While business today acknowledges the consumer’s voice must be heard, many companies feel a bit perplexed as to the most efficient means to gain that feedback. Anecdotal data, customer surveys, video testimonial, and social media fodder are all ways you can hear what your audience is saying. With the current boom of networking, many corporations are focusing the bulk of their efforts on consumer listening via social media.

In some cases semantics are crucial, and this is one of those instances. There is a great distinction between hearing and listening. Hearing is “the sense by which sound is perceived; the capacity to hear.” Listening , on the other hand, means to “pay attention; heed.” Too many frustrated consumers have been heard, giving their genuine feedback only to have it disregarded by those who asked. A company that listens to its consumers will actually make the necessary changes in their protocol to meet the audience’s needs, thereby gaining a customer for life. The platform offered by social media is ripe for companies to listen to their clientele, if used appropriately.

Businesses should use a combination of traditional asking research and social networks. While many companies only utilize the power of the network to make amends with disgruntled customers, the greater power is in building a relationship with the consumer. Plus, social media gives companies the power to see not only what shoppers are saying about their own products, but also what they are saying about those of their competitors. These insights when coupled with the detailed samples gathered from the target audience of the asking research will provide your company with much richer data that will help you better serve the public. As a result, your clients will feel that your company listens to their ideas and puts them in action.

Forbes‘ “How Can You Build Listening into Your Organization?”emphasizes that listening is “…not a job you can assign to your insights team or your marketing department or your agency. It’s the responsibility of everyone in your organization…” Indeed company employees have always been master gatherers of customer feeling and they have also been some of their company’s biggest fans. It’s only natural to have everyone’s ear to the ground so that grumblings and satisfaction can be met as a team. Such a unified front in fact strengthens business more than anything else.

-David Rothstein, CEO