Pssst! It’s me, Opportunity. Is anybody listening?

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a customer talks about you online and you don’t listen, do you lose an opportunity? The answer to the first question depends on which school of thought you subscribe to. The second answer is yes you probably will, which is why a new C-level role is emerging in enterprises around the globe. That role is Chief Listening Officer or CLO. It may also go by other names such as Community Manager, Chief Blogger or Head Tweet. Their function is to listen to social media for opportunities to engage with consumers and to direct market intelligence around their organisation.

Dell and Kodak have been high-profile examples of organisations dedicating a role to listening to social media and customers, but you don’t need to be a global giant to have the same function in your own business. Telecom NZ have a team working this function as opposed to one person. Xero has a Community Manager that is also supported by three others. There are free and not-so-free tools available to businesses to help them monitor the array of social media sites so there is no excuse not to be doing it!

Two of my personal favourite free sites are Social Mention which lets you create alerts similar to Google Alerts and IceRocket. But getting alerts is one thing. I think to be truly valuable the CLO, whether it is a person or a team, need to actively engage with consumers on the sites and encourage and nurture relationships. It always amuses me how some large corporates in New Zealand claim to be active and responsive on Twitter, yet you mention them negatively and it can take literally days before they respond!

One company that I think really ‘gets’ social media in New Zealand is Xero, there is a brief interview below with CEO Rod Drury where he outlines their approach to using SM effectively. One of the stand-out quotes in it for me that really sum up what it is all about – ‘.. its all about starting conversations with our customers.

Can you really afford not to listen to the conversations that are taking part around you? In my mind no.

Learn to listen. Opportunity could be knocking at your virtual door very softly.

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