Are brands really listening?

If there’s a marketing buzzword in 2010, it’s probably “listening”. Companies are trying to engage with their customers. They’re being told that they have to monitor, track, and join the conversations that are taking place across social media channels every single day.

They’re setting up alerts, monitoring keywords, and even investing in listening tools, such as Radian 6 or Sysomos. Why? To find those elusive customer insights into what their target market thinks, feels and desires.

After all, social media means a revolution in market research. You no longer have to go out and conduct very expensive research to find out what people want. They’re online, in social channels, shouting it loudly and clearly for anyone to hear. All brands need to do is to listen to those needs, and respond to them. Right?

Well, that’s the theory, anyway. But in practice, it sometimes seems like the more information brands have about their customers’ wants and needs, the further they get from responding to them. Why is it, with companies trying so hard to fill customer needs, and people trying so hard to buy what they need, that there’s still such a disconnect between what people want and what brands are selling?

Are brands really listening to their customers? Or are they only looking for what they want to hear?

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