Are you listening?


The last Australian Blockbuster store closed its doors in March of this year. It was one of two stores left in the world.

One of the reasons why Blockbuster lost its hold on the market was because it failed to listen and respond to the changing demands of its customers.

Most of the time, audiences will tell us what they expect from us, but finding this out is not always as straightforward as looking at a customer review online. This is where proactive listening can help.

What is proactive listening and why should you do it?

In business, as in life, good relationships are built on effective communication which only happens when we listen.

Proactive listening is taking the time to find, track and analyse conversations about your business or the topics you’re interested in.

Listening can support more than just your marketing and customer service. It can help you to:

  • Understand what your audience thinks. Proactive listening will give you an indication of the sentiment associated with the subject you’re researching including what’s working well and what needs to be improved.
  • Keep an eye on your competitors. There’s no definitive way to get a complete overview of every post, campaign or ad that a competitor is running. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look. Listening can help you see the kind of content your competitors create and how their audience is responding.
  • Highlight new opportunities. Listening may show that there’s a topic or need that no one is talking about. This gap could be an opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader/expert or sell in a new product. Adidas’ Parley running shoes are a great example of a brand leveraging proactive listening to tap into what matters most to their customers while addressing a greater need.
  • Identify an incoming crisis. Proactive listening can help you foresee when an issue or crisis might be headed your way. Issues can arise from something as small as a comment on a Facebook Page or by larger events like a workplace incident. No matter the trigger, listening will enable you to track the conversation and respond quickly.
  • Show your audience you’re listening. Proactively listening to your audience and responding to their queries shows that you pay attention and that you value them which can only improve your relationship.

How can you listen?

Before you start listening, you need to think about why you’re listening, what you’re listening for, and what channels you will be analysing. Otherwise, you’ll spend days sifting through a large volume of useless conversations.

There are a couple of ways you can go about proactive listening, the first being desktop research.

Desktop research includes looking at your owned channels (social media accounts, websites etc.), review sites, business listings – any place your target audience might go to talk about your brand or business.

The other way is through social listening tools as they will help you listen to a higher volume of conversations about your business, sector or topic that are important to your target market. Social listening tools work by pulling publically available information predominately from social media channels like Twitter. Depending on the tool, you may also be able to pull media coverage or blog content from websites.

When creating new strategies for clients, SenateSHJ’s content marketing agency, Kamber, uses a combination of both methods to ensure we capture the full picture.

When should you listen?

In an ideal world, you’d all be listening all the time but that’s not always a possibility because of time or resources. If you do need to choose when to proactively listen, here’s a list of key times:

  • when starting a new strategy or exploring potential campaign ideas
  • during an ongoing campaign or crisis
  • at the end of a campaign.

What should you do with the information you find?

Act on it. Take the good, the bad and the ugly and apply it to your campaign, marketing or business strategy. There’s no point in listening if you’re not actually going to listen.

Failure to act could leave you with your very own blockbuster.