Social Listening: Consumers Don’t Like It and What Your Brand Should Do About It

It’s common for companies to listen to conversations on social media. This way, they can understand consumer opinion about brands, products, and services.

The problem is consumers don’t like it.

A 2012 study by JD Power and NetBase shows that 40% of consumers think social listening intrudes on privacy, even though this is “social media.”

False Expectations?

The question is should users even expect to have online privacy in the first place?

Last summer Google basically told a federal court that people who care about privacy should not use their service and as Molly Wood, executive editor at CNET subsequently pointed out:

“Google reads your e-mail, knows what’s in your calendar, looks at your photos, and knows who your friends are, and that’s just via its in-house services. When you include the breadth of its search, Google knows everything about you that’s public information, from your address to all your online profiles, to your marital status and much, much more.”

I think part of the misunderstanding between consumers and marketers is that they look at privacy differently. Marketers spend a lot of time online – researching, studying and trying to understand how vast amounts of online data can be used to improve services.

But consumers aren’t as informed (no disrespect) about online data and how it’s used. Most of the time, they’re just afraid that their personal information is being used for something “covert” and they don’t like it.

But I want to have my cake and eat it too!

What’s interesting is that consumers want it both ways. They don’t necessarily want brands listening to their conversations, but they definitely expect them [brands] to respond if a consumer has a complaint!

There is no magic formula to help brands figure out what to do. What’s clear though is that marketers have to act in such a way that consumers are persuaded about the benefits of social listening.

What’s a brand to do…?

At the end of the day it’s all about respecting the customer, always getting their permission and going out of your way to explain why you need specific personal information from them. Here’s what social listening should look like:

  • Don’t just listen; understand the full picture before you respond.
  • Consider the context of online updates and conversations – your response should always satisfy consumers’ expectations.
  • Engage with the intention of delivering mutual value i.e. better experience and incredible customer service.
  • Demonstrate how listening builds relationships, rather than simply ‘intruding’ on consumers’ conversations.

The benefits that come from social listening end up flowing through to consumers as well. Marketers should therefore be bold about educating their customers and explaining how online conversations are used. This not only builds consumer trust, it also alleviates fears based on lack of knowledge.

What do you think? How should marketers behave in order to leverage the benefits of social listening? Please leave your feedback in the comment box below.

An Inside Look at Cigna’s Social Media

Cigna, one of the largest healthcare services companies in the nation, was one of the first companies to implement an integrated social media strategy.

By consistently making innovations to their own social media product Cigna has become a leader in healthcare social media standards.

Cigna Facebook page

Cigna uses social media to listen and respond to customers and other stakeholders

Social Media Landing Page

Cigna has several pages for their different divisions that service customers and other stakeholder interests. Cigna has developed a central page as a “landing page” for all of these different sites and pages.  According to Sarah Lindsay with Cigna,

“Cigna wants to be where our customers are. As part of our coordinated social media strategy, we recognized a communications need from our customers, media, and employees for a centralized place to find everything. The social media landing page, launched in January 2011, essentially created a directory of our social media channels to help people quickly locate, track, and engage in our latest announcements, campaigns, and events. In creating a “living” page, we also had the capability to provide a snapshot of what’s happening in that moment in Cigna’s social media community.”

By utilizing the landing page or online newsroom format, Cigna is able to maintain a centralized communication center for their customers. Read the full article at

Key Takeaway

Cigna has been able to remain efficient in strategy and cost, proactive and responsive to customer wants and needs, and continues to be one of the front runners in the social media evolution. Theirs is a great example of how a healthcare company can use social media to enhance relationships. By listening to what their stakeholders are saying, Cigna has been able to raise the bar in customer communication strategy.

Over to you: What do you think of Cigna’s landing page strategy? Have you implemented this or similar social media strategy at your organization?