The other day I went shopping with a dear friend and she came out of the dressing room and said “I don’t want to try clothes on in there.” When I asked why, she said “because it has those horrible mirrors all around you and sometimes I don’t want to see what I look like from the side or behind. I know what I look like from the front and that’s good enough”. It got me thinking and laughing, because I’ve felt that way at times. In fact, if you think about it, isn’t that the way most of us do business as well?
Most companies have a very specific self-image created from the leadership’s vision, the day to day internal workings and how those with whom we do business react to us and behave towards us. For most companies, our self-image and our strategy is defined by how we want to be seen and how those around us see us. But are we only looking at this from a head-on perspective?
We gain information every day from a variety of direct sources—through traditional channels like in-person customer interactions, emailed questions and feedback, call centers, etc. For companies utilizing channels like Facebook and Twitter, you can also layer in and see what folks say when they reach out to you using these social media channels as well. All of these are the equivalent of “saying it to your face” and reflect the opinion of customers that will be direct with you. These direct interactions are exceptionally important because this informs how customers are talking about specific areas of your business. Essentially they want to interact directly with your business and give you information about how they feel about you, your products, and your services.
The next question is – how do those people feel about you who don’t come directly to you with their feedback? I know, I’ve been watching some reality TV recently and the common refrain is “you shouldn’t talk about me if you can’t say it to my face”. Well sure but the reality is, most people won’t talk about your business to you and may not want to. Instead they’ll talk about you to their friends and network; recommending your business or advising against it, and for most brands, this is already taking place on a daily basis. This feedback is also exceptionally important because it provides you with the opportunity to build that 360 degree mirror to see yourself in. Will this potentially be uncomfortable? Of course and you may expose some of your organization’s bumps or “areas for improvement”. They are there whether you want to see them or not. And since these folks are talking about you anyway, understanding what they are saying and putting it in context can help you build more of a 360 degree view of how your company is perceived. That deeper understanding may help inform your business decisions and shape your strategy.
Social Media listening can be the mirror you hold up to yourself. By listening across social channels where authors are discussing you “indirectly”—they are not talking to you but about you—you can hear how they feel about many aspects of your business beyond just your brand. By creating structured social listening practice you can dissect these conversations to listen for how they feel about your product offerings, your price points, your executive leadership, slogans, you versus competitors, etc. Social listening that provides insight into granular business questions will help expose and illuminate where you may be able to improve and innovate and in doing so create a better product, service and/or customer experience.
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