Why do companies "listen" to social media? In short, they listen to learn and improve the business. Marketers use social listening to improve their campaigns and build customer relationships. Customer support teams listen so they can fix problems. PR teams listen to put out fires before they spread. Researchers listen to drive innovation. In this sense, listening isn't a social media strategy; listening is a data collection component of a business strategy. We "listen" as a means to drive action.
But that's not really the case, is it? Most companies I speak with know that listening is important - it seems that nearly all companies know the classic social mantra, "start by listening" - but years into their social strategies, they're still counting the number of Facebook fans or tracking for brand mentions. They're listening, not acting. It's 2012, and we're still passively - without purpose - collecting social media.
This rant comes as the result of two milestones: 1) the two year anniversary of our first research introducing social intelligence and 2) the week in which Google and Adobe double down on the social pieces of their analytics offerings. Although I'd love to spend an entire post talking about the past two years of social intelligence, it took Google and Adobe to inspire me to talk about today's market instead.
A few weeks back, I wrote a post denouncing the idea of predicting the Super Bowl using social data. I had some fun pointing out the questionable research practices behind using consumer opinion to "predict" the outcome of a sporting event. One key issue I argued was that in sports, the public opinion has no influence over the event outcome. But what about using consumer opinions to predict a political election? This can work, right?
USA Today has an article running in parallel with Super Tuesday, aptly asking that same question: Can Social media Predict Election Outcomes? If my post's title wasn't enough of a spoiler, if you read that piece, you'll find a few quotes from me speaking out against the concept. Because, although predicting an election using online opinions is a much more plausible concept than predicting a football game, it's not going to work. And here's why: