Revisiting Some Thoughts on Listening

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I originally wrote this post in March of 2008 on my previous blog and here, 2.5+ years later, I’m still reading posts about how revolutionary it is that we can listen to our customers and that we’re not in control any more. I don’t buy it, certainly not on a broad basis. Hell, the company that most SM folks love to love, Apple, certainly hasn’t given up control.

  • We should’ve always been listening to our customers and our employees
  • We control the message through the experience we deliver. People will amplify the message we deliver.
  • Most people don’t want to co-create. They want to bitch & complain, but only a few want to put the effort in needed to co-create.

So please already, enough with the “it’s cool that we can listen to our customers” proclamations. It just shows how out of touch business has been for years.

Why Advertising Will Destroy Social Media

OK, can I say I don’t get it? I was reading Social Media Biggest Shift In Marketing Strategy Since Television? at ExperienceCurve and I read something that makes my head want to explode. Now, I read Karl’s blog a lot and usually completely agree with him. In fact, he has two great pieces (here and here) just from the last few days that are well worth the read. But this one. Not so sure I agree with Karl on this one.

The article talks about a TNS media intelligence/Cymfony report on the difference between social media revolutionaries and those companies that are taking a more wait & see attitude about social media. There was a quote in the article that says “Revolutionaries focus more on listening to consumer and bloggers’ points-of-view.” And that’s where I thought to myself How the heck can listening to the consumer be considered revolutionary??? I mean, seriously, isn’t this the cornerstone of customer service, something that’s been around for, what like a 1,000 years? The tools of social media may be new, but if listening to your customer is the cornerstone of defining social media, then social media isn’t new.

What is amazing to me is that our industry has so lost touch with the consumer that we think listening to the consumer is a revolutionary idea! Engaging the consumer isn’t new, companies have been doing that for centuries! Listening to the consumer certainly shouldn’t be new. And it sure as hell shouldn’t be considered something that’s only done by revolutionary companies!

One of my slides talks about those that don’t know history are destined to think everything they do is new and social media should be right at the top of that list! Yes, there’s cool stuff being done with technology out there and lots of it is fun. I told the National Association of Newspaper audience that every paper is the US should have Twitter set up for their readers. I believe in the power of connecting to your audience through these new tools to help create more authentic, compelling and relevant brand experiences. Look at how Adrenalina is using the Flowrider to create a cool surfing community right in the store. And I helped start a Lab here in Soho because I like cool new toys more then just anyone I know. I can’t wait to see to start playing with things like augmented reality to see how we can create damn cool brand experiences with them.

But the discussion by most in the ad industry about social media is just the latest tactic du jour. We had branded content, Second Life, viral, WOM, and on and on. Read the trades and look at how many times over the past couple of years, a slew of companies were built around chasing the tactic du jour. How many social media companies have been started in the past 6 months? But we do this instead of helping clients understand the true value of connecting with their audience by any means possible and appropriate. For many agencies and clients, they’re just tactics that we jump on and jump off like they were a trampoline.

And this is why I believe that, as a whole, the advertising industry will completely screw up the entire social media thing until it becomes just as useless as what we now call traditional advertising is today. Because too many of them think that listening to clients counts as doing something revolutionary.


What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate – Polinchock’s Ponderings.

Stop Listening to the BS – You Do Control the Message! – Polinchock’s Ponderings.

You can read all of my posts about the future of customer experiences at Polinchock’s Ponderings: Customer Experience.

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