It’s Not About Listening, It’s About the Green


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Woman Plugging Her EarsI hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to be blunt. Social media isn’t about listening. No one cares about listening. I wrote a post earlier where I said customers don’t care if brands are listening. It’s true, we don’t. You know who else doesn’t care about listening? The person who signs your paycheck. The head honcho, the big wig, the (wo)man upstairs. However you want to phrase it, the decision makers don’t care about listening. So why are you still using “listening” as a reason to invest in social media?

I’ve spent the past 5 years of my professional career on the corporate side of things. To make things worse, it’s been in the financial space (I know, we’re greedy bankers, we caused the crisis. I’ve been called a lot of bad names, don’t worry). So maybe it’s the “business” in me, but let’s face it, the only thing that matters…it’s green and hopefully in large denominations.

Look, you can preach the benefits of being able to monitor conversation – yes, it’s important and critical to ensure you maintain your brand’s reputation. Yes, it’s important to understand what your customers are thinking, what’s bothering them and how you can help. Yes, it’s important to build trust, continually seek to better your brand, etc. I completely understand the importance of basic business principles. And I have no problem using social to do such, but in the end, what’s going to keep you employed is sales and profits.

Let’s get some of the objections that I’m sure I’m going to get out of the way. What about content? You need content, right? Yes, but your content is only one part. You need proper frequency, you need an effective call to action, you need substance. What good is inventory if you can’t drive customers inside your storefront?

You’re probably asking about forming relationships, right? After all, public relations is all about forming that mutually beneficially relationship. Without relationships, there aren’t any sales. Walmart would beg to differ (I know, Walmart is making great strides to improve its image). Often times, price and convenience can outweigh that relationship. Is the product a need or a want?

Again, I understand all the stuff that comes with the ultimate goal – sales. The potion for success is a complicated mixture. It consists of many things. But when pitching or discussing social with the “powers that be” please stop mentioning the importance of listening. Listening is passive, it’s not going to get you anywhere. Tell me how it’s going to increase sales – that may very well be by listening.

Behind the scenes, feel free to stress the importance of listening. Your colleagues probably want to hear that kind of stuff. But when it comes to guts, when it comes to the purpose – show me the money.

Nothing in this world ever got accomplished by listening. When Pearl Harbor was bombed (yes, I’m comparing the two), did we really have any interest in sitting down and listening? No, that wouldn’t have accomplished anything. It’s about taking action, being aggressive. It’s about being smart and strategic, and it’s about making sure you’re profitable. Something tells me that your boss isn’t going to “listen” when sales are down and layoffs are imminent.

Kasey Skala is the owner of Interactive Revolution – a communications and new media consulting firm in Minneapolis. His experience includes work in beauty & healthcare, education, finance, nonprofit and sports & entertainment. Additionally, he spent time as a sports journalist at a small daily. He currently blogs at The Electric Waffle and iFinance. You can find him on Twitter at @kmskala.

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