Eavesdropping and Not Making It Weird

By Abby Bramble @a_bramble

The idea of social listening sounds like a bizarre concept to start. How do you listen to written content? Seems confusing and a tad intrusive. Little did I know that it is a different type of listening. No one is judging you for eavesdropping but instead congratulating you on the information you find. Confusing, I know.

Social listening has been on my radar lately for various reasons. This class and even in my current social media internship has brought up the task of social listening. Our guest speaker, James Brown on Wednesday helped me understand the importance of listening for companies and the benefits for the growth of that company. When James showed the various slides about brands results from listening and how it changed Burt’s Bees products based on tweet results, I was intrigued. It made me think further after class more about the true effect social media has on brands. After those few slides, I came up with the connection that social listening felt more like eavesdropping. My first impression of social listening was how awkward it could be but actually it is not weird at all but even cool.

I did type into Google after class how to social listen and not be weird. The results were comical but also extremely valid. One article completely matched up with my initial feelings about social listening and agreed yeah it is kind of creepy. All trousers mentions the similar benefits that James mentioned as far as what the listening can help provide for a company. Such as:

  1. Generate enquiries by targeting people asking for recommendations.
  2. Build a following of people in exactly the right stage of buying cycle. Such as a new homeowner looking for kitchen products
  3. Better understand what customers want and need
  4. Competitor analysis
  5. Understand an audience feels about your brand, products and services.
  6. To respond to and mitigate complaints and negative comments about your brand.

This list alone shows the first immediate benefits that social listening has for a company. I feel like this has helped me personally gain more insight to report to my own boss to help her grow her small company. But is it still creepy?

“Still a little creepy, but at least you are providing value to help in their decision” – Oracle

This quote makes me laugh because it feels creepy the idea of tracking people’s interactions but it is beneficial which I am seeing more. A company can benefit so much from social listening that it feels like a secret weapon that you would be silly not to use to your advantage. All trousers created an infographic that puts a funny twist to what I am now calling eavesdropping. It is labeled as the “Heaven and Hell of Social Listening.”

The infographic for me mapped out ways to make social listening seem natural and how to avoid making it creepy. Social listening to me no longer feel intrusive but a secret weapon that helps a company only improve and better produce product and customer service. Eavesdrop away and do not worry, it is not weird.


This Article Has 7 Comments
  1. Mark Kellman says:

    Abby, nice blog post. Social listening is a powerful tool for companies to use to learn what the public sentiment is towards the brand. I use social listening tools on a weekly basis to find out what people are saying about where I work. It’s a new tool we started using in the last two years to better connect with our audience.

    I don’t think social listening is creepy at all, I think people need to know that whatever they put on the internet is fair game. Any smart company would use social listening to its advantage.

  2. Thanks for the insight, Abby. The concept of social listening does sound a bit creepy, I agree. However, compared to many of the ways people are engaging, following, and eavesdropping online makes social listening seem normal. Social listening is actually used for something and companies are able to change their brand or social interaction based on social listening. However, invisible audiences are just there, that is a little more creepy if you ask me.

    I think that social listening is becoming more and more acceptable and well-known. Companies that use social listening are at an advantage to those that don’t. Many people do not realize that what goes online is published and therefore can easily get “eavesdropped” on by anyone.

  3. Jon Fisher says:

    Good post Abby. Social listening is so important for companies to understand what the consumer needs/wants so that they can tailor their product or service offering to meet these. There is a huge amount of information available through social media channels that give a company a major advantage over competitors.

    However, there’s definitely a wrong way to approach this strategy, and I like how your infographic showed the “hell” of social listening. Using social listening to get defensive with customers over complaints or to send automated messages instead of making actual changes is never a good idea. It makes me think of Kmart sending out the same tweet to everyone who was upset about extending Black Friday hours to Thanksgiving, “Kmart is staffing w/ teams & seasonal associates when possible, giving them opportunity to make extra money during holiday.” I think social listening has less of a chance of being creepy and more of a chance of being superficial if carried out the wrong way.

  4. Sean Willcox says:

    Abby, great post! Like you I’ve definitely had reservations about the use of social listening tools to monitor conversations and activities that weren’t necessarily meant to be public. I think we as the internet using public simply need to get used to the fact that our conversations are being tracked, and that when you’re online you’re not invisible. Social listening offers companies an unprecedented ability to gauge public perception of their brand, and I can’t really fault them for tapping into this incredible resource. At this point in time it would be irresponsible for a company NOT to use social listening tools. While there’s definitely some creepy overtones related to the idea of “eavesdropping”, I don’t think social listening tools are inherently invasive, they’re simply the way of the future.

  5. McKenzie Edgar says:

    I love this infographic! It is a funny way to discuss social listening. The first point under sinister caught my eye because I am pretty sure I get robot emails from a blog and I find them to be super creepy and invasive. In my mind, if I have not engaged in over a month it is probably a good sign that a company should just give up and leave me alone. Social listening is kind of a creepy insight. I know it is a vital role for every company to know where they stand what the conversations are that surround them which is why social listening is so important. It is almost like internet stalking with a business purpose vs. a personal purpose. I really enjoyed your post, thank you for sharing.

  6. McKenzie Hargens says:

    As social media has increasingly established its seemingly everlasting influence over brand perspective, it is true that social listening has become an indispensable tool that companies can no longer afford to ignore. Evaluating and adjusting strategy according to the climate of consumer conversation may not always end in positive results and can often result in the need for change. However, by monitoring consumer conversation you are capable of identifying what is going well for the company and what is not while also creating opportunities to engage with your consumers. Remember, its not stalking if its public information!

  7. Mahina Husain says:

    Hands down I love the infographic. It is such a fun and informative tool. I agree that the whole idea behind social listening is creepy. Where is the line between that and straight stalking? Guess it is up to us to find out. I think it is important for the public to be aware of things such as social listening since it is affecting us now more than ever. I see it as the rise of social media has made knowing personal information almost normal. I still think that creepy but, hey, that’s the world we live in. I think that this post did a good job of summing up and putting me at ease about the whole idea of social listening. Great job!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *