Consumers to companies: Stop eavesdropping on social nets!

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A new social media survey from NetBase and J.D. Power and Associates indicates that people want companies to speak when they’re spoken to on social networks.

Turning to Twitter to gripe about a company is pretty common these days, but it turns out that most of us only want those corporations to listen to us when we’re talking directly to them—not when we’re talking to one another, even in publicly visible comments.

The majority of consumers want companies to listen to their complaints, according to a survey last week from social media metrics company NetBase and J.D. Power and Associates. But 43 percent of those surveyed said they consider social media “listening” to be an invasion of privacy.

Consumer sentiment conflicts with many companies’ plans for 2013: social media listening, or carefully monitoring social media for mentions, is a top priority for 42 percent of firms. Social media is an easy (and free) way for businesses to promote themselves and build brand recognition.

A third of consumers don’t even know that businesses are following their social media conversations. It’s hard to tell whether a company that follows you on Twitter or befriends you on Facebook is paying attention to your tweets or status updates and using that information to sell you products. About half of social media users want to talk about companies without those companies “listening” in.

Crowdsourcing social media sentiment

The fact is, If you mention a person or company by name on social media, and you haven’t activated privacy settings, your statements are fair game.

We threw out the question to our Facebook friends, and got a mix of responses.

social networks

“If it’s public, then there’s not really much of an argument against it,” says PCWorldreader Suzie Quintana. “If the privacy settings are restricted to ‘friends only’ that should be respected.”

Reader Nathan Arnold says he doesn’t mind interacting with companies he’s interested in on social media, but otherwise, no thanks.

“Big giant companies, stop watching me through that people!” Arnold wrote on our TechHive Facebook page.

Others said companies probably aren’t listening—though the Netbase survey indicates that they are, we just don’t know it—and some users said they expect a response when they turn to social media to voice a complaint.

NetBase cautions companies to engage with people when it seems appropriate, and to take the context of social media posts into account. And if you don’t want companies reading your tweets or Facebook posts, activate those privacy controls.

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