The Social Media Tortoise and the Hare - Part 1 - Social Media Explorer
The Social Media Tortoise and the Hare – Part 1
The Social Media Tortoise and the Hare – Part 1

The concept of social listening is not a revelation, but merely a fait accompli.  If you are able to push information somewhere, someone will eventually want to measure its effectiveness.  The business world’s bend towards the painful statement (at least to me), “Can you show me the ROI?” is as inevitable a question as the sun rising.  And while this type of thinking is often the death of new ideas (because sometime you just can’t see the ROI when culture is involved), I have to admit its importance to bringing people along in the change game.

So what is this series  all about? I thought it would be useful to take a step back and discuss the maturation of the social listening market, at least from one man’s point of view.  I am writing this series of posts to put out there one idea of how our space has developed and would love this to be a dialogue rather than simply a one-way conversation.  So here goes…please engage because if don’t learn from each other, then what they hell are we here for? 

Yes…push and pull yet again.

I will start this post by bringing forth my social media push/pull concept.  It is a good frame of reference before digging in.  As stated in my last post, I realized in a very poignant discussion one day with both Nichole Kelly and Jason Falls about this concept.  Having spent a huge amount of my social media career on the pull side, I was a complete Luddite when it came to social media marketing.  As we were discussing a number of different tools, I realized how moronic my view was of social media.  I knew what social media marketing was about, but wasn’t too well versed in the applications to do so.  I got involved in this space by accident as my roots are in R&D.  And as I sat there discussing the variety of different tools I knew about conceptually but not intimately, I realized I spent so much time trying to get others to see the obvious virtue of social media analytics that I forgot to apply one of my 4 pillars of change management; operational definitions.  In our conversation, I learned that the majority of our market spends its time devising ways to push at you.  And what was astounding is that only a small fraction of the world at that point really cared about pulling.  And thus my push/pull slide was born.  One would argue it is so obvious that it isn’t novel.  But if you could see the faces of those I present it to during my interactions with customers, you would be surprised.  So essentially it speaks to an imbalance in most social media programs between their dollars spent pushing versus pulling.  And that’s it.  Right now I have it at 80/20, but it is probably more like 70/30 now.  For this post, it just frames the discussion that we are talking about the “PULL” market.

So what are social listening’s bite sized chunks?

In sorting out anything, I am cursed with the need to build frameworks that scale before I take action.  I find it more efficient and in the end it helps me evangelize more effectively because I am prepared to frame up any discussion into bite sized chunks.  So what does this look like for social listening?  Well, I see there are really 4 pillars to any social listening solution.  There are the features, content, accuracy and infrastructure.  Here are descriptions of each.


This is where the majority of people live.  It’s the concrete space within tools.  Features are the elements that can be expressed through your social listening platform.  It’s the ability of the system to take the data and dimensionalize it so you can process what it means.  It’s the eye candy that makes your tool sweet and impressive.  It’s expressing the buzz, the demographics, the gender and even the soundbites.  Pretty obvious sure, but that is the point.  Most people care about this the most, and for obvious reasons.


This is the data.  It is the coverage of your system and what you can pull in to be processed as a feature.  It is the language, the soundbites, and the sources.  For any given feature, the content is the what that makes that feature sing.  Again…this is pretty obvious.


For a long time, this was the ignored pillar. Accuracy is how easily it is to get the right data around the topic you are looking for. Accuracy is your systems’ ability to pull in meaningful and accurate data to help you feel confident in making business decisions.


If accuracy is the ignored pillar then this pillar is the ghost pillar.  Infrastructure is your social listening system’s ability to grow over time.  It is the backbone of the other three.  Infrastructure helps you create features, manage content and have accuracy so you system can scale and become the platform we all dream of.

This was the first post in a 3 part series intended to open up a dialogue and discussion regarding social listening. Join the conversation and share your experiences about how you use social listening to build your social media strategy.

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About the Author

Malcolm De Leo
Malcolm, Chief Evangelist at NetBase Solutions, Inc.,  is a subject matter expert in the area of applying social media in an effort to build the marketplace for this powerful new consumer data source. Previously, Malcolm was the Global Vice President of Innovation at Daymon Worldwide and prior to that Malcolm spent 10 years at the Clorox Company managing partnerships with technology companies, developing innovation processes and building new innovation infrastructure.

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