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Blogging Is Not Listening


You know what a blog is. You're reading one.

I'm doing no listening whatsoever as I write this. Listening is inward, and this activity is outward.

If I own a company and I want my customer to join in conversation with me, I might write a blog post in the hope that it spurs conversation. The problem is that I'm choosing the topics. That's not a good start for listening to customers.

Customer-initiated conversations look more like this:

"Hello... ABC Plumbing? This is Mrs. Jones."
"Hi Mrs. Jones. What can I do for you?"
Mrs. Jones chooses the topic.

A blog is more like this:

"Hello... world? This is Bob at ABC Plumbing. I want to talk about..."
Look at the customer-initiated topic versus ABC Plumbing's wisdom about faucet care posted on their blog for the whole world to read. Both are important and valuable communication, but one has listening at its heart and the other is, well, marketing.

Blogs are necessary and good, but they shouldn't be confused with listening.

There are lots of blogs out there that try to spur conversation with customers publicly. And sometimes that happens. But what happens on a blog is not representative of how a business listens to customers. Nor is a survey. Nor is a focus group. Every one of these methods for "listening" has its topics chosen by management. That's not truly listening.

What might a survey look like if Mrs. Jones and other current and potential customers chose the topics and questions? What if it were just fill-in-the-blank?

What if customers and potential customers chose the some of the topics on a blog site?

If conversation happens when both people enter into it with the willingness to be changed by it, then a company needs to use these tools as methods to respond to customers and change the way in which the company conducts business.

Show the response. Show the change that the customer initiated. Show that you listened.

When you listen, try not to pre-determine the topics of conversation. Otherwise you just might miss the most important thing that you need to hear.


Tags: listening | relationships
by Brett Rogers, 6/16/2007 9:28:20 AM


Yet, if ABC Plumbing has customers blogging about their service...

Or, if there are blogs in the region of ABC Plumbing's territory of business - and those customers are writing on their blog site about challenges they have with their plumbing (no matter the vendor)...

It would be wise for ABC Plumbing to developing a listening strategy (hint:RSS Feeds; Search Once and Subscribe; Listen to the Blogosphere, etc.)

Too many times, a blog producer thinks only of their own site. You're right. That alone is not a conversation., However, smart companies will employ a listening strategy in their 'blogging' efforts.

That said, I agree that blogging sometimes doesn't include listening. Fault the blogger, not the act of blogging. Blogging should include listening.



Posted by Mike Sansone (, 6/16/2007 4:52:55 PM

What of a FAQ blog? Some professors (and professionals) will answer an occasional question from one, hoping the answer is beneficial to all. Wouldn't that entry be ignited by the act of listening?



Posted by Mike Sansone (same as above), 6/16/2007 4:54:29 PM

I know that your definition of blogging is both reading and writing blogs, Mike. "If you're reading a blog, you're a blogger," as you've said. When you say that to people, it's generally a revelation to them - they'd never considered it from that perspective, and I think most people understand blogging to be writing, not reading. One thing I like about your definition is that it helps bring more voices to the blogosphere.

I completely agree that reading others' blogs is listening. When the folks at ABC are using RSS feeds, search, etc... these are great examples of listening. When ABC pays attention to blogs in their area where either they are mentioned or where customers talk plumbing, that's listening.

In your second comment, if I read something and then take an action, absolutely - it was spurred by listening.

Blogging, as an act of writing, is not listening, and I think it's dangerous that a company might assume that hosting a blog proves that they're listening. Just as it would be dangerous for a professor to assume that he's listening to his students when giving a lecture.



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 6/16/2007 5:14:36 PM

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