The Importance of Listening

Amanda Houseman    November 6, 2013

What is social listening?


Social listening, by definition, is the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product, or brand across all social media channels. Information is collected and analyzed to evaluate opportunities to shift business focus and strategy.  In plain language, social listening is using social media to hear what your consumers really want to say about your business – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and then using it to better your relationship with them, and deliver the goods and services they’re really looking for.

 The rise of social media such as blogs and social networks has fueled interest in sentiment analysis. With the proliferation of reviews, ratings, recommendations and other forms of online expression, online opinion has turned into a kind of virtual currency for businesses looking to market their products, identify new opportunities and manage their reputations.  (Wikipedia)

Some share the opinion that social listening is an invasion of privacy, but this is often a generic argument against any form or social media usage. In my opinion, it’s a great tool for businesses with consumer-centric goals who want to be better, or the best, at what they do. There are several examples of what can happen when you engage in social listening, and what can happen if you tune out. Here are two of them:


Earlier this year, Lululemon had to pull several shipments of their infamous yoga pants off their shelves due to poor quality material resulting in pants being too, well… revealing. Lulu fans took to social media to react. Lululemon was also being very social that week, but not about the recall. They went full-steam ahead with their regular yoga-related uber cool content.


The recall wasn’t even addressed on the company’s website. The fall-out resulted in dropping stock value and a failure to meet quarterly financial targets (something Lulu, I’m sure, isn’t used to). Many have commented on this as a major missed opportunity for a company who otherwise have a strong social presence.

Morton’s Steak House

Morton’s had recently stepped up their social media plan to include a great deal of listening, and had marketing resources on it around the clock. Opportunity knocked when Peter Shankman, social media A-lister, jokingly tweeted:


They delivered! Literally. A tuxedo-clad man met Mr. Shankman at his destination with a bag containing a 24oz steak and all the extras. In return, Morton’s got all the social publicity they dreamed of. Mr. Shankman referred to this on his blog as “The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told, Staring Morton’s Steak House”. The story went viral, and people everywhere were talking about their experiences at Morton’s. News outlets were covering the story, as social shares were multiplying by the second.

How can we listen?

Professional tools: SysomosRadian6JiveScoutLabs

Free tools: Social MentionTrackurBoard ReaderGoogle AlertsTwitter Search

Social listening lessons for everyone

  • Social listening is about being a good friend and a trusted organization. Sometimes it pays to stop talking and just listen.
  • Web 2.0 means that consumers are just as involved as your brand image as you are. Social listening helps organizations understand real conversations, real people, and what they want.

Web resources

CTV News Ottawa
Search Engine Watch
Shankman’s blog

Submitted by: Amanda Houseman – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.
To contact the author of this blog post, please email
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.

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