Conversation monitoring tools are really pretty amazing. If you load them up with the right keywords, they can tell you everything that's being talked about regarding those subjects. And the best tools will even pipeline those conversations to the appropriate people within your organization for response.
But that's where the effectiveness of these tools end.
No matter how good your monitoring tools are, no matter how many alerts they provide and no matter how effectively they funnel tasks for action, the actual choices about how, when and even if an interaction is warranted comes down to the flawed impressions of a person or group of people. The best tools can help a bit with evaluating, but in the end the decision how to act is human. And finding a balance here is both crucial and troublesome.
I was struck by this balance this morning when The BeanCast marketing podcast was mentioned in a comment to a post. My usual mode is to thank a blogger for mentioning the show. But in this case, the blogger had accidentally forgotten to mention me in his list and a reader had reminded him of my show. The blogger in turn replied back saying that he had forgotten to list the program and that he loved our show.
But as I was getting ready to respond, I realized that my work had already been done by a listener. People were having a conversation about my show. That's what I want.
I love when people plug the show and I always try to turn that into a conversation, but people were already having the kind of conversation I coveted. My involvement would have been superfluous — possibly even damaging to that conversation. So I stopped myself and just enjoyed the moment.
Too many brands still use monitoring as a magic trick. I've complained about this before. Responding has become almost a badge of honor that says, "We get it!" But when people are already conversing and you interrupt them, that doesn't say you get anything. Sometimes it just says that you're rude. At least that's what MY parents told me.
Nestle found this out the hard way recently. Many more brands will find this out soon as well — and tools won't show you the way. Only wisdom, experience and training can offer these kinds of insights. So when you set up your tasking priorities for conversation monitoring, also be thinking about who you are tasking to respond, right along side what you are asking them to respond to. Because social is still about people and relationships, and the rules of real-life social engagement still apply in a digital setting.