5 years ago

Invasion of the privacy snatchers: How social media monitoring impacts consumer relationships [INFOGRAPHIC]

Privacy is a hot-button issue these days – consumers are increasingly uncomfortable with the level of access the world has to their information, and those accessing said information are eager to keep the info flow coming.

This friction is at the center of a new infographic that lays out just how much social media has impacted the way consumers feel about the medium.

Dubbed “social listening” by some industry folks and known as “social media monitoring” by most, the behavior in question is when companies monitor social media for mentions of their products, services or brand online.

The process is simple: brand managers use social media monitoring software to sift through the trove of shared content to engage users talking about specific keywords related to their brands.

This social media listening is of increasing importance for many brands: in a recent Netbase survey, 42% of companies surveyed are prioritizing “social listening” in 2013 (infographic below).

Even as the practice becomes more mainstream, different consumer demographics had different reactions to the concept of social media listening.

As far as consumer expectations, the majority of survey respondents wanted companies to listen. Nearly a quarter of all respondents, however, did not know if they wanted consumers to listen to what they say online.

The survey also found the following contradictory items:

  • 32% of people have no idea companies are listening online.
  • 51% want to talk about companies on social media without companies listening.
  • 43% think social media listening is an intrusion on their privacy.
  • 48% say companies should just listen to improve products and services.
  • 58% only want companies to respond to complaints on social media.
  • 42% expect companies to respond to positive comments on social media.
  • 64% only want companies to respond to social comments only when spoken to.
The numbers are all over the place, which means two things: 1) consumers are still trying to understand social media and how to best use it, and 2) companies should be very sensitive to individual posts rather than have a one-size-fits-all response to social media interactions.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick is the Editorial Director for Tnooz. Prior to this role, Nick has multi-hyphenated his way through a variety of passions: restaurateur, photographer, filmmaker, corporate communicator, Lyft driver, Airbnb host, journalist, and event organizer.



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  1. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    Oh yes… and while I sometimes wonder about the empirical evidence from PCW – this is their take on the importance of FB and other social networks. http://insider.phocuswright.com/post/On-Facebook-Search-and-Sabbaticals.aspx?cid=external_twitter

    Personally I believe that twitter will have a much larger commercial value than FB.



  2. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    Part of the problem here is that there is no metric for consumer protection. Thus what is “allowable” and what is frankly creepy – has not limitation that is reasonable today because the law has not caught up with the behaviour.

    In true mobile its even worse – as badly designed and coded Apps frequently just didnt care about privacy.

    One has to remember that privacy settings tend to be binary – all or nothing. So most users just blow through the sign up wall because they cannot selectively approve elements of the privacy settings. While FB is better than most – it has two fundamental flaws.

    1. It is almost impossible to know what you are setting
    2. It keeps changing the freaking thing.

    So no matter who you are – you are confronted with Hobson’s choice. Either do it and be damned or dont do it.and be damned.

    While there are few who are not worried about the problem there is either nothing that can be done about it or we have become largely desensitized to the brazen abuse of privacy that accompanies most sign up walls.

    Behaviour is also significantly different not just between between ages but also between territories. Something this survey didnt seem to bring out.

    Since no one is really complaining about it – the abuse will continue. In Europe the concern is far higher particularly in counties with a higher regard for privacy like Germany with corresponding legal frameworks.

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      And of course, most people don’t mention this: users have a choice to use the service. No one is forcing anyone into Facebook, and if a user doesn’t like the company’s take on privacy, they can simply stop using the service. It’s simply a cost-benefit analysis that all consumers can undertake for themselves.

      In all these discussions, we must remember that using these services is not a “right” – it’s a conscious decision involving the free agency of the consumer. I always tell friends who complain about privacy: then stop using [insert name of company here]. It’s the consumer’s choice whether to stay or go, and more consumers need to stand up and make these decisions for themselves.

      Or is that too much to ask for in our Age of Entitlement?

      • Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

        Nick – I will disagree.

        At some point these services become a utility. Do you stop using the internet because you dont like stuff on it? Do you stop using your smartphone because you don’t like the network carrier?

        The answer is no… because you cannot NOT (double negative) be using these utilities as they are essential to your daily interaction either business wise or personal wise.

        I dislike Facebook’s behaviours on privacy intensely. I also don’t agree some times with the Congress of the USA. (Make that most of the time at the moment because they are being so stupid) I still use their services and participate.

        Not using things and not participating in FB is not really an option at this point.



        • Nick Vivion

          Nick Vivion

          Now there’s a surprise 😀 Here’s my bigger-picture take on this whole online privacy and digital rights discussion.

          I don’t agree that Facebook is essential to any of my daily interactions. It is one part of a raft of tools that I use each day to communicate, express myself, and connect with others. I choose to use it and thus I choose to agree with its Terms and Conditions.

          In fact, I’m often chastised by older people in my circles that I’m not on Facebook enough! However, it’s just not as important to me as it once was – it’s now one of many tools that I have access to.

