Yesterday I was talking with a new client about our firm’s social listening program. Before I could begin explaining our approach, she stopped me and said, “I can’t take any more charts and graphics or 50- page reports!” I told her I couldn’t agree more.

Listening has become a powerful tool that can help you identify where conversations are taking place, what topics are hot and who are the most influential voices. But if all you get from this are pretty Powerpoint charts, you are wasting your time.


Over the last six years, I’ve changed from seeing social listening as being a bit of a curiosity to recognizing that it’s something I can’t image working without. I have to admit that in the early days I was more than satisfied when listening offered little more than word clouds of the hottest topics. But my colleagues and I soon came to realize that social listening results need to deliver the same value as any other strategic tool. That’s when we began to challenge ourselves to reach beyond what the tool can deliver – and to look at what value WE deliver.

It has been a bumpy road. Forcing logic on an automated tool works that way. But we have come around to finding a way to use social listening as an important data point that helps us understand the complete picture. But even that’s not enough. We are constantly pushing ourselves by asking: What does this mean? How does this impact the strategy? What are the business and communications implications? These hard questions have led to some terrific results. Our listening reports are better, stronger and more actionable. And we know we are on the right track because our client’s have told us how much they appreciate these insights.

But we are not done. Starting tomorrow, we are taking the whole thing apart – again – to figure out how we can add more analysis and deliver more value. Crazy? Maybe a little – but we are excited about the possibilities. I’ll let you know how it goes – and if you have any tips, insights or suggestions, be sure to share!

Colleen Nolan

Colleen Nolan

Colleen is an advocate at heart who believes that with the right message and motivation anything is possible. A strategic campaign designer and communicator, she is skilled at defining and analyzing a desired result, and then developing the marketing and communications pathway to achieve success. Colleen quickly makes an intellectual and emotional connection with key audiences and uses these skills to craft communications programs that have strong resonance and dramatic impact.

Colleen has 20+ years experience in engagement, issue management, community building and mobilization.