  3. cmcoleman says:

    Thanks for this article. We just launched a formal social listening program at work as a test to see what was being said about our products (in industrial b-to-b space). The first batch of results didn’t garner any new insights, but as we start feeding the system, we hope to see an impact in social spaces.
    Great post!

    • kcn13 says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Keep me posted on how you think the program works. Are you tracking manually or are you using a social media technology platform to “listen”?

      Thanks for the response!


  4. kull says:

    As always, your posts and thoughts are well thought out and presented. Thank you!

    I was intrigued by this statement: “J.D. Powers and Associates also show that 43% of consumers feel that social listening is an intrusion of their privacy (Wilson, 2013).” I wonder how many of the offended consumers regularly Tweet and share opinions on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. They love to share the most private details of their lives and then they cry “foul” when someone uses the information without their permission. Can’t have it both ways!


    • kcn13 says:

      Amy, I couldn’t agree with you more about not having it both ways. If you post…you are giving permission to be invaded. Period.


  5. Stuart Haack says:

    Great article, Kristy! I agree that we should be stalking our consumers. I think it’s so funny that people feel like this is an invasion of their privacy, when companies are trying to listen via social media channels (which these individuals post willingly and publicly!) to better their consumer experience. I actually saw this commercial yesterday about being more careful with your social media postings … it is pretty awesome.

    Anyway, very interesting. Getting these candid reports from consumers as they share their feelings about companies with friends and family is most likely the best and most accurate feedback businesses can get. Social listening, indeed!

    • kcn13 says:

      This video is an awesome find! I think it’s hilarious that people think that they should have privacy when they post anything on the Internet, after all, isn’t it all public domain?

      I am definitely going to have to post this link somewhere on some social media site just because I love it so much:)…that would be me giving my real time insight that I like the video to whoever created it!!!


  6. Hi Kristy,

    This is indeed s great post Definitely a keeper. Your analysis references are also great. I think social listening is something that we seems new and that is finlly getting to the point in which brand mangers ad-folks (such as yours truly) and many others are asking: why have we overlooked this for so long?

    It’s true that a rash interpretation of brand or service feedback may lead to either ignoring important info (e.g. the OMNI case) or overreacting and losing focus on better information that my lead to stronger insights.

    Your summary of the 4 points is perfect. Short, simple an compelling.
    I’d like to share a more formal (McKinsey-nerd) perspective on Social Listening:

    Demystifying Social Media- McKinsey Quarterly – April 2012

    This article merges Social Listening with overall marketing strategy. I hope it contributes to the discussion and to your great post.

    • kcn13 says:

      Thanks, Javier! I am definitely going to read through that McKinsey report (and I am a McKinsey nerd too!). Appreciate you passing it along.


  7. melindamenchaca says:

    Very interesting concept. I think this is a very good way to solve issues before they get bigger. There’s that whole belief that if someone has good service, they tell no one but if they get bad service they’ll tell everyone. Social listening provides a way for businesses to get a handle on things like this right way. This is just such a good way to get instant feedback, especially with most people on at least one social network. Now, I’m going to be thinking about this every time I post something….

    -Melinda Menchaca

  8. acordova_07 says:

    Hi Kristy,

    “An intrusion of their privacy” …I chuckled a bit when I read that! 🙂 It is the Internet!! …It was designed to be public. Great post and interesting concept about social listening. Last year I attended a Global Summit on Social Media where a communications specialist from the Four Seasons hotel chain gave a presentation about how they listen to their customers’ feedback. I was fascinated at how quick their response is on Twitter. Four Seasons has staff members constantly monitoring their Twitter and Facebook feeds. I think it is a great strategy to improve their relationships with customers online. Thanks for sharing!


    • kcn13 says:

      Allison, I had the same reaction to the privacy concerns. Would be fun to see the profile of those who answered that survey with those responses!


  9. ncpalaci says:


    Great post! I think social listening is an excellent tool for any business to utilize. Frankly, it would be silly not to. As far as it feeling like an invasion of privacy to some, I ‘d have to disagree. Anything you post on the internet can be seen by the world and I think people forget how public the web is. For example, on Facebook everyone has those “friends” that post way too much information. I think they feel like they are talking with a circle of close friends re: relationship problems, but they seem to forget that their newsfeed is available to their 372 FB friends which may include colleagues, former professors, friends from elementary school, and so on. The point I’m trying to make is that when you share on any social-media platform, the post is left for the world to see and I think it’s an excellent thing when companies try to interact with their clients, especially to make things right. -Nicole Palacios

  10. maasaran says:

    Great post Kristy – Social Listening is definitely very important. Social media is a great tool for robust two-way communication – it’s a shame when companies only use it as a megaphone to blast their message out to the world. One point I found particularly important from your post is OmniHotel’s approach to social listening, and the fact that they perceive it as a shared responsibility. Often times, customer insight won’t be immediately recognizable to a marketer, so it’s important that product developers and other stakeholders are involved in this process to ensure that a maximized level of insight, and the most meaningful of two-way communication is taking place.

    Those are my two cents. Thanks again for posting 🙂 Do you think there is a more prominent/known company that is particularly effective at social listening? Why?


    • kcn13 says:


      I think your comparison to a megaphone is right on. Although SM has the potential to engage two way dialogue, current use is more one way. I think this will change throught he life cycle of this innovation though. To your point about shared listening, I fully intend to keep the Omni article on hand in case someone at work dumps the sole responsibility on me to listen!

      Thanks for the response!