Digital Listening Is Expected – Global Understanding Is Required


Digital is global by nature, not by default. This could be the mantra or the one-line manifesto for leaders having to deal with digital globalization today.

Any digital property can give a business and a brand the needed global presence to reach out to most of the world. Yet it is up to you to leverage it, in order to engage with audiences and customers internationally and to turn it into a global advantage – which requires a great deal of awareness, continued diligence and many efforts. As managing user-generated content is part of that picture, you should prepare yourself for some challenges that will come up sooner rather than later.

An approach based on digital listening may be most appropriate to cover all channels and features, allowing customers to speak their mind about your brands and products. In addition to social networks it is worth considering customer forums, unassisted support applications, online surveys, shared information or micro sites. Although social listening rightly is a primary focus for many business leaders, underestimating the amount and value of content created and published across all these channels would be like stopping the race before it is over.

When some global organizations recognize the landscape of social media becoming more complex, they decide to invest in more specific or dedicated channels to frame, funnel and capture user-generated content internally or externally. The underlying purpose may be to target markets, profiles or brands more effectively. Or it may be to complement what major social networks (do not) offer.

Such digital listening channels are golden cases of global design. They have to be linguistically, culturally and functionally sensitive to foster content sharing, feedback or collaboration. Design has to go beyond standards to innovate and create an experience reflecting how people live, work and breathe. Customers have to feel ‘at digital home’ within an environment perceived as made for them. You may want to think about the following to do’s from the outset of your initiatives.

  • Make digital listening channels most relevant in the language of your customers: speak the language they use naturally during their business day or during their spare time. It is part of their identity and behavior at all times. Simple, accurate and memorable wording powers meaningfulness and localization or transcreation is a must to keep your digital relationship with them inspiring and engaging. Similarly cultural faux pas break their overall experience, even more when it comes to “details” such as icons, images or colors, that make them judge your channels like a book by its cover
  • Bear in mind contingency design matters: do not hesitate to request the implementation of assistance features to increase intuitivity and fluidity for international customers – or groups of local customers. Obviously including content buttons for content sharing or fields for feedback goes without saying. Guiding and assisting people on how to avoid making mistakes or learn from mistakes takes their experience to the next level though, especially as effective customer experience globally requires new heights in this digital age. The level of digital listening channel design must reflect the value you want to unleash from user-generated content. That also explains why some regional or local social networks gain more success in their markets than their global competitors
  • Use data to acquire content: personas, trends and metrics should help you refine the way you listen to your customers via digitals channels. By doing so you not only improve and accelerate design and maintenance efforts, but you also put in place a framework prompting them to provide you with more valuable and accurate content. People always do more when they feel comfortable. The more data you use, the more content you get and the more you can enrich your data. A truly virtuous circle…

Listening is the first half. Understanding is the next step. Here again you cannot escape linguistic, cultural and individual sensitivity about your customers. Here are a couple of considerations.

  • Capture the voice of your audience(s): excepting pre-defined questions that people must answer with yes or no, they share and comment on content in a flexible fashion resulting in significant amounts of free text, pictures or verbatims. From a customer experience perspective it is essential to capture and leverage this highly valuable content while being culturally savvy. In some cultures a few words are worth a long speech or an image replaces a short text. Tone of voice, sense of humor and vocabulary nuances are varying factors as well. Therefore you should capture user-generated content holistically through the eyes of your customers and not according to geo-centric or language-specific standards
  • Convey the language of your audience(s): as customers express themselves more naturally and directly in their mother tongue, you must deal with a lot of content in a number of languages. Some degree of translation automation is very welcome considering the volume to translate into your own language or a lingua franca. Professional machine translation technology is going to be one of your best allies in that area, with or without human post-editing. Recent progress and experience in that field accelerate the management of large amounts content in source languages into target languages more safely and quickly. Think about what translating thousands of comments or requests coming in, in various forms and on various topics on a daily basis would be without it. You can determine the level of automation and quality in light of your goals. For example, getting the gist of text for internal use may require a quite straightforward approach while a combination of machine and human translation may be more appropriate for external publishing
  • Turn global audience understanding into local customer intelligence: by properly collecting and analyzing user-generated content from your total audience(s) worldwide, you are in a good position to know customers in multiple markets better and to develop or update associated personas. This remains a crucial as, in digital globalization, there is no global excellence without local experience.

Digital listening fits nicely in the omnichannel journey that customers become more and more used to. They are aware of where to go to interact with businesses and brands and they expect a valuable use of what they share. Generating content is not sending a message in a bottle. And you do not want to miss that.