Social media monitoring practices are, in reality, reading comprehension, engagement, and data analysis practices that generally involve the following four different online profile types: customer, product, campaign, and competitor activities.
Social media command centers in large corporations such as Dell and Gatorade (Pepsi) monitor human engagement with readers and analysts. These readers, sometimes called listeners, read large amounts of conversational information generated by people communicating on various digital platforms.
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These online conversations are in some cases responded to, stored, and analyzed by analysts (quantitative and qualitative specialists).
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To perform digital conversational monitoring successfully, a reader’s comprehension skills should be good. This is why recent research regarding reading versus listening comprehension becomes relevant to social media monitoring.
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Research has shown that listeners and readers understand different parts of information differently. Listening is defined as understanding, interpreting, and evaluating what a person hears from a speaker; reading on the other hand is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols with the intention of constructing or deriving meaning (reading comprehension). Both listening and reading involve comprehension, but different decoding processes. That is, the path to comprehension is different, suggested a study at the University of California at Los Angeles (Song, 2008).
Comprehension is a process shared by listening and reading activities. Listening and reading skills are teachable, and each has positive and different learning qualities; many people are better at one process than the other. It can be argued that best practice conditions for the monitoring of social media activities, on a social media listening dashboard over extended periods of time, would be to use reading and listening strategies.
The following studies suggest that listeners take a more active approach to learning, constructing, and reconstructing the learned information as it is heard. They are more motivated to use additional sources or detective-like research to arrive at the main idea of what they have heard. This approach would very be useful to social media monitoring centers, because the added research can be easily accomplished online. Additionally, their research would likely uncover useful conversation threads, influencers, conversational intent, semantic understanding (demographics, engagement, influencers, actions, emotions), and community activity that would benefit a brand’s online objectives.
Research on Readers Versus Listeners
Two studies found that readers recalled more detail surrounding the main idea of written material, while listeners were able to grasp more of the higher-order main ideas than readers. (Lund 1991, Lesser 2004)
In an online study that compared listening to reading, researchers found that listeners were more motivated, had more interest to search out additional information online to fill gaps in understanding, and were motivated to have a more deep and fuller appreciation of the listening material. Listeners remembered more than readers. Readers on the other hand were not motivated to use any outside sources to fill in their understanding of written material, and only wanted to complete the reading task. (Absalom & Rizzi, 2008)
Two studies of listeners and readers found that main ideas and main idea questions were more easily discovered and answerable by listeners. Readers on the other hand recalled better detail and detail questions. Lund (1991), Park (2004)
A Harvard University study found that people remember 70% of information when provided the opportunity to see and hear a presentation, rather than 20% for hearing it only, and 30% for seeing it only.
Listening and reading have comprehension in common, but the way in which they gather the full information, or what the researcher calls decode information, are different. (Song, 2008)
As consumer conversation grows and becomes denser online, the increase in social media listening technology will become commonplace in companies large and small. Brands involved in this activity will also need to have a reproducible, predictable model for success.
One of the elements of this success model is for brands to add listening and reading processes into their social media monitoring environments. It will help establish a center-of-excellence approach to comprehending and engaging with their brand’s customers online.
This solution would be particularly helpful as human reading comprehension levels tend to weaken over extended periods interpreting text generated from a social media monitoring dashboard. An alternative quick fix solution to improving current social monitoring practices would be to evaluate a social reader’s comprehension level. Much like a proofreader is evaluated to determine if (s)he has good mental error detection skills, social media monitors could be evaluated for reading comprehension strengths.