          Like any service, company or utility, it comes with certain trade-offs. Whether it’s hating the customer service at your ISP, anger at the lack of grid reliability for your power company or the feeling of missing privacy controls on your favorite social network. We all have things we dislike about companies, and yet we continue to use them.

          The age old boycott is also an option – if you don’t like something, or if the trade-off becomes too great, then stop using the tools. I absolutely do not agree that consumers do not have agency in this matter – no one is forcing anyone to use Facebook, Twitter or anything else. Death and taxes are the only two certainties – everything else is pretty much up for interpretation.

          According to a Pingdom study last August, the average age of a Facebook user is 40.5 years, with the average overall age across networks landing at 36.9 years. On Facebook, 65% are 35 and older.

          I read these numbers as showing that younger people see social media less as utilities and more as “nice-to-haves.” You no longer HAVE to be on Facebook to be cool, to communicate or to be a digitally-savvy individual. You no longer have to be on Facebook to feel connected, as there are dozens of other ways to connect.

          I personally see, in my network and beyond, a serious push into using tools as tools and not crutches. The first step to that is to actively understand and manage your social networks, and to educate yourself on how to best use each individual tool for your own personal goals. There are no one-size-fits-all remedies in this space, as users get even more savvy at grasping their digital existences.

          Of course, one can lose out by not being on certain social networks. But just like someone could lose out on an in-person networking event, or taking a course, or making dinner, or hanging out with friends, or practicing a hobby, or writing a blog post, or calling a few clients, or doing yoga, or sleeping, the 3.2 hours spent each day on social networks by the average user is a conscious choice with trade-offs of time, attention and ability to engage in other areas of life.

          Sometimes using social networks less can actually mean a more productive, successful and social existence. It’s ok not to be on Facebook! The world was just fine before Facebook, and it would be just fine without. The artisanal, small-batch physical experience will win out from the aggregate, mass-produced, endless digital chatter.

          Neo-ludditism is alive and well, and besides the political implications of a few in that movement, it’s a very real paradigm shift in communities across the world. Of course, this is just my two cents!



          • Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

            Sadly as I am an aged Snake it still occupies the position of utility. That said I regard FB with certain disdain. It is decidedly ebbing in my usage and need. It has had a longer shelf life than say 2nd Life (boy did I look cute with shorts and that tail!).

            So I agree with you on the issue. I believe that FB has been a utility. Whether it stays as one is open for debate. I don’t want to leave the impression that it will be for ever more a Utility. For example I don’t inhale much real time television any more.

            Since you raised a historical analogy – this is an open door on some of my thoughts on the subject. In the 1950s and 1960s the mass consumers touched one product more than any other. Today that product is a pariah. Today our most touched product is … our mobile phones. These are utilities because our lives are largely data dependent and because we can no longer consume all the information we need – therefore we need a surrogate system to synthesize some if not all of that data. Personal Agents were supposed to do that for us but that concept has failed because there is no basic business model that supports that. So we have gone one generation away relying on Google (god help us) as that surrogate and filter. Apple and FB (as well as Amazon) all aspire to that position. Thus creating 4 distinct walled gardens that we have to use.

            I still long for a more open web. Perish the thought on Neo-Luddites. I have not seen anyone trashing an Apple Store yet.

            All good thoughts… my $1.98 on the subject



  3. Michele Price @ProsperityGal

    Yes Wayne ( he pinged me via FB and asked my input) consumers cannot have it both ways. If they want to be acknowledged and helped, then brands need to be there listening.

    As for telling brands to shut up – well that is not real social now is it. Either we are a community participating with each other-transitioning our dialogue towards a more human interaction or not.

    I suspect that what some mean about not wanting to be bothered y brands in the social space are the actions of some brands who jump into conversations just to promote their product/service/brand.

    For example- someone complains about a flooding basement – it could be great if a local plumbing company were to offer any kind of emergency actions the homeowner would want to take to make the family safe. For example shut off electrical power to basement to prevent possible electrocution.

    But if they responded instead with “hey we can come fix your plumbing problem give us a call”- that might make some feel weirded out.

    It is always in how are you building relationships VS talking at people.

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Also, consumers who don’t want to be listened to should simply turn their privacy settings to in-network only. Controlling access is an easy way to control who is listening! Personal narcissism seems to be colliding with feelings of big brother here…

  4. Wayne

    Nick, it would be interesting to know the breakdown of different social media platforms. With a platform like Facebook that is relatively closed, I would think the numbers are higher towards “hey it’s creepy, stop listening” rather than Twitter, since it’s more open. Thoughts?

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      I also think that most users of Facebook haven’t taken enough time to truly understand the privacy tools at their disposal. If someone posts about my business on Facebook, and makes that comment public, I’m able to see it. Granted, it won’t pop-up in search results, but that person did opt-in to making that statement public. So its not much different than saying something in public that could be overheard – except, of course, that it’s far more permanent!

      The key is to listen appropriately, and engage on a user-by-user basis. Considering tone and context is essential to determine the response, as not all comments should be responded to.


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