Can you hear me? Can you hear me now? Are you even listening? In today’s technological age, there’s a lot of “noise.” Becoming an effective listener is a skill that needs to be honed and actually being an effective listener is a skill that can be capitalized on in business, especially when it comes to social media. Listening closely to what’s happening around your brand and products in real time can be crucial to the success of your social media strategy.
Cory Hartlen of Radian6, a site that listens, tracks and monitors social media conversations so that businesses can successfully employ a social media strategy, joins Brent Leary to discuss why it’s so important to listen.
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Small Business Trends: Before we jump in, maybe you can tell us a little bit about yourself?
Cory Hartlen: I came into social media, into Radian6, in a really round about way. I spent 10 years in the food and beverage business and I was managing bars and restaurants. I even waited tables and bartended. For a little while, I started my own stand up career and toured around Canada. When I got to be closer to age 30, I decided it was time to put down some roots and began a career in financial planning.
Then in October of 200,8 after the market crashed, I wanted to find something a little bit more stable and was more than happy to go through the interview process at Radian6. It has been the best decision I ever made.
Small Business Trends: How are companies looking at social media monitoring in 2012?
Cory Hartlen: I think the industry has really grown up in the last two or three years and it’s starting to come into its own. The people leading the industry have been doing it from the early days. You have Dell, Pepsi and Microsoft. They’ve been doing it very well. And then there are the people that are now getting into it. So we do see there is a fragmented gap.
The people that have been doing it for a while are trying to figure out ways in which they can infuse social data and social media intelligence through the organization. The others start with marketing, PR or corporate communications, and do some testing and develop some strategies to figure out ways to measure the effectiveness. As it starts to grow, we really see where social media flows though the organizations. So it does not just live in marketing anymore.
Small Business Trends: How do you see listening impacting areas of business?
Cory Hartlen: One of the neatest stories that I’ve heard the last few months is in HR. Being able to listen for all brand mentions of people that have graduated with their MBA, or are looking forward to graduating with their MBA, and then seeing inside of those conversations what topics are coming to the top. Especially when people are saying that they are looking for jobs or applying for jobs.
We have had a few clients who have had success in being able to find potential candidates for their junior executive training programs. Instead of being able to rely on more traditional avenues for that, where there have been recruiters or headhunters, they are able to use social listening to help reduce some of those costs.
Small Business Trends: What are some of the skills we need to hone in order to become an effective listener?
Cory Hartlen: To become a good listener is really about having a process to get that information in the hands of people that can use it and act on it. It’s not just about how to listen, but to have a good team together that can act and capitalize on these opportunities that come from that listening program.
Small Business Trends: What are some of the ways that companies are able to quantify the importance of listening today?
Cory Hartlen: We listen to social conversations so that when people reach out to their social networks and ask for advice, then maybe we can lend a hand and share a link to our review of monitoring systems. Those conversations are very measurable because we can figure out how many leads we are getting from the social space over a given time period and get those input into our system. Then we actually see how many of those we are able to close on over a given time period to get our own ROI from a program like that.
There are other ways that the customer service team can deliver better customer service by meeting people at the point of need in these social spaces. We have heard some new numbers that have come out on increasing the rate on one touch closes. The reduction in average time per resolution and the reduction in cost per resolutions as well.
Small Business Trends: Are there certain areas that people still have not really adjusted well to in terms of leveraging listening?
Cory Hartlen: Well I think it comes down to measurement. People may be listening to the right conversations, but they might not be using that data effectively. Maybe PR and marketing are doing some listening, but are those two departments sharing that social intelligence across their departments or across the departments that can use it? I still see that information being housed inside of the individual department and I think that can be a little counterproductive because you get a duplication of efforts.
Small Business Trends: What are the top two or three things needed in order to get the most out of listening in 2012 and beyond?
Cory Hartlen: I think that it all comes down to goals and strategy. I always say that the phone is just a phone – without a plan social media is no different. People always ask about the ROI of social media. I could very easily ask you what the ROI of my telephone is. But without a goal and a measurable strategy, I am really left in the dark. But if I decide to make three more sales this month, then I know that I need to make X number of phone calls to be able to close that number of sales. So now I have a goal and a strategy which can be measured to prove my success. I think that social media is no different.
Small Business Trends: Cory where can people learn more about Radian6?
This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.