Point of view: Listening to the conversation

John Woodward

Pretty much everyone agrees that listening to the conversation is an industry discipline knocking on our door. With a billion tweets a month (March 2011) and huge numbers of Facebook posts, blogs and so on, there is a huge reservoir of information, as well as a media channel, that clients simply cannot opt out of. The big question is how to go about it?

Managing conversation-listening projects is rapidly becoming a core craft skill for planners. But, as yet, there is relatively little formal training or practice. So perhaps it's useful to step back and consider the key learnings we have so far. It's interesting to see that although the tools are very different, the procedures that govern good research remain much the same. We leave behind our good habits in our excitement for these new methods at our peril.

Many suppliers have sprung up in recent years, each with their own web-scraping technologies, sentiment algorithms and widely varying levels of quality and international reach, and discussion tends to revolve heavily around the relative merits of these shiny new objects.