Becoming a Better Listener

I’m a problem-solver. That’s one of the reasons I became a social strategist. I’m always on the look out for better solutions and ways to transform theory into practice. The downside to this is that I tend to not be the best listener. If you’re telling me anything that involves a problem my mind immediately focuses on that and begins to work on pulling together a variety of potential solutions. So even though I may nod and give some superficial “hmmmms…” and “then what?s” a decent part of my mind is elsewhere. While some may call that a strength- and to be sure it has often come in handy when a quick resolution is needed- it is also a potential weakness.

Social strategists must be strategic listeners as well as effective problem solvers. This can be difficult in our fast-paced world. The pressure comes externally as well as internally to make snap strategic decisions based on already known facts. But that’s leaving the “social” out of social strategist. The truth is we deal with an ever-changing landscape made up of layers upon layers of human behavior. A successful social strategy must take into account the needs and wants of the target audience and to know that requires time to listen.

When that doesn’t occur you get social #fails. At the extreme end is something like the #myNYPD hashtag flop which was an total and complete disaster. My hunch is that they didn’t consult a social strategist at all but rather thought that a hashtag campaign could be a good idea and went with it.

But more common are hashtag campaigns that simply fail to take off. I guarantee we’ll see a fair amount of these during this weekend’s SuperBowl. It’s really too bad because often these campaigns have a lot of promise and all it would take is a bit of time listening to hit them out of the park.

My personal go-to listening combo is and spiderQube.
I start off by looking at the most associated hashtags for a given topic using hashtagify. As I wrote in another blog post, this can be enormously important in the course of research to make sure you are identifying the right target community. Armed with a sense of prospective hashtag leads I then move over to Spider to get into in-depth listening. This tool allows me to zero in on who to listen to as well as additional keywords and hashtags associated with the topic.

This type of listening before a campaign can inform everyone from the right hashtag to use to the type of content that can be created. It can also loosen up the creative process as you identify other potential audiences for your marketing efforts.

With just a little bit of effort #fail can be transformed into a win- yes, even #myNYPD. All you have to do is stop and listen.

What tools do you use for social listening?


  1. Hi Suzie. I’m Jonah from Thanks very much for the mention 🙂 It’s great to hear that you find our service useful!

    Have a nice day!



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