Saturday, September 18, 2010

Listening, Interacting, and Responding

Last week I attended meetings in Washington DC. These meetings and conversations were productive, giving way to a lot of potential in the near future, albeit at times, the conversations were a little challenging.

Like always, being away from home, long days, and long nights wear on my body and my mind. Needless to say, I was tired and did not want to wait for the hotel shuttle yesterday morning. I walked out of the hotel on Friday thinking I would get a cab to the airport.

When I walked out, I did not see anyone who could help me with getting a cab or understanding when the next shuttle would leave. Turning the corner, I saw that two attendants took noticed of my confused look. I said I needed a cab to the airport. They had a very short and purposeful conversation. One asked a question, pointing to the two shuttles parked. They seemed to have a moment of confusion, maybe a little embarrassment. I had no idea what they were discussing, but one said pointing to the other, “He will take you to Reagan airport.” 

After watching the exchange, it occurred to me that there must have been a mix up of some sort and they immediately offered a resolution. I am still not sure what the mix up was, but it was evident there was no cab too. I was the beneficiary of a quick, and inexpensive trip to the airport on the hotel shuttle—a trip especially taken for me.

I tweeted that they had great service. In response, DoubleTree said they were glad to serve me and wished me safe travels.

Are you listening? The Twitter response was another nice gesture from DoubleTree Hotel. I know now that DoubleTree is watching the Twitter stream for good, and I am assuming, for bad comments because they responded. I also know the names of the two people who managed their Twitter account. The Twitter profile tells me two real people are listening. Again, this is an easy, but nice detail.

You maybe asking “Why and what does this have to do with education and our organization?”

Do we know what has been said about our organization on Twitter, in blogs, in Google Buzz, in Facebook? If not, it is time to:


Develop methods of listening to online comments, commentary, and opinions, Easiest methods are to create searches in Twitter and creating Google Alerts. There are other monitoring methods, some are free and others that are more comprehensive and are available for a fee.

In Cooperative Extension, searches should include the names of key leaders, the name of the organization and how people refer to the organization. For instance, our educators are often known as Extension agents. Our organization is often called Cooperative Extension, University Extension, etc.

Land grant universities cover a lot topics. Individual programs should also be listening for the use of keywords. Do you work in agriculture? What are some terms every day people and ag industry and farmers use? Listen for those terms.

Do you work with family and health? Are you listening to what people are saying about indoor health, family fitness, food preparation, nutrition, losing weight, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. Socializing and chatting online is not just for the young. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010. Young and old are using social networks, we should be listening to what they are saying.

Even if your organization does not have a social media strategy, you should be listening!!!


The fact that DoubleTree recognized my comment about their  great service was very much appreciated. I will remember DoubleTree service in making decisions on where to stay in my future travels. This should be a definite plus for their targeted marketing efforts

How is your organization listening and responding? Is someone responsible to responding to comments and suggestions as if these comments were made in survey or in a phone call to the office?


Interaction is the first step to letting clients know you are  listening--similar to “we received your email, your request, or your comment.” Sometimes though, there should be action at and throughout the organizational level. Social media should be used to improve the organization—its actions, its operations, its customer services, and possibly guide its future.

My hope as a customer of DoubleTree that two individuals monitoring the Twitter stream passed on the good word to the two men who helped me.

If I had been a dissatisfied customer, the information should have been passed on, and a decision should have been made whether there should be an action or a reaction made to prevent future problems. Though I have no data, I wonder how often the integration from customer to social network to public relations (or marketing) to organization to functional areas actually takes place.

Organizations have lived in siloed management for a long time, creating efficiencies of “staying in your own lane”. Integration and communicating across business functions are easy and are often discouraged. One of the least talked about benefits of social media is the ability of crossing, involving, integrating, and improving different functional areas.

If the organization sees that social media is a marketing function only, then the organization misses very important and valuable benefits to the whole organizations.