Why Buying A Listening Tool Is Like Buying A Car

buying a listening tool

In the year 1967, Walter Brooke asked Dustin Hoffman in the movie The Graduate, “Are you listening?” Today, this same question is faced by brand custodians across the globe. A negative answer to this question would earn them no reaction but a face filled with shock, believe me.

Listening on social media is fast becoming a necessity for brands, and this is a well-established fact. Brands have finally woken up to the reality that the conversation density on social media platforms will only increase in the coming times. Very quickly, here are the five reasons (there are plenty more, actually) why social media listening should be on the agenda of every brand,

  1. Efficient customer relationship management (hell yeah, everybody knows this!).
  2. Improving the brand’s reputation by being receptive and responsive on social media.
  3. Creating extraordinary customer experiences by smart engagement.
  4. Deriving clear actionable consumer insights.
  5. Identifying sales opportunities.

Now that we all know listening on social media is important, but the next thing we should do, is not sit on this information and actually listen. There are some really cool listening tools out there in the market that help brands listen, understand and analyze the conversations happening on social media. While having so many options to choose from is a good thing, it only ends up making your task tougher. WHICH TOOL is the question!

Well, deciding which social media listening tool to buy is, in many ways, similar to deciding which car to buy. I will list down a few points that should help you make a wise decision.

Do you really need a car?

More often than not, this is the first question your parents would ask when you express your desire of buying one; and you’d smartly justify the decision by doing some quick calculations that show how your transportation expenditure goes down.

Similarly, you need to first understand if you need to ‘buy’ a tool to listen on social media. If you’re a start-up, hesitating before you spend marketing dollars on a listening tool is perfectly alright – there are some free tools available out there in the market that can do the same job, although they wouldn’t so as good a job. However, estimating the ROI will help you understand whether your need for a tool is valid. The ROI that I am talking about is NOT Return on Investment, but the Risk of Inaction. Think about circumstances where bad customer experiences snowball into a crisis. Would you be willing to risk the reputation of your brand by not acting (as a result of not listening)?

Performance and Features

Brilliant ride quality, huge leg-room, easy suspension, comfortable seats, more kilometers per litre, 6-speaker Bose music system, a very low price – good to have, right? Sad reality is, it’s difficult to find something at the intersection of best and cheap.

There will be tools that will boast of intelligent tagging, accurate sentiment analysis, real-time results, auto-response, auto-generated reports, etc. The first thing you should keep in mind is that not all of this will be true. Take, for example ‘sentiment analysis’. No tool I know has been able to crack Natural Language Programming (NLP) till date. These tools are as good as Sheldon Cooper when it comes to understanding the sentiment in a sarcastic conversation. Beware of certain features that are nothing more than fancy names, and do not benefit the brand in any way. You need to think things through and decide which the features you need the most. Once you have your business objectives defined, you can take a good and logical call.

Ask for: a) comprehensive coverage, b) ability to do multi-lingual / multi-regional searches, c) ability to search by source/authors d) possibilities of integrating with your native crm system e) simple workflow mechanism f) drill-down analysis.

Buy a reliable brand

Let’s say you want to buy a hatchback, and you’re stuck between a Nissan and Maruti. Assuming all other factors (like price, performance, etc) to be equal, I would choose Maruti over any other brand, any day. In India, most buyers would – I’m sure.

While shelling out marketing dollars on a listening tool, I’d recommend you to go for the ones that have been in the market for a long time. I don’t doubt the ability of new tools, but you never know when your tool subscription provider pulls the shutter down due to some reason. Also, opting for an older brand means taking advantage of its years of research, experience and insight.


Would you go for a car that could possibly breakdown in the middle of an unfrequented road, at night, with no mobile network, and when you’re alone? No, I suppose.

Before you invest in a tool, be sure of the maintenance and overhauling that is performed at the back end of the provider. Understand how frequent and how long the downtimes are, else you might get stranded with incomplete work.

After sales

Though often ignored, this is the most important aspect of all. You would want to spend money with a car company that assures you good service all the time. What if, tomorrow, you buy a car which does not have a service centre in the proximity of your city – and your car stops working? Scary, I know!

This becomes all the more important in case of a listening tool. Not everybody knows how to use the tools or how to solve most of the problems, unlike a car. Select a tool that assures you quick response, and where you can physically go meet the sellers, if need be. Knowing somebody is covering your back feels safe.


Most of us wouldn’t want one. Yeah right, who needs a chauffeur anyway? But, someone who’s bought a Mercedes Maybach or a Rolls Royce would not want to spend his time driving, for three main reasons; (a) he may not be good at driving the car himself, (b) he can spend his time doing something more fruitful, and (c) the chauffeur can drive him to his destination faster, perhaps safer too.

Similarly, when you are buying a tool to monitor conversations on social media, you might as well contract out the task to a reliable social media agency. That will save you time, and also get you premium quality analysis and reporting.

I hope this helps you make a wise decision.