What matters more: what people say or what they do?
It’s not just an adage to live by – I’m thinking about how this applies to managing a social business.
Over the past few years, the brand monitoring market has been steadily growing and maturing, with hundreds of companies adopting solutions like Scout Labs, Nielsen Online, and Radian6. Not surprisingly, the first step in any strategy – social or otherwise – is to “listen first,” i.e. research and understand the landscape.
This gets us a sense for what people are saying and necessitates short-term response. In the long-term, these insights supposedly can be used for insights, planning, and setting business direction.
But should companies really be listening to these people who are telling the world their opinions? Status updates are carefully crafted to create a particular image, perhaps with the intent of getting a new job, settling an old score, or selling social media advertising. Is this really unbiased, valuable data?
Maybe companies should also step up their efforts to pay more attention to people’s behaviors and predictive models of the outcomes. In some ways, that which isn’t said – but rather demonstrated by applying personal resources, whether time, money, energy, or all the above – might be exponentially more valuable than just chatter.
Perhaps the answer isn’t either/or, but both. However, solutions for the latter aren’t in abundance today as far as I can tell – feel free to leave suggestions I should investigate in the comments below. Jeremiah calls this “The Intention Web” – what do you think? As we enter 2010, I see the potential for a new cliche to come to life: “an action is worth a thousand words.”