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Is Listening on Social Media is a Waste of Time?

I'm a huge proponent of listening to what prospective B2B buyers and "companies" say and do online as an indication of how to create content that better engages them. But several things have drawn my attention lately that make me wonder about the veracity of people's behavior and their expressed sentiment. It occurs to me that in a variety of online social situations it's not really easy to distinguish someone being authentic from someone who's, well, not. Whether buyers or just people.

And I think it goes to context. In social media, we generally have no context to interpret why a person posts what they post. Twitter presents a bunch of scenarios that raise questions for me. For example:

Have you ever wondered if you're listening to the same webinar or sitting in the same conference as others when you're watching its Twitter stream roll by?

I understand the need to say something nice, but I often wonder what that says about people. Are they really finding value? Or do they just want to be seen participating on the platform? Or, maybe they're bored out of their minds and are Tweeting for something to do...

Has the exposed nature of social media made us so vulnerable that many of us are afraid to speak the truth? [Obviously that's not me] Then again, I very much understand the idea of whatever you say being permanent once posted to the web. That definitely makes you think twice. But doesn't skirting the truth correlate with being inauthentic?

Has there been a time when a "guru" posted something that made you say, WTF? Did you question or reply with something that challenged or inquired about the Tweet? If so, did you get an answer?

When you post a Tweet that gets retweeted so fast it's not possible that the person had time to read whatever it linked to, but they append it with "Great Post!" - what runs through your mind?

When things move so fast, are we giving up our ability to think and consider and just reacting to keep up?

I don't have the answers to many of these questions. They're just a few that I'm pondering as I continue to develop ways to get my clients closer to their buyers. I'm continuously searching for new ways to mine through all the noise out there to validate assumptions and influences to content strategies.

Thus far, I'll remain doing lots of research to back up what I hear on social media. But I think it's getting harder out there to find the truth. For every opinion that gets posted, there's a counter (or four) to be considered.

So do we use weighting? 10 positives to 3 negatives indicates that positive is the way to go?

Is it the roles and backgrounds of those speaking? Although, this being said, I see a lot of false gurus out there that have convinced people to listen to them. Or, if it's an influencer whose opinion differs from a decision maker's, what do you choose when the influencer is researching the purchase?

One thing I do know is that the voice of one person shouldn't influence a content strategy. Remember that personas are a composite sketch of a target market/segment. It's important to look for trends and patterns before believing what you see and hear.

The new challenge is in figuring out just how to use the data.

I remember a situation back when I was running a software company. The customer who voiced the loudest request for a new widget often got it. But that didn't mean that all the other customers were clamoring to have it, too. Same rule applies here.

Ultimately, the insights we can gain with social media are beyond whatever's been possible before. We just need to be careful and diligent about how we go about using what we hear.

What do you think? What questions do you have about what you're listening to on social media?  

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More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